While the feature races at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival will largely dominate the headlines, and rightfully so, there are a number of other fixtures also on the agenda that are worth taking a look at.
The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle is one of those races, which sees novice hurdlers four years or older battling it out over two miles and five furlongs on day two of the Festival. This year’s renewal consists of a solid field of entries, a number of whom boast strong claims – and with that in mind – read on as we dissect who are garnering the shortest prices in the horse racing betting odds at the time of writing.
Arguably one of trainer Paul Nicholls’ best chances across the four days, six-year-old Hermes Allen will be taking with him to Cheltenham a string of eye-popping performances dating back to November of 2021. After securing his maiden victory at Kirkistown, the French horse followed that up with triumphs at Stratford, Cheltenham and Newbury – the latter three of which coming this season.
Not only is Hermes Allen’s run of form impressive because of its consistency, it’s the manner in which he is winning that has drawn the attention of punters. In his four wins to date, he has reigned supreme by an average margin of a 11-and-a-half lengths, displaying fluency over the hurdles and first-class finishing speed that will once again prove hard to beat at Prestbury Park.
It’s not just the fans and pundits who have been impressed with the 5/2 shot, with Nicholls noting his thoroughbred’s form has caught him somewhat off-guard.
“I didn’t think he’d want that ground, but he was the only one with the ability to go through it and plenty of those that finished behind him have won since – it’s turned out to be a very good race,” Nicholls said.
“He’s obviously got huge ability and I’m excited about him going to Cheltenham of course, but I’m as excited about the future with him as he’ll be a lovely horse to go chasing.
“He’s working nicely and is in good shape. He’s in the Albert Bartlett, but I’ve always thought the Ballymore over two-and-a-half (miles) would suit.”
Impaire Et Passe
While Hermes Allen is garnering plenty of hype amongst National Hunt racing fans and pundits alike, write off a horse of Impaire Et Passe’s calibre at your own peril – particularly when his trainer is Willie Mullins. Just five years old, this French-bred horse has shown plenty of promise in his young career, securing a win on his debut in the Prix du Telethon in March of last year – before dominating his opposition in a maiden hurdle at Naas and in a Grade 2 affair at Punchestown.
While he is still somewhat of an unknown commodity, there’s no doubting the potential of Impaire Et Passe, and it is that potential that has seen him firm in the ante-post betting lines – with him currently sitting as the second favourite at 3/1.
After kicking his career off with four consecutive defeats, the Willie Mullins-trained Gaelic Warrior now finds himself in a purple patch of form three victories on the trot at Tramore, Clonmel and Leopardstown.
His maiden triumph at Tramore was particularly impressive, as the German horse went on to reign supreme by a staggering 86 lengths from Littel Flour. It’s his consistency over jumps which makes him a threat, and if pre-race favourites Hermes Allen and Impaire Et Passe aren’t clinical in their own right when hurdling – Gaelic Warrior could be worth a look at 9/2.