Cheltenham Festival: 5 Irish runners to thrive as Paddy Power is non runner money back on ALL races

Paddy's non runner money back ALL races with just 5 weeks to go until the greatest show on turf.

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If you’re of an equine persuasion, there’s a tiny clock that ticks very quietly in the background of your psyche for the entire year. It goes to sleep for the summer months, turns into a murmur after the Betfair Chase in November, begins to accelerate by the King George on Boxing Day and your neighbours start complaining about it by Trials Day.

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Yes folks, we’re now just five weeks shy of the Cheltenham Festival and that normally means two things: having to listen to a load of once-a-years start telling you about exciting novices who have been running since October – but more importantly – your good friends at Paddy Power going Non-Runner No Bet for every race at the extravaganza.

Sometimes in life taking risks is fun, but the only thing more enjoyable is a touch of insurance and if you back a horse for a particular race now and he doesn’t line up, then you’ll simply have your bet voided and you can go in again.

If last year’s results are anything to go by, they’ll soon be asking Irish horses to carry a 5lb penalty for being trained here.  Anyway, after another cracking Dublin Racing Festival, I’m handing you 5 Irish horses to keep onside for Cheltenham; taking full advantage of Paddy’s non runner money back concession.

Ginto Gordon Elliott

1. Ginto – Wed, March 16, Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle:

It’s a dilemma. You’ve got a crack 2m 5f Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle candidate who could be better suited by a fast-paced, soft-ground 2m Supreme Novices Hurdle test on day one or one whose a bit too slow for both, but could revel in the mud in the 3m Albert Bartlett on the final day instead.

Take into account you’ll be playing poker with Willie Mullins’ entries until the very last minute on Sunday, March 12 and it could all go pear-shaped pretty quickly.

Luckily, non runner no bet was made for days like these.

The Supreme Novices Hurdle looks an absolute belter with Constitution Hill, Sir Gerhard, Dysart Dynamo and Jonbon all  at the head of the market. However, all four are trained by either W P Mullins or N J Henderson so they may opt to split them and send two to the Ballymore Novices Hurdle over 2m 5f.

Ginto will go to Cheltenham with three runs under his belt this year, having beaten Hollow Games the last twice, with a Grade 1 to his name and plenty of scope to improve again. He won’t drop back in trip for Tuesday’s opener and even if he does step up to three miles for Friday’s the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, you can wade in again after having your stake refunded with Paddy’s Non Runner Money Back special to aid you.

2. Facile Vega – Wed, March 16, Champion Bumper

It’s a race I generally hate punting because pace and a big field can absolutely ruin best-laid plans.
With no obstacles and more blocks than a Novak Djokovic fan account, you just worry your horse will either get caught in a pocket, be put to sleep off a dawdle, or have to make it and get the fractions wrong.

But every now and then a bumper horse like Facile Vega comes along and is so impressive that you believe he’ll overcome absolutely all of that with no fear.

Willie Mullins said this son of Quevega was going to be special at a racing soiree before he made his debut at Christmas – and post his latest run, said he was even better than he believed originally. Sometimes you cannot look a gift horse in the mouth.

3. Galopin Des Champs – Thurs Mar 17, Turners Novice Chase:

This horse does not need three miles. This horse does not need three miles. This horse does not need three miles.

You’d be sick of hearing this refrain because of his winning Grade One novice hurdle form and I’m rubbishing the idea right now. He’s got enough speed and gains ground quick enough post-jump to be aimed at the Turners Novices Chase over 2m 4f, let alone towards the 3m Brown Advisory Chase – but I digress.

Galopin Des Champs is the slickest jumper of a fence of all novice chasers and I’d have included Ferny Hollow in that bracket, before he had a setback. Everything about him screams Ryanair distance in time. And I know some people don’t like that because we want to build up to a Gold Cup but the world isn’t just about your ideals.

Would he win the 3m novice chase? Yes. But will we also comfortably outjump Bob Olinger if they go a strong pace? More than definitely. And if he does go down the 3m Brown Advisory route, that’s why Paddy’s non runner money back offer is here.

4. Allaho – Thurs, March 17, Ryanair Chase

I love when a horse is trained specifically for a race that almost no other horse in training is geared towards. Anything that lines up alongside Allaho is doing it begrudgingly because they’re not staying the Gold Cup trip nor are they quick enough to challenge Shishkin and Co.

And yet Willie, year in year out now, will be able to put Allaho back into his box, collecting a sizeable winners’ prize in the Ryanair regardless of whether it’s fashionable or not because he’s found the key to a horse that’s incredibly talented and pulled off such a demolition job last year.

This is sole target and always has been after last year’s demolition. As close to a God-given certainty as Honeysuckle is the for the Champion Hurdle, but nobody will speak about that.

5. Fil Dor – Fri, March 18, Triumph Hurdle

There’s nothing quite like the Rich Ricci silks to get everyone overexcited. Vauban was very good at Leopardstown but Fil Dor is an idle monster and will only do as much as he needs to do – and that’s clear to anyone who’s ever watched racing.

And while I accept this race has the potential to be very, very hot, I can find plenty of holes in the front two in the market. Benefitting from a really lethargic pace set by the front-runner at Leopardstown, Vauban went past the selection relatively comfortably but there was no pace for Fil Dor to aim at – something I believe would catch the now joint-market-leader out at Cheltenham.

Pied Piper, who chinned Vauban at Punchestown,  was visibly very impressive over the course and distance of the Triumph Hurdle on Cheltenham Trials day last month. The one I’d want personally is the horse who will travel and then out-stay everyone up the hill. Fil Dor is going to be that type.

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