Ballymore Novices' Hurdle Ante-Post Tips: Nailing down the winner is a Bravemansgame

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle: Both Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls hold strong hands.
Ballymore Novices' Hurdle: Both Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls hold strong hands.

Joe Tuffin takes a look at the 2021 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, which will see three hugely exciting novices clash in the Grade 1 contest...

At the time of writing It’s Wednesday the 17th of February and at this exact moment in a month's time, the horses will be in the parade ring for the first race of day two at the Cheltenham Festival and the excitement will be palpable from sofas up and down the country. The levels of anticipation will be higher still owing to that race being the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, which is subjectively the most interesting novice hurdle event at this year’s racing extravaganza.

The top of market is a flush with proven quality and class, and this applies none more so than to Gaillard Du Mesnil, yet another top class prospect owned by the emerging power owners of the Donnelly’s - who must fancy themselves to bag a good haul of Festival winners this year. A model of consistency, he’s not finished outside of the top two in his eight starts since his debut France, and finally added Graded honours to his CV when impression tremendously at the Dublin Racing Festival, getting up by five easy lengths. Trained by the ever brilliant Willie Mullins, he was duly placed at the top of the market for the Ballymore and will surely to continue to attract support if (dare i say when) the Mullins train steams through day one, but there could be a bit more value sitting just below him in the form of the Paul Nicholls trained Bravemansgame.

A horse who has drawn comparisons to the mighty Denman after winning three on the bounce, including the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle last time out, he’s one that immediately catches the eye owing to his brilliant athleticism and enthusiasm for the game after such little experience. Now it’s worth noting that, to even come close to the legend that is Denman it would be some achievement, so comparison to him are not to be taken lightly. Even though it’s clear a career over the bigger fences awaits him, the ‘Tank’ managed second in this race as a hurdler before wowing us all with his power and athleticism over fences, so to be ‘as good’ as him has to place him right there. Some questions have been asked over his form, but he readily dispatched Grade 2 winner Star Gate in the Challow and you can be sure there is a whole lot more left in him.

The other main protagonist in this triplet of of ability laden future stars is the Henry De Bromhead trained Bob Olinger, who besides bumping into Cheltenham Festival winner Ferny Hollow in a maiden hurdle of which he is excused, has developed quite the habit for impressive victories, winning his other three races by a combined 30 lengths. Like the aforementioned, his last time out performance saw him bag Grade 1 honours in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle, but as impressive as it was, It was only Blue Lord who chased him home that day. It’s not bad form by any means but it’s also not great, with Blue Lord finishing behind the likes of Appreciate It and Ballyadam also this term. He could carry on with his upward trend of form but Bravemansgame is fancied to beat him next month.

Cheltenham Festival Races

Sitting fourth in the market is the hugely exciting Appreciate It, though he is all but confirmed to be going to the Supreme so stay well clear unless you’re stepping into the Non-Runner No Bet market, as he would probably have won by this time in a month.

Ballyadam is the first to hit double-figures in the Ballymore market and like Appreciate It, he looks set for a go in the Supreme. But there is that nagging question with him, how on earth does he reverse the form with Appreciate It? Twice beaten by the Mullins hot shot, he looks firmly second best in the two-mile Irish Novice Hurdle division and why send him to Cheltenham for him to be beaten yet again? There is a case to be made for him to come to the Ballymore instead of the Supreme to avoid that clash in which the writing is already on the wall, but equally he may fall short of the market principles here and is probably best left in both races, unless you can get some double-figure about him for the Supreme.

Further down at around the 16/1 mark is Gentlemansgame, who sports the same silks as Bob Olinger, giving owners Robcour quite the hand in this race. Last seen behind the favourite Gaillard Du Mesnil, he looks like a horse with plenty of ability and an extremely bright future, shown by a 21-length win on debut. Problem with him for this race is that the owners probably have him beat with Bob Olinger, so why waste him here? He also holds an entry in the far more open Albert Bartlett and I expect to see him lineup there.

With many of the horses holding multiple entries, it’s hard to pin down one outside of the main protagonists that might be seen here. But outside of my A bet in Bravemansgame, I’ll also be chancing my hand on the big outsider Pipesmoker, who at the time of writing is priced at the 66/1 mark. Another holding a Supreme entry (A recurring theme), he was a horse touted for a great season before injury sidelined him, but he makes his comeback tomorrow (18th of February) at Sandown Races over two-mile and a powerful winning display will see him shorten for both races. Definitely one to back in the NRNB market, his last performance almost a year ago was a smart one, chasing home now Grade 1 winner Sporting John at Ascot over two-mile-and-three-furlongs. This is pretty good form, better than some others around this price, and tomorrow’s run over two-mile may just be a sharpener to get him fit for this trip - of which seems more his forte. I always like to hold a big each-way antepost slip for the races at the Festival but with this race being so open it’s really quite tricky, but hopefully Nicky Henderson’s charge will line up here and give us a good account.

Selections

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Wednesday 17th March - back Bravemansgame at 9/2 
Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Wednesday 17th March - back Pipesmoker Each Way at 50/1 (Betfred NRNB)

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Bravemansgame silk

Bravemansgame

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Pipesmoker silk

Pipesmoker (EW)

Cheltenham Festival Tips
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