2021 Ballymore Hurdle Tips – British Novice Can Fight Off Strong Irish Challenge

Bravemansgame is the leading British hope in the Ballymore Novice HurdleBravemansgame is the leading British hope in the Ballymore Novice Hurdle


Lewis Tomlinson is back with the latest in his big-race views and this time he’s focusing on the Ballymore Novice Hurdle, the opening race on Cheltenham Festival Day 2. Some real superstars have competed in this race through the years and the 2021 renewal is shaping up to be a great race.


As a contest, Ballymore’s position as the Festival’s intermediate novice hurdle lends itself to being one of the most interesting races of the week. It can an attract two distinctly different types of racehorse – future Champion Hurdlers, such as Istabraq, Faugheen and Hardy Eustace have all won this race, although it’s not a pure test of speed and strong stayers such as Denman, Reve De Sivola, Inglis Drever and Grand National hero Rule The World have all made the frame in the last two decades. 

This year, the race looks no less fascinating, with a real market battle between big hopes from either side of the Irish Sea.


John Dance’s colours would be more familiar with flat fans than Festival fans through the exploits of multiple Group 1 winning filly Laurens, and he now has a Grade 1-winning hurdler carrying his colours in the shape of expensive point purchase Bravemansgame (4-1), who was likened to Denman by trainer Paul Nicholls after his front-running rout in the Challow.

Aside from both having won the Challow, it is easy to see where the comparison comes from. Bravemansgame is a big, strapping beast, every inch a future three-mile chaser, and had his rivals, including Sandown Grade 2 winner Star Gate, in trouble before turning for home at Newbury. The raw power with which he galloped through that race was particularly taking, and I’d mark it as a strong possibility that Bravemansgame can go one better than Denman’s second here.


Won a run-of-the-mill Gowran bumper in the week before the division’s championship event at Cheltenham and faced a better horse when runner-up on his hurdles debut than most will in their entire careers in the shape of the Champion Bumper winner Ferny Hollow, who misses the Festival this time around through injury.

He too has already notched a top level victory when scoring decisively in the Lawlor’s Of Naas last month, jumping tidily throughout and shaping like a thoroughly professional performer. The runner-up in that race, Blue Lord (20-1), was too keen and may be more suited by a strongly run two miles whilst early faller Ashdale Bob (16-1), a Navan Grade 2 winner on his penultimate start, may go the opposite direction and also has the option of the Albert Bartlett.


Assuming Appreciate It (7-1), as connections have indicated, stays over two miles, Willie Mullins’ leading Ballymore contender appears to be Gaillard Du Mesnil (7-1), who arrived in Ireland with swathes of French bumper experience and got off the mark for his new connections at the second time of asking in a maiden at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting under a hands-and-heels ride from Paul Townend. The level of that form is harder to put an accurate figure on, but you’d do well to find a more impressive victory in novice company this season


The depth of the Irish challenge could also to be strengthened be Irish Cesarewitch winner Cape Gentleman (20-1), who scored on his hurdles debut for Emmet Mullins, whilst the highly touted Royal Bond winner Ballyadam (16-1) could well appreciate the step up to this intermediate trip after a relatively disappointing fourth in Leopardstown’s Future Champions Novice Hurdle.


None of those would quite match the story, though, of Dreal Deal (12-1), whose meteoric and controversial rise through the ranks began when breaking his maiden at the 12fth time of asking at Navan in September off a mark of 84.

A further five victories culminated in a Grade 2 victory over two miles in Punchestown’s Moscow Flyer last month, but Dreal Deal began his winning streak over 2m6f and the return to an intermediate trip looks the most likely Festival option for Ronan McNally’s charge.


The final contender of note is Nicky Martin’s unbeaten Bear Ghylls, who made a mockery of his SP of 33-1 on his racecourse debut when winning a Warwick bumper by 19 lengths last March. His jumping has been untidy on occasion and he looks very much like a work in progress, but he’s clearly got bundles of natural ability is certainly merits the step up in grade here.


There isn’t much between the two Grade 1 winners at the top of the market and I find it harder to see the solid Bob Olinger bombing out than the more raw Bravemansgame. However, if Bravemansgame runs his race, I think he’ll take all the beating.

The way he galloped Star Gate into submission in the Challow showed real star quality and I can see him tanking his way through the Ballymore and having most of his rivals in trouble from a fair way out. He’ll almost certainly stay further, so powering up the Cheltenham hill should be no problem and it may well be the first Festival victory of many.