We're just four weeks away from the start of the Cheltenham Festival and Betfair Ambassador Olly Murphy is putting together a strong team of novice hurdlers to go to Prestbury Park with...
"Obviously it's a difficult race to win and it's hard to tie-up our novice form with the Irish but I love this lad and he has a brilliant chance of finishing in the frame."
Darby has a brilliant chance of being placed in Supreme
Race: Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Horse: Thomas Darby
He is in great order and he came out of the sharpener we gave him at Taunton last month really well. The form of his races are also working out well with Mister Fisher, who he was five lengths behind on Boxing day at Kempton, having gone on and won a good Grade 2 at Haydock and the horse he beat when winning his maiden hurdle, Elixir De Nutz, has won three times since, one of which was the Grade 1 Tolworth Novice Hurdle at Sandown.
His maiden hurdle win was at Cheltenham over the same course and distance as the Supreme, so we know he likes the track. They always go a good clip in the race and I think a strong gallop on good ground will be ideal for him. Obviously it's a difficult race to win and it's hard to tie-up our novice form with the Irish but I love this lad and he has a brilliant chance of finishing in the frame.
Strong form suggests Itchy is overpriced
Race: Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Horse: Itchy Feet
Considering the present situation with equine flu it doesn't look like I'm going to be able to get a prep-run into this fellow and although his last run was in November the lack of a recent run doesn't really bother me as he's a sharp horse who has had plenty of practice.
He's also very consistent having never been out of the first two in any of his five races and his second to Elixir De Nutz at Cheltenham, on the 'old' course - the same track as the Supreme is ran on - reads well as he was giving the Colin Tizzard-trained runner 5lbs that day and was beaten just a 1¼L.
Actually that race is working out very well with Elixir De Nutz winning a Grade 1, the third has acquitted himself well in good company, while the fourth horse has won twice since and the fifth finisher, who was over 22L behind us that day has also won since.
I see he is currently around 25/1 and I think he could be overpriced at that. Has a nice each way chance.
Waiting tactics will be adopted for Storm in Ballymore
Race: Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Has come out of his fall at Cheltenham really well and was back cantering in no time. It's hard to say what would have happened as him and Birchdale were all set to have a right ding-dong battle up the famous hill before he came a cropper at the last but Dickie (Richard Johnson) gave me the vibe that he thought he would have had the better of the exchanges.
The form of his races has also worked out well with multiple winners coming out of his novice hurdle win at Huntington and he was just 4L off Champ in a muddling G1 Challow at Newbury.
He's another who won't have a prep run and will head straight to Cheltenham. Tactically, unlike last time at Cheltenham, we will probably take our time a little bit more here so expect him to be played late.
Albert Bartlett right up Bawn's alley
Race: Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
Horse: Finawn Bawn
I would love to get a run into this fellow before going for the Albert Bartlett, just to confirm my feeling that he would be a genuine contender and wouldn't be out of place in the field. We stepped him up to 2m5f last time out in a Grade 2 at Warwick. That was only his third run over hurdles and I was delighted that he handled the step up in grade so well.
He's a lovely staying type and the way he kept on at Warwick suggests that the three miles in a race like this would be right up his alley. The Albert Bartlett often throws up a funny result and, at a big price, I could see this guy running into a place.