The Grade 1 Ballymore Novices Hurdle kicks off Day 2 and the potential field looks full of high-class horses. Current favourite Gaillard Du Mesnil looks an extremely exciting young hurdler for team Mullins, whilst fellow Irish counter parts, De Bromhead and Blackmore, will be hoping Bob Olinger can do the business. Both horses look to have a big future and the same can be said for Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame, who looks every inch a top staying chaser in the making. Comparisons have already been made to Denman, but can he go one better in this race than his legendary stablemate did?
GAILLARD DU MESNIL
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Current Odds: 11/4
Current favourite for this year’s Ballymore is Willie Mullins’ grey gelding Gaillard Du Mesnil. His life over hurdles started in low key fashion, finishing an 8 length second to Holymacopony on debut for the yard. Like many of Willies can do in the early parts of the season, he improved massively for the run and bolted up at Leopardstown in a novice hurdle over Christmas. Mr Incredible was just over 9 lengths back in second that day and has since franked the form. Thrown into deeper waters on his last start for the opening Grade 1 of The Dublin Racing Festival, Gaillard Du Mesnil delivered in the style of a very useful horse. Travelling smoothy throughout, he jumped well in midfield and made his challenge coming down to the last. He ultimately had too much for long-time leader Stattler and was driven out for a 5-length success. Wearing a hood is never something I like to see on a young horse as it just gives me doubts about the horse’s attitude and temperament. I would also have my doubts about the form of this Grade 1 win. Gentlemansgame, Stattler and Fakiera filled the places and all three appear to be Bartlett horses, yet Gaillard seemed to be slightly outpaced for a moment or two turning for home. Granted he did pick up nicely once shaken up, but he drew away from the pack like a very strong stayer. I would have slight concerns about his raw speed should they go a slow gallop for the first circuit and really start to quicken coming down the Cheltenham Hill. Afterall many a pacey horse has won the Ballymore!
Trainer: Henry De Bromhead
Current Odds: 4/1
One of my bigger Antepost hopes of the week comes in the shape of Henry De Bromhead’s Bob Olinger, who I am lucky enough to be sat on at 25/1 for the Ballymore and 15/1 any race. As mentioned before, this looks a high-class renewal, but Henry has made no secret of how highly he rates this fella. Pitched into the deep end on hurdles debut against 2020 Champion Bumper winner Ferny Hollow over 2 miles, Bob ran a stormer and went down by just a length, over an inadequate trip. Appreciate It has done wonders for the Champion Bumper form, so I am inclined to think this was a massive run from Bob on his first start over hurdles. Duly stepped up in trip on his next start, Bob Olinger cruised round at odds of 1/8 and gained some crucial experience, without breaking sweat. It is worth noting the horse he beat by 14 lengths at a canter that day, has come out and won since. Pitched into Grade 1 company on his next start in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novices Hurdle, Bob put in an extremely professional performance, travelling beautifully, and jumping efficiently throughout. The overall time wouldn’t have been a quick one, but I particularly liked the way he quickened coming down to the last and ran all the way through the line. He was just 0.78 seconds slower from the back of the last to the line than the two-mile novice race won by On Eagles Wings. Given both races were run slowly, but Bob Olinger over 4 furlongs further on heavy ground, it has be to a huge sign of the engine and gears he possesses. Gears which may give him an edge over main market rivals Gaillard Du Mesnil and Bravemansgame. Raced only on “heavy”, Bob does have questions to answer on better spring ground, but his pedigree would suggest it won’t be a problem and could actually see him in a better light.
Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Current Odds: 9/2
Bravemansgame is a horse connections have always held in high regard and he has taken to hurdles well this season. Physically, a fine, big, stamp of a chaser, Bravemansgame is exceptionally nimble over his hurdles and certainly possess plenty of natural talent. Life over hurdles started off over 2 miles with a narrow defeat to Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory. A couple of smooth novice hurdle wins followed before Bravemansgame was sent into Grade 1 company for The Challow at Newbury. Making all, he jumped beautifully throughout and kept on powerfully up the Newbury straight to record an impressive 10 length win, over the highly regarded Star Gate and The Glancing Queen. This was visually an awesome performance and the clock backed it up too. Bravemansgame was 3 seconds faster than 136 rated stable mate Calva D’Auage who won the handicap hurdle, over the same course and distance, carrying over a stone less! I believe Bravemansgame is an extremely gifted animal and will take high rank over fences next season, but I do wonder whether he has the pace required for a Ballymore. Ballymore winners tend to possess plenty of speed and the race can often turn into a dash up the hill. Winners, Istabraq, Faugheen and Hardy Eustace all went on to taste Champion Hurdle success, whilst Simonsig dropped backed to 2 miles over fences to win an Arkle. As touched on previously, I see Bravemansgame as a big staying chaser down the line who will hopefully contest a Gold Cup one day. I just wonder whether he’ll get caught for tow coming down the hill and swinging into the straight. I would expect to see him prominent, if not lead throughout, and attempt to turn this into a proper test of stamina.
According to the market we have three main contenders for this year’s Ballymore but there are plenty of talented horses lurking at much bigger prices. Talent is certainly a word that comes to mind when thinking about Bear Ghylls who is a perfect 3 from 3 this season. For all he seems to possess quite the engine, he has 10lbs to find with “the big three” and his jumping, bluntly put, can be awful. Dual course and distance scorer, Does He Know, may attract some each way support should he run here but he clearly has his quirks, having run out in The Challow and disappointed last time out at Exeter. His course form is a big plus though and he could outrun his odds should connections come here. Wilde About Oscar is another horse who ran in The Challow but was pulled up swiftly after a bad mistake. He did however bounce back in fine style at Exeter last time out, beating The Glancing Queen by 7 lengths. Connections feel he may still have some maturing to do and I wouldn’t be surprised if they choose to side-step Cheltenham and head to Aintree. David Pipe’s Make Me A Believer, may attract some support at bigger odds with good course form in the book, but he does have to find some considerable improvement to challenge those at the top of the market.
Crunching the Numbers
- 24 of the last 25 winners were aged 5 or 6
- 21 of the previous 25 winners were priced 10/1 or lower
- 19 of the last 25 winners won last time out
- 19 of the previous 25 winners had finished in the first two on all completed starts that season
- 21 of the previous 25 winners had run at least 3 times that season
- 18 of the last 25 winners had won a NHF race, including the last 10
Unsurprisingly, “The Big Three” score well on the trends with both Gaillard Du Mesnil and Bob Olinger scoring 6/6. Bravemansgame did not win a National Hunt Flat race and subsequently scores 5/6. Of the outsiders, Bear Ghylls ticks 5 of the 6 trends along with Wilde About Oscar who both failed to tick the price trend, currently lying above 10/1.
On official ratings there is nothing to separate the big three in the market. All officially rated 150, it is not hard to envisage any one of the three going off favourite. Of the three I would imagine Bravemansgame is likely to sit closest to pace and may even have to make his own running. I can see Bob Olinger lining up just off the pace out wide, whilst Paul Townend could look for cover on Gaillard De Mesnil and take him up the rail, like he did at Leopardstown. Looking at the antepost betting, I’m not sure we will have a large field, so with that in mind and Cobden wanting to make use of Bravemansgames Stamina, I can see him taking charge coming down the back straight and looking to press on down the hill. Rachel will likely cover the move on the outside, whilst Townend will look to move Gaillard closer to the pace late on. Coming down the hill and swinging for home, I can see the big three coming to the fore. Bravemansgame may come off the bridle first with both Bob and Gaillard stalking in behind. I would love to see them jump the last, three in line, and have a right ding dong battle up the hill. Should a three-way scrap develop turning in for home, I think Bravemansgame would prevail, so therefore I can see Rachel Blackmore making an early move on Bob Olinger, looking to catch Bravemansgame out with a deadly turn of foot coming down to the last. Bob has plenty of stamina too and I can see him hanging on from a rallying Bravemansgame and Gaillard Du Mesnil.
My Idea of the Winner
- Bob Olinger 4/1
- Bob Olinger
- Gaillard Du Mesnil
By Sam Rideout
Follow me on Twitter – @TheTr17pleP