Cheltenham Festival Focus: NRMB 7/2 Warrior is a no-brainer

Daryl Carter.
Daryl Carter looks to Gaelic Warrior in the Turners as the correct substitute for Fact To File.

In week 17 of Daryl Carter's Cheltenham Festival Focus, he looks at why Ballyburn will almost certainly go to the Supreme Novices, shares his thoughts on who he thinks are vulnerable favourites, plus adds a further ante-post selection to his list...

  • Ballburn will surely take in festival opener

  • Three horses to LAY at the festival

  • Back Gaelic Warrior 7/24.50 NRMB to finally get his Festival reward


  • Why Ballyburn will go to the Supreme Novices

    Last week, Tullyhill featured prominently in this column, having bolted up at Punchestown. I want to re-wind and comment on him again as, on reflection, recency bias may have got me a little over-excited.

    The more I have worked on Tullyhill, the more I seem to unravel the chinks in his armour, and the biggest one appears to be his jumping.

    Tullyhill is undoubtedly talented, and all the positives to his chances were highlighted in week 16.

    However, the Supreme Novice Hurdle is a stern test of jumping and any stuttering, hesitation, and extra strides at hurdles have seen good horses lose ground and their racing position.

    That's not to say Tullyhill can't improve between Punchestown and Cheltenham, but perhaps the deep ground helped with his rivals unable to quicken off the pace in conditions and make him work for his untidy jumping.

    On spring ground at a quicker pace, that could be punished. His chances will be enhanced with a solo out in front, but that's no given either, while in comparison with Ballyburn's jumping, it's a no contest.

    The three-week turnaround also doesn't sit well with me for Tullyhill, and his sole festival entry was likely a token one. Furthermore, Willie Mullins' started him off over 2m6f in a race he saw fit for 2022 runner Seabank Bistro - who ended up in the Albert Bartlett, and it's more than once he has mentioned as a staying prospect as his pedigree suggests.

    It also seems a bit late in the day to find your typical Supreme Novice winner three weeks before the Festival, but the fact that he was put into second favourite highlights how weak of a Supreme Novice Hurdle this year's renewal is.

    Considering all this, will Mullins rely on a late market springer in Tullyhill to get the Festival off to a winning start?

    I highly doubt it, and it would be abnormal for Mullins' number one Supreme Novice contender to be running this close to a festival. It's also not typical for him to start one off over 2m6f at the start of the season, not to go to the DRF and not be a Grade 1 winner by now.

    However, that's not to say they don't think very highly of him - they do - but this test could come too soon in his development and in Ballyburn, they have a ready-made Supreme horse with few negatives.

    Ballyburn has recorded his best performance at 2m, is the sole Grade 1 winner in the field, is the highest rated and ticks all the remaining boxes to get the week off to the perfect start.

    Mullins has commented numerous times that getting the first race winner allows him to enjoy the week. I would be shocked if Ballyburn didn't run in the opening race, so for those doing their study this week, do it with Ballyburn running, and for those with live cash-out slips for the Baring Bingham - food for thought.


    Three Cheltenham horses to LAY

    Some of the prices for a handful of Cheltenham hopes baffle me, so here are three I want to LAY on the Betfair Exchange.

    Ginny's Destiny 2/13.00 Turners Novice Chase

    This year, Ginny's Destiny in the Turners Novice Chase must be the most vulnerable favourite at the Cheltenham Festival. He has won his last three, but he shouldn't have won two of those.

    At Cheltenham in November, Credbilly traded at 1.9520/21 before coming down at two out when travelling the best. At Cheltenham in December, both Trelwane 2.0421/20 and Grey Dawning 2.447/5 traded lower in the running than the Paul Nicholls winner, and without a monstrous hash at the second last, Grey Dawning should have won that contest.

    Too much is being made of a comparison between himself and Stage Star. After all, he is a handicapper trying to win a Grade 1.

    Verdict - Win lay bet.

    Embassy Gardens 15/82.88 National Hunt Chase

    Embassy Gardens looked good at Punchestown and Naas in two wide-margin victories this season over fences. Still, he was undoubtedly flattered at Naas to put ten lengths between himself and Sandor Clegane, who trod the worst of the ground on the inside. Outside of the runner-up, he has beaten very little.

    He also pulled up in the Albert Bartlett when 8/19.00, and his form has previously tailed off in the spring.

    Furthermore, his main market rival, Corbetts Cross, travelled all over him in the Albert Bartlett last year despite pulling for 90% of the race. You'd need help finding festival winners that pulled up in the previous year - certainly none of the last ten in this race.

    Verdict - Win and place lay bet.

    Monty's Star 11/26.50 Brown Advisory

    His 11/26.50 will be shorter on the day should Grey Dawning defect to the Turners and this race be cut up, but I couldn't have him winning this in any realm.

    Monty's Star was beaten by Stay Away Fay in his point-to-point, beaten by Corbetts Cross, who doesn't even run here and runs in the National Hunt Chase, and he has no chance with the speed of Fact To File.

    Furthermore, he pulled up in the Albert Bartlett last year when struggling with the downhill section of the track, beat very little at Punchestown last time and will be run entirely off his feet on this sharper Old course.

    Verdict - Win and place lay for me.


    Back Gaelic Warrior for Turners Novice Chase @ 7/24.50 NRMB 2pt

    The Turners market looks like one of few unformed at this time, but with Fact To File all but confirmed for the Brown Advisory (frustratingly), it might be wise to go back in, but this time with the protection of NRMB.

    Ginny's Destiny is a horse featured in our "three to lay section", so you know my thoughts on him. Grey Dawning could easily and likely defect to this race now, and I've seen many put him up as the answer.

    However, the fly in the ointment here is Gaelic Warrior. He is, by and large, the best horse in this field. You need to forgive him for a tiring fall at Leopardstown, but it was a case that he went too fast, too early, and emptied.

    That preparation is hardly ideal, but this race is shaping up to be far away from the typical competitive Grade 1 at the Festival we are used to, highlighted by a last-time handicap winner heading the betting.

    Gaelic Warrior has clocked some big numbers on my sheet this year, and encouragement should be taken from his Leopardstown run that his jumping right was less exaggerated than predicted. Furthermore, that race now makes him a very backable price.

    He has been a placed horse at the Festival twice and has proven even better over fences. With these, he would wipe the floor on last year's Novice Hurdle form. His quirks and left-handedness may not be ideal, but he found only Impaire Et Passe too good in the Ballymore.

    Gaelic Warrior was a short-priced runner for this race before Leopardstown, but I am not sure he lost as much in defeat as many think he did, given the speed figure of the race.

    If he lines up, there's no chance in hell Ginny's Destiny or anything else for that matter, is a shorter price than him, and we have the safety net of NRMB if he doesn't.


    Handicap weights are out this week, so there will be plenty more to discuss in the penultimate column on Sunday. The season-long thread for this column is pinned on my Twitter handle @DarylCarter7 if you wish to recap. Until then, be lucky.


    Cheltenham Festival 2024: Watch the Racing Only Bettor podcast preview on 7 March


GET £20 IN FREE BETS WHEN YOU BET £5

New customers only. Bet £5 on the Betfair Sportsbook and receive £20 in FREE bets once your qualifying bet has been settled. T&Cs apply.

Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.

Discover the latest articles