Ante-Post

Ballymore Novice Hurdle Preview 2023: Hermes Allen the right favourite in a messy market

Hermes Allen jumping a hurdle.
Paul Nicholls' Hermes Allen heads the Ballymore market for the British.

Daryl Carter takes a deep dive into the Cheltenham Festival Ballymore Novices Hurdle, but he is yet to arrive at a solid conclusion in a wide-open race...

  • Hermes Allen the right market leader with stacks in his favour

  • Who will run for Mullins?

  • Daryl determines it's a tough call


The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival, open to horses aged four years or older.

It is run on the Old Course over a distance of about 2 miles and 5 furlongs, and there are ten hurdles to be jumped.

Hermes Allen is the best of the British bar none

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Paul Nicholls' Hermes Allen 5/2 heads the market for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle after an excellent and easy success in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle in tiresome conditions and now has a perfect 3-3 over hurdles and under rules.

He is a horse I have taken time to warm to, but there's little getting away from the strength of some of his form.

His demolition job at Stratford has worked out well. The runner-up (beaten 27 lengths) is now rated 127, while the ten-length third from his Cheltenham Ballymore Trial is now rated 136 (albeit that's high enough).

Harry Cobden barely breathed on him to land the Challow Hurdle at Newbury, and you get the feeling that he could have won by a distance despite the ground not being in his favour.

He has that excellent course and distance win to his name, which only bolsters his chances, and along with his excellent jumping and smart turn of foot, he is one of the few favourites of the entire festival that it is hard to knock.

British fans wait to see what will emerge from Ireland in this division. With plans from powerhouse stable Clousutton still up in the air, he looks like a strong favourite and one of Britain's leading chances outside of Constitution Hill at the festival.

Willie or won't he

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Willie Mullins has a few decisions to make here, having the next three in the betting, but the shortest of all is Grade 2 Moscow Flyer winner Imparie Et Passe 4/1.

He is also unbeaten and now 2-2 after impressive displays over 2m, but his future surely lies over middle-distance and staying trips on the evidence of his latest victory.

The Moscoe Flyer form is nothing to get excited about, but he did it with authority, with his best work coming after the last as he powered away.

He is well thought of in Willie Mullins' yard, but I am yet to be convinced he is a superstar, although time is very much on his side.

He has a little to prove for me, but if Willie Mullins thinks he has a very good one on his hands, he is not usually wrong.

Gaelic Warrior 6/1 has recorded RPRs of 150 and 155 in his two outings this term, which is more than enough to land this contest and any Novice festival race in a typical year.

He has the benefit of the festival experience, having been narrowly denied in the Boodles Handicap off of a rating of 129. Mullins name-checked the Ballymore as a target immediately after the race.

The big concern with him is that he jumps out to the right.

He did so in the Boodles, and it was evident in his demolition job at Clonmel on his latest outing despite going right-handed there.

He certainly has the engine to be competitive, and despite having stamina to prove, he has been underestimated slightly in this market.

Champ Kiely 7/1, landed the Grade 1 Lawlor's Of Naas on his latest outing and has proven stamina over further, having won over 2m6f at Galway earlier in the season.

He likes to front run, and when asked to be held up at the rear of the field in the Royal Bond, he pulled the arms off of his jockey until he reached the front, and it was only then he settled.

For a horse with plenty of experience, this should be a concern for his backers. He may be best with a soft lead, as he showed when scoring and beating Hubrisko by a similar distance to Hermes Allen at Tipperary.

Best of the rest

Champion Bumper runner-up American Mike 20/1 hasn't been seen since a disappointing defeat at odds-on to Dawn Rising at Navan in November, and his backers must now be very concerned.

Inthepocket 12/1 is interesting, but he didn't do a tap in front when squeezing through a gap to deny Three Card Brag 25/1. He is a potential back-to-lay bet for in-running punters should he line up here.

Irish Point 25/1 could well turn up here, but he has a bit to find now with the principals and may lack the speed - he looks like a three-mile chaser in time.

Grangeclare West 20/1 needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort when a beaten favourite in the Lawlor's Of Naas, but he was found to be coughing post race and backers shouldn't give up just yet.

The Verdict

I am still at a bit of a loss with this race. Something is stopping me from backing Hermes Allen, and I am not sure why but I tend to listen to my gut feeling regarding Cheltenham races.

Gaelic Warrior is a serious player but has a little to prove with his jumping out to the right and the unproven stamina at this distance. Just how good is Impaire Et Passe? I don't know is the honest answer.

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