Cheltenham tips: Paddy’s pundits pick their Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle best antepost bets

Paddy's holy trinity of tipsters reveal their early picks for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle on day two of the mid-March fiesta.

From the Horses Mouth Cheltenham Countdown

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The From The Horse’s Mouth team ran the rule over the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on this week’s show, and our trio of tipsters offered up their early selections for the first race on the second day of the meeting.

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Ruby Walsh:

“It’s a wide-open contest. I thought Journey With Me was very good at Leopardstown beating Minella Crooner and Kilcruit – and obviously Minella Crooner has franked that form with a facile victory at Punchestown in a maiden hurdle. I think he’s definitely a runner.

“Nicky Henderson’s Walking On Air is value too because he’s definitely going to go here.

“Whatdeawant might want a bit further than the Ballymore distance of 2m 5f. You’d hope he underperformed at Naas because he was disappointing and he only got going late to win his maiden at Navan.

Hillcrest is an absolutely huge horse – 18 hands or more. If his feet work as quick as his brain, then his size should be a help as he’ll be able to carry weight easier than a smaller horse. That’s the theory behind a big horse, providing his feet move as quick as his brain is thinking, it’s definitely not a hindrance.

Frank Hickey:

Ginto’s only defeat on a racecourse was when second to Whatdeawant in a bumper. He’s won a point, a bumper, maiden hurdle and a Grade 2 and a Grade 1. His Grade 2 win at Navan was franked by Eric Bloodaxe winning the Grade 2 at Limerick over Christmas, but I did think that was a weak renewal of the race. I thought he was good in Naas but if you were very critical of him you would say that Whatdeawant didn’t run his race and as well as Grand Jury ran, Henry de Bromhead’s horses were running below form in the main.

Harbour Lake’s dam is a half sister to Fine Rightly and related to Another Rum who won the National Hunt Chase, so is bred to make a stayer. He bolted up on his rules debut at Wetherby. He won by 11 lengths on his next start when carrying a penalty again over 2m. He’s sure to improve when going up in trip but he might be one for Aintree. However, he’s one to keep an eye on.

Henry-De-Bromhead

Hillcrest was a €190,000 purchase as a ‘store horse’ (bred for National Hunt racing but not broken in yet). His dam Shop DJ was a Grade 3 winner over hurdles and was Grade 1 placed over fences. He’s by Stowaway who sired Monkfish, Champagne Fever, Put The Kettle On and Outlander among others. He is massive and is a staying chaser in the making, so bumpers were never going to be for him, but he was only beaten a nose by Wiseguy on his bumper debut at Doncaster and then won at Wetherby. That debut bumper run is his only defeat and he has won at Aintree, Wetherby and Cheltenham this season. His win at Cheltenham was impressive. He didn’t need much more than a bit of pushing out to win by two lengths from I Am Maximus.

Walking On Air is by Walk In The Park out of Refinement. He was second to Shallwehaveonemore on his bumper debut at Kempton. He was very impressive when winning his hurdles debut at Newbury last week, winning by 13 lengths from a previous winner. Nicky Henderson has an excellent bunch of novice hurdlers and has to be taken seriously. I imagine he will go to Huntingdon next for more experience.

“If Dysart Dynamo ends up in this contest on the Wednesday, I’d be all over him. Were he to go to the Supreme Novices Hurdle instead, then I’d take a chance on Hillcrest, who looks like a future Gold Cup horse.”

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Rory Delargy:

I like Journey With Me a lot. He’s been campaigned as if he’s as good as there is in the Henry De Bromhead yard. He hasn’t met any superstars yet and clearly needs another runner but strikes me as a Cheltenham horse. He could shorten up markedly if putting up a good run at the Dublin Racing Festival. He may well have the option of the 3m Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle, but hasn’t looked slow on his runs to date. He doesn’t look like a plodder. I’d be happy to side with him for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle.

Paul Nicholls has been making some noises about Stage Star who I like. He’s been brought along the same way as Bravemansgame was in 2020, before he finished third to Bob Olinger at the Festival in this contest. The Challow Hurdle looked a good Grade 2 and he was very professional, jumped slickly and looked to have a bit of class. There was an over-reaction to Bravemansgame win at Newbury last season after Nicholls compared him to Denman, but he’s been a little more circumspect this time. He may well be the best of the English but there’s a lot of good Irish horses to beat too.

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