The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Wednesday 14 March), known up until this year as the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle, is a 2 Mile and 5 Furlongs Grade 1 Hurdle open to novices aged 4 or older. It was first run in 1971, and in recent years has been the first race on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival.
The most famous winner is 3-time Champion Hurdler Istabraq, with other high-profile winners including Monsignor, Hard Eustace, The New One, and Faugheen.
7 of the last 10 winners have been aged 6, 3 have been aged 5
Irish-trained horses have won 6 of the last 10 renewals
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have teamed-up to win 4 of the last 10 renewals
Davy Russell has ridden 2 of the last 7 winners
9 of the last 10 winners were returned between 6/4 and 7/1
8 of the 10 winners have been rated between 146 and 156
Irish-trained 6-year-old who is a short-priced favourite having won all 5 of his races; having been sent-off no bigger than 8/11 in 3 bumpers and 2 hurdle races. Has been given the “potential superstar” tag already, but could easily live up to it judging off his 12-length win last time, as the easily-beaten second was beaten nowhere near as far in a Grade 1 next time. Missed a couple of potential engagements due to a dirty scope, but may shorten further if he wins a race at the Dublin Racing Festival in February.
Only won 1 of his 3 bumpers, but certainly wasn’t disgraced in defeat as he was fourth in the Cheltenham Festival Bumper, and second in a bumper at the Punchestown Festival. Won his 3 hurdle races in good-style since, including a Grade 2 and a Grade 1. However, looks to have around 3-lengths to make up on Samcro on collateral form. Willie Mullins usually has a good horse for this race.
On The Blind Side
The money came in wheelbarrows when he made his debut for Nicky Henderson, and he duly landed the gamble. He was then a market-drifter in his next run in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham, but won impressively giving 7lb to a mare that made a mockery of a handicap mark of 134 next time, with subsequent Grade 1 winner Poetic Rhythm back in third. Wheelbarrows full of cash then arrived again for him before a Grade 2 at Sandown, and he completed his hat-trick by an impressive 9-lengths.
If The Cap Fits
Only defeat in 6 starts came in a bumper at the Grand National Meeting, but he was well-fancied for that race having been sent-off at 9/2. He then won his first two hurdles races at odds-on, before being well-backed to make it 3 out of 3 over hurdles when giving weight to all his rivals at Kempton.
It’s possible that one or two horses could still come out of the woodwork, but Samcro, Next Destination, On The Blind Side, and If The Cap Fits have already showed a level of form that would have won them several of the last 10 renewals of this race. Samcro could live up to his superstar billing, whilst Next Destination represents Willie Mullins. However, at the prices, it may be worth chancing On The Blind Side, who could be very special if progressing again from his last run.