Paddy Power trader Frank Hickey has a sharp eye when it comes to judging horses, and our main man saw plenty he liked during the Cheltenham Festival.
Speaking on the latest episode of our From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, Frank picked out some of the less obvious challengers who could be open to major improvement over the coming seasons.
Allmankind (4th in Arkle Chase)
I don’t think Allmankind and Captain Guinness taking each other on impacted the result in the Arkle, but I do think Captain Guinness was probably the second-best horse in the race.
I thought before Cheltenham Festival that Aintree was far more Allmankind’s type of track. I’m not sure what the plan is for Captain Guinness but I imagine he would just stay in Ireland so then you’re looking at what could beat Allmankind around Aintree.
Maybe Sky Pirate, off the back of winning the Grand Annual off a high mark, but the track will probably suit Allmankind more than Cheltenham. If he gets an uncontested lead, Allmankind is definitely the sort of horse that will win another Grade 1.
Admiral’s Secret (12th in Ultima Handicap Chase)
Admiral’s Secret was an eye-catcher in the Ultima Handicap Chase. It was his first try at 3m and he absolutely cruised down the hill but didn’t stay at all.
He’s one to put in your notebook for dropping back to 2½m at maybe Aintree, Cheltenham or even Haydock – around the Swinton Hurdle time potentially.
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Aspire Tower (4th in Champion Hurdle)
It’s hard to see where Aspire Tower is going to win, but he ran a cracker in the Champion Hurdle. His sloppy jumping at the second last and the last cost him but he travelled really well and hit 3/1 in-running when coming down to two fences out. That tells you how well he was going, considering he was a 33/1 shot.
He’s only a five-year-old and he will improve again next year. I think the plan is for him to go chasing so he’s one that you wouldn’t put a line through in the Arkle next year.
Houx Gris (4th in Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle)
I’m definitely keeping the faith with Houx Gris. He was very keen but has loads of ability which we will see when he learns to race a bit more efficiently. He’s going to be rated far higher than 128 so I wouldn’t give up on him at all.
I thought he could potentially be the best horse that was in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – in time. Others who backed Saint Sam obviously think he is, but Houx Gris is well handicapped.
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Bear Ghylls (4th in Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle)
I thought Bear Ghylls ran a really good race in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, and I think fences will be the making of him. I’m no expert but it doesn’t look like he respects his hurdles that much. Perhaps he’ll respect his fences more?
He would have got Bravemansgame for third with another couple of strides and I think it was a very fair run from him. If his handicap mark is left near 140 then he is very interesting, if they go the handicap route. I imagine they might go to Aintree and run in the 2½m race there on a flat track. He’s got plenty of potential.
He had no graded form coming into the Ballymore and probably lacked that experience, while they were probably going a bit faster than he was used to, but he didn’t disgrace himself. It will be interesting to see if he jumps better next year. I’m not saying he will win Grade 1s at Cheltenham but he will win nice races, particularly in England pre-festival when he doesn’t have to worry about Irish horses.
Chantry House (1st in Marsh Novices’ Chase)
The way the Marsh was run would have absolutely played to Envoi Allen’s strengths and you feel he would have taken an awful lot of beating if he hadn’t fallen, but you have to give Chantry House credit. He looked to be going as fast as he could for most of the race but his stamina kicked in.
You imagine he is a horse that might improve even more stepping up to 3m. The second, Fusil Raffles, ran a really good race and to be fair to Asterion Forlonge, he ran well as well and didn’t jump right half as bad as might have been expected.
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Tornado Flyer (3rd in Ryanair Chase)
I thought Tornado Flyer ran an absolute cracker in the Ryanair Chase. He’s had a few mentions from me, and I previously said he might sneak a place in the Queen Mother Champion Chase but he goes and sneaks a place in the Ryanair instead at a big price.
He’s run really well and it shows that his close second in the John Durkan was no fluke at all. Kalashnikov also shaped well for a long way and was obviously first home of the British runners so, depending on what runs at Aintree, I might still be tempted by him at a price.
Beacon Edge (4th in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle)
Beacon Edge ran a cracker in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle and, looking at the English horses, he might be one to go for in the Aintree Hurdle if connections were thinking about it.
Whether they will or won’t, I don’t know but he didn’t really fully get 3m. He still ran an absolute belter so might be better over 2½m.
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Quilixios (1st in JCB Triumph Hurdle)
Quilixios could be even better when he goes up in trip. I would be surprised if he is a 2-miler in two years’ time. He is more of a grinder so I think he will be better when he gets up to 2½m and maybe even further.
N’golo (9th in Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle)
One horse I have to mention from watching the Albert Bartlett is N’golo. He absolutely tanked into the race two out but didn’t get home. There is some sort of good race in him.
He might just be a big handicap horse as opposed to a Grade 1 – big fields with strong pace – as the way he travelled… I thought he was going to win coming to two out, but he just hasn’t stayed.
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