Cheltenham tips: Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey reveal antepost picks for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle will kick off Wednesday's card at the Cheltenham Festival

Ruby Walsh & Frank Hickey

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Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey have cast their eyes over this year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle ahead of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival – where Paddy Power is non-runner money back on all races.

Speaking on the first episode of the special Countdown To Cheltenham podcast, our main men discussed the runners who are expected to be in the frame for the famous 2m5f test.

You can listen to the full show BELOW.

Ruby Walsh

Paul Nicholls has never won the Ballymore, but he should have done because I gave Denman a balls of a ride in 2006. I didn’t go fast enough on him and he was quite wayward. The occasion got to him but I still wasn’t brave enough on him. I should have just let him off the bridle and let him roll.

That can’t be changed now, but he has another chance with BRAVEMANSGAME. He was very good at Newbury and you had to like what you saw. He doesn’t particularly remind me of Denman – as a novice hurdler Denman was keen and forward-going, while Bravemansgame is a very relaxed horse – but potential-wise, who knows what he could be?

I’m a big fan of BOB OLINGER. He was good at Naas and I loved him at Navan. He was second to Ferny Hollow at Gowran Park and there is so much to like about him. GAILLARD DU MESNIL was very good in his maiden win at Christmas, although what he beat is questionable, while he did finish second to Henry de Bromhead’s horse Holymacapony on his hurdles debut. HOLYMACAPONY is a huge price after bombing out at Navan so for me Gaillard Du Mesnil has to go and do a bit more.




BLUE LORD was too keen at Naas on his last start, CAPE GENTLEMAN is a dark one for Emmet Mullins and probably has a squeak, but I like Bob Olinger. I think the race will suit him, he stays well and he will jump better with more runs.

DREAL DEAL won at Punchestown at the weekend rated 141, and he got up to win by three lengths from Ganapathi with another length and a half back to the third horse, POWER OF PAUSE, who was racing off level weights with Dreal Deal, so the handicapper got it right. To me, that puts the second horse GANAPATHI off a rating of 139, which I don’t think is enough to win the Ballymore.

You need a rating of around 154 to win the Ballymore and there is no way they can find 14lbs improvement in Ganapathi. Out of all the Willie Mullins runners, I would hope that Gaillard Du Mesnil can improve off his maiden hurdle win at Leopardstown over Christmas , but he’ll have to.

Another to mention is FIGHTER ALLEN, who was good in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown but then bombed out at Navan on the same day as Holymacapony. They are two horses that, because they both underperformed and pulled up, are getting overlooked.

If you were offering me a ride in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle, I would take Bob Olinger, but I just can’t see why there is such a big difference in price between Gaillard Du Mesnil and Holymacapony.

There was obviously something wrong with Holymacapony at Navan the last day so with ‘Non-Runner, Money Back’, I would take a chance on him.

Bravemansgame Harry Cobden Newbury December 29, 2020

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Frank Hickey

People were backing BOB OLINGER at 25/1 for this, as they were with Bravemansgame, so there are a lot of people sitting on very nice dockets. The Ballymore is a race where the market doesn’t get it too far wrong. In the last 10 years the SP of the winner has been 4/7, 8/1, 8/11, 14/1, 3/1, 9/2, 6/4, 7/2, 2/1 and 7/1, so there’s only the one double-figure winner in that period.

Looking behind Bravemansgame and Bob Olinger, trying to identify potential runners is not that easy. Gaillard Du Mesnil will probably run and potentially Cape Gentleman so the two of them could shorten up a bit more, but this might only be a nine or 10 runner race.

I wouldn’t be overly hopeful that the bookmakers will get both Bravemansgame and Bob Olinger beaten. Dreal Deal won at the weekend, but I thought he had it all to do coming into the race having only won a handicap. He hacked up in that off at a mark of 111, but I thought he would have to run to a mark of at least 146 to win at Punchestown.

He went for an unmerciful walk in the market just before the off, and while he did win, if you look at the timings the rest of the field just went too hard at the start. Echoes In Rain went clear and the effort some of the others made trying to close her down left them vulnerable at the finish. If you ran that race again and there was a more even pace, the second horse Ganapathi would probably be the best horse on show. Dreal Deal was just ridden cold and picked them all up. He’s a big price for the Ballymore, but I wouldn’t take it.


I would probably side with Bob Olinger because of what he has done, but it’s not my kind of bet just yet. I can see him being shorter on the day though. There are two that interest me from a ‘Non-Runner, Money Back’ perspective. The first is BEAR GHYLLS for Nicky Martin, who was unbelievably impressive in winning a Warwick bumper by 19 lengths. That form is solid, as the second Guard Your Dreams won a relatively valuable handicap hurdle at Sandown on Tolworth day off a mark of 128 while the fifth, Bobhopeornohope, is two for two over hurdles and looks a useful stayer.

Bear Ghylls then beat Make Me A Believer very easily on hurdles debut at Lingfield, despite trying to take the last hurdle home with him. Make Me A Believer won a novice hurdle at Cheltenham over 2m and was only beaten by half a length in the Grade 2 Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick at the weekend. Even the third at Lingfield, Take Your Time, won very easily on his next start and was then third off a mark of 124 in a very useful Wincanton handicap.

Bear Ghylls wasn’t as impressive at Ffos Las when dropped to 2m, and he was made to work hard by a Nigel Twiston-Davies newcomer called Gowel Road when winning under a penalty. He then made his handicap debut at Exeter over 2m2f off a mark of 130 and absolutely bolted up despite not jumping brilliantly. I would definitely consider backing him – and there are some big prices about him – as he has a right engine if he can learn to jump better.

The other one to mention is GENTLEMANSGAME for Mouse Morris. Morris has a relatively good record in the race, winning it with First Lieutenant and he was second with Rule The World. Venalmar was also placed in it, the year Fiveforthree won it. This horse won a point in October and Robcour paid over £250,00 for him. He bolted up at Cork over 2m and I was really taken by the way he won. He’s entered in the Grade 1 over 2m6f at the Dublin Racing Festival and if he won that, it would be interesting to see where he goes. The owners obviously have Bob Olinger as well and I don’t know if they would run two in the same race, but Gentlemansgame is a horse to definitely put in your tracker and keep an eye on.

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle bet summary – Wednesday, March 17

Ruby Walsh – Bob Olinger/Holymacapony

Frank Hickey – Bob Olinger/Bear Ghylls

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