Ballymore Novices' Hurdle: Back De Bromhead for another Journey to winner's enclosure

De Bromhead will be looking for another stellar Cheltenham
De Bromhead will be looking for another stellar Cheltenham

This season the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle looks to be a back-up option for many of the star novice hurdlers that, so far, look to be Supreme Novices' Hurdle bound. However, there is a horse looking to emulate last season's phenomenal winner Bob Olinger from the same yard that could prove to be the best of the lot in the 2m5f Grade 1 contest on March 16...

As the middle-distance showpiece event for novice hurdlers, it is no surprise to see a mammoth 95 horses entered in the Ballymore at this stage just less than two months away from race day. Among the 95 sit the favourites for both the Supreme and Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, so when assessing this market from an ante-post point of view one must be wary of those priced up on their performances and potential without factoring in the likelihood of their participation.

Heading the market currently is Sir Gerhard (4/1) from the Willie Mullins operation. Last season's pillar to post Champion Bumper winner was defeated by Kilcruit (40/1) at Punchestown at the end of the 2021 season and was therefore relegated to first reserve in the Closutton 2m novice hurdling ranks over the summer months, meaning his participation in the Ballymore grew more likely. However, while Kilcruit has disappointed this season over obstacles Sir Gerhard made an impressive hurdling debut and it seemed he would once again take top billing as Mullins' number one Supreme hope. Then, Dysart Dynamo (8/1) emerged and snatched the top 2m billing away again!

Nothing is certain with Willie Mullins and ante-post punting, but at this stage the indications are that Dysart Dynamo will represent him in the Supreme and Sir Gerhard will attempt to conquer the intermediate distance in this race 24 hours later. He has an obvious chance, and Champion Bumper winners are often bizarrely more suited to a bit more of a test in the Ballymore than the Supreme over the same trip as the Bumper, but with his participation and stamina in question he is best left alone at current prices.

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Cheltenham Tips

Next in the betting there are three horses available to back at 8/1. The aforementioned Dysart Dynamo would have a leading chance were he to come here but looks Supreme-bound, while Stage Star (8/1) for Paul Nicholls is seemingly following a similar route to last season's third Bravemansgame. He won the Challow impressively like his stablemate, but where Nicholls was gushing in his praise of the 2020 winner Bravemansgame, he has been more reserved in his praise of this year's star novice hurdler and remains non-committal over his Cheltenham target. It is hard to forget the almost mocking way Bob Olinger brushed aside Bravemansgame in last year's contest and although Stage Star is of course a different horse and this will be a different race, the final 8/1 poke in the betting could be the 2022 Bob Olinger to Stage Star's Bravemansgame.

JOURNEY WITH ME (8/1) will more than likely represent 2021's all-conquering Henry De Bromhead yard here. He has followed a similar path to last year's Ballymore victor Bob Olinger, winning impressively at Leopardstown around the Christmas period. That form has been franked by second place Minella Crooner since and the manner of his wins so far in his burgeoning career indicate the unique test of Cheltenham could be right up his street. With doubts over the rest of the market leaders' participation, he is the clear value pick at this point. He could be seen next at the Dublin Racing Festival and were he to win well at Leopardstown then he would surely be at least vying for favouritism at less than half his current odds.

Following this trio of 8/1 chances is Gordon Elliot's strapping Ginto (9/1). Were he to be confirmed as a runner here then all of his rivals would certainly sit up and take note, as he has looked a bit of a brute on his three starts over hurdles so far this campaign, winning all three by a combined 21 lengths and never really looking in danger. However, he is priced up as 6/1 favourite for the Albert Bartlett currently and with his profile and running style he looks more suited to that staying test rather than this intermediate race.

Runners

Facile Vega
1
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American Mike
1
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James Gate
Redemption Day
1
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Jamess Gate
1
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Impulsive Dancer
1
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Gaelic Warrior
1
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No Risk No Fun
1
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Demandrivingdouvan
1
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Lisnagar Fortune
1
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An Tobar
1
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Jet Powered
1
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Hiddenvalley Lake
1
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Special Cadeau
Klarc Kent
Henri The Second
1
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Barry The Butcher
Seabank Bistro
1
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Arctic Bresil
1
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Uncle Phil
1
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Mercurey
1
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Absolute Notions
Icare dAubrelle
I Am Fortunata
Park Hill Dancer
1
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Rath Gaul Boy
Issuing Authority
1
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Deeply Superficial
The Mediator
1
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Madmansgame
1
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Lookaway
Firm Footings
Top Speed
1
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Maximilian
Sir Jimmy Mac
Shanbally Kid
Night And Day
Each Way Terms
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Odds correct as of 2022-05-28 17:21 Odds subject to change.

It is common knowledge by now that Nicky Henderson has an embarrassment of riches for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle with both Constitution Hill (16/1) and Jonbon (20/1) toward the head of the betting for that race after the master trainer confirmed they are set to clash on day one. That explains their double figure odds for this race (and much bigger prices on the Exchanges) so his best chance in the Ballymore is surely Walking On Air (10/1), a runner who only made his hurdling debut in the past seven days. Despite his obvious lack of experience, a statistic that will count against him on race day, Walking On Air could not fail to impress racing fans with his facile 13 length success at Newbury. He looks to be marginally ahead of Stage Star as the leading British hope at this stage and double figure odds, particularly each-way with the race likely to cut up, will tempt many.

A bit further down the market is another horse with an unconfirmed Cheltenham target, Hillcrest (20/1) of Henry Daly's. This horse has been described as "better than anything we've had at this stage before" by his trainer and is an absolutely enormous stamp of a horse at over 18 hands, meaning his handler has not been able to properly measure him due to his equipment not reaching past 18! With his size in mind, it is clear staying chasing and possibly a Gold Cup tilt is in this runner's future all being well. If he were to rock up on the Wednesday there is no way he would be 20/1 come the off, but the Albert Bartlett seems a more logical target. Even if he does not appear here, he is a horse to keep onside throughout his career.

Hillcrest is one of the potential runners with Cheltenham form and he looked the best horse in the race on his last appearance there, beating I Am Maximus (33/1) by two lengths. With some improvement there could be a case for I Am Maximus sneaking into a place in this race but as is the case with so many at this early stage, his participation is far from guaranteed.

2022 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Journey With Me silk

Journey With Me

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