Cheltenham Festival 2019: Ballymore Novices Hurdle Preview
This race in my opinion is the standout novice hurdle race of The Festival, you have some exceptional talents towards the top of the market. And the top of the market tends to be where you will find the winner, the last five winners of this have had starting prices of 8/11, 14/1, 3/1. 9/2 and 6/4. Willoughby Court being the only horse to win this race at double figure odds in the last ten years. Also, with the Irish have a strong hand winning eight of the last thirteen renewals you are probably better of siding with one of the raiding party.
I am against Champ here, there are a few reasons for this, first of all his price. 3/1 with Betfair is not appealing in the slightest, the reason being that his form is poor; he won the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury beating Getaway Trump who was well beaten at Kelso only last Saturday and the third – Kateson, was beaten out of site stepping up to three miles at Haydock recently. When you factor in the form line and that Champ is so keen during his races it makes me wonder whether he will have enough energy to get up the hill.
Klassical Dream did everything right when winning his Grade 1 at Leopardstown and to my eye outstayed his stablemate Aramon suggesting this step up in trip seems logical. Willie Mullins has won this race four times in recent years including with the brilliant Faugheen. Klassical Dream and Aramon were a long way clear of Vision D’honneur who to my eye looks a very good yardstick. The stable form of Mullins coming into Cheltenham would be a concern to me. Normally operating around a 30% strike rate throughout the season it has been around 20% in recent weeks and this is alarming when you consider the conveyer belt of talent he normally churns out – particularly with novice hurdlers.
This brings me on to the selection, who I cannot believe is not favourite for this, Battleoverdoyen. Six year olds have won eight of the last ten renewals, which puts Battleoverdoyen in the driving seat when it comes to trends, especially when this race normally goes to a horse that has won a graded race previously and it was hard not to be impressed the way he won his Grade 1 at Naas. He jumped really well in the main, bar a slight mistake at the last. The race was run in a really good time on ground that would have been quicker than he would like it and he stayed right through the line and didn’t appear to be tying up. I think with the softer ground next week and the race being ran at an end to end gallop will really help this horse as he probably got to the front too soon on his last run and still won cosily. Jack Kennedy won both two and a half mile novice race for Gordon Elliott on Samcro in this race and Shattered Love in the JLT novices chase last year so clearly has a liking for this course and distance as a jockey. I would rate Battleoverdoyen as one of the best bets of the week and if the Irish money comes for him on the day I expect him to go off favourite. 4/1 is generally available and I still think that’s a big price when factoring in the above.
If you wanted to look for an each way bet in the race I think City Island has looked really impressive on all his hurdle runs but the softer ground could well be against him. Taking that Naas form into account with Battleoverdoyen, Sam’s Profile is available at 16/1 and ran really well for a long way and then stayed on nicely and he also seemed to get cut up by the winner on the turn for home, which at the time some considered a race winning move. I still think Battleoverdoyen would have won but I would expect further improvement to come from Sam’s Profile and I think he will really enjoy the test of the Cheltenham hill.
Recommendations – Battleoverdoyen 4/1 generally available – Sam’s Profile 16/1 each way – generally available