Cheltenham tips: Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey’s Juvenile Handicap Hurdle best bets

Frank has a big fancy in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

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Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey have given their expert opinions on the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle ahead of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, where Paddy Power are offering non-runner money back on every single race.

With several contenders potentially targeting the Triumph Hurdle later in the week, this was a tricky antepost market for our dynamic duo to pick apart.

However, Frank is certain he has found a solid selection and shared his tip on the latest episode of our From The Horse’s Mouth ‘Countdown to Cheltenham’ podcast.

Listen to the full show BELOW.

Ruby Walsh

I think this race has been a really good addition to the festival, as it has made the Triumph a better race. The Triumph has become a genuine Grade 1 contest now – not the lottery that it might have been in years gone by. I was lucky enough to win on Sanctuaire, who was pretty well handicapped at the time!

This year, I can see QUILIXIOS – now with Henry de Bromhead – running in the Triumph. ZANAHIYR could also go in the Triumph and looking down you’re trying to see what will be top weight after that. Weight will be a key factor to this.

Willie Mullins has SAINT SAM here, who is rated 139 and that is probably a fair-enough rating for him. If he was to run here, he would have a chance, but when the top horses start coming out and the weights start to go up I can’t see Willie running him with 11st10lbs.

The Boodles is often run at a strong pace but looking at Quilixios, I reckon the New Course and the Triumph will suit him. Stamina and stayers come to the fore.

The likes of BUSSELTON, who hasn’t looked the strongest finisher in his graded races so far, then comes into the picture. ZOFFANIEN is another you can throw into it there while CABOT CLIFFS won in Warwick last week and would also be suited to the Old Course, compared to Quilixios and Saint Sam.

YOUMDOUR could run here, as he is 11st2lbs and at a mark of 141. Until Sunday morning when Willie has to decide, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can see Saint Sam going to the Triumph so I would maybe tip up Busselton for Joseph O’Brien.

Quilixios Jack Kennedy Busselton JJ Slevin Leopardstown February 7, 2021



Frank Hickey

QUILIXIOS was initially being backed for the Boodles but it’s hard to know what will happen with him. If he was mine, I would go for the Triumph. He’s got a mark of 147 and you would probably need to be 6lbs ahead of your mark to be winning a handicap at Cheltenham. On any normal year, if you run to 153 or 154 in a Triumph then you would be in the first three, if not win.

While he is a classy horse, conceding weight to some that might have been hiding from the handicapper will be tough. He strikes me as more of a staying juvenile, so the track on the Friday for the Triumph will suit him better than the Boodles on Tuesday.

TEAHUPOO is three from three and two from two for Cullentra including a Grade 3 last time and mark of 141 might be workable, but I think they might take a chance in the Triumph. RIVIERE D’ETEL is most interesting off 134. She was second on hurdles debut in France at Listed level and bolted up on hurdles debut at Punchestown. She was third behind Thedevilscoachman, beaten three-and-a-half lengths, in a rated novice at Navan in late January.

Cabot Cliffs Harry Skelton Warwick February 3, 2021

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CABOT CLIFFS has really taken off since he was third behind Duffle Coat in a Listed race at Wetherby. He was behind Duffle Coat again when fourth at Cheltenham then beat Sage Advice at Warwick and absolutely bolted up ahead of Heross Du Seuil the last day. He has a mark of 137, so I don’t think he is hiding too much from the handicapper with that, but he is progressive and going places. He’s tough enough.

BALKO SAINT ties in with him for Jane Williams. He was second on first two hurdles starts, which is no form to write home about, but he was then was third in a Grade 3 at Cheltenham beaten nine lengths by Duffle Coat and Adagio. Balko Saint will get 8lbs, but has a 5lb penalty so will getting 3lbs off Cabot Cliffs despite finishing ahead of him in that Grade 3 at Cheltenham.

The one that stands out to me is HOUX GRIS for Paul Nicholls. He’s been well-supported in the last 10 days as when the weights came out he was a 20/1 shot, but now he is no bigger than 6/1. He was a bumper winner in France and won on his second hurdles start there too. He was pitched straight into Grade 1 company for his debut for Nicholls in the Finale Hurdle and shaped far better than a 23-length third suggests.

He travelled as well as the first two to just outside two out and weakened from there, suggesting the run might have been more needed that connections thought. The way he looked made me think he wouldn’t be out of place in the Triumph himself. He has been put away for this and worked at Wincanton recently where he caught the eye in no uncertain terms. Nicholls had Sanctuaire bolt up in this off the back of one run for him and think he might repeat that here. I’m really keen on Houx Gris. He’s off a mark of 128 and I think he has a massive chance.

*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widget, while in-copy odds are accurate at the time of publication but subject to change

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle bet summary – Tuesday, March 16

Ruby Walsh – Busselton

Frank Hickey – Houx Gris


March 16 – 13.20 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle latest odds and tips

March 16 – 13.55 – Arkle Chase latest odds and tips

March 16 – 15.05 – Champion Hurdle latest odds and tips

March 16 – 15.40 – Mares’ Hurdle latest odds and tips

March 17 – 13.20 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle latest odds and tips

March 17 – 13.55 – Festival Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips

March 17 – 15.05 – Queen Mother Champion Chase latest odds and tips

March 17 – 16.50 – Champion Bumper latest odds and tips

March 18 – 13.20 – Marsh Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips

March 18 – 14.30 – Ryanair Chase latest odds and tips

March 18 – 15.05 – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle latest odds and tips

March 19 – 13.20 – Triumph Hurdle latest odds and tips

March 19 – 14.30 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips

March 19 – 15.05 – Gold Cup latest odds and tips

March 19 – 16.15 – Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase latest odds and tips

Cheltenham Festival Day One schedule

13:20 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y

13.55 – Arkle Chase (Grade 1) 1m 7f 199y

14.30 – Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f

15.05 – Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y

15.40 – Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 3f 200y

16.15 – Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 87y

16.50 – National Hunt Chase (Grade 2) 3m 5f 201y

*Paddy will be all over your telly box throughout the Cheltenham Festival sponsoring ITV’s live coverage from Prestbury Park – and you can get free and exclusive tipping columns EVERY DAY from Ruby Walsh, Matt Chapman and Mick Fitzgerald here on PP News.

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