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Brandy Love all the rage for Mares Novices Hurdle after favourite ruled out

Brandy Love is favourite for the Mares’ Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival

Brandy Love, who took such a wayward course when beaten by stable companion Allegorie De Vassy at Fairyhouse, is the new favourite for the Mares Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham. Willie Mullins announced that Allegorie De Vassy will miss the rest of the season after suffering a set-back. It is a blow for the owners, the Ricci family, who had been hoping for something of a revival in fortunes at this year’s festival meeting. Such is the incredible strength-in-depth of the Mullins stable that he still has the first and second favourite in Brandy Love and Dinoblue.

Brandy Love a top-priced 5-2 ahead of Dinoblue

Brandy Love won easily on her hurdling debut at Naas in December and punters could not split her and stable companion Allegorie De Vassy in the Grade 3 Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse. They started joint-favourites with Paul Townend taking Brandy Love straight to the front. Although she was soon into her stride, his problems began at the fourth flight where she jumped badly out to her left.

This trait stayed with her for the remainder of the contest with exaggerated deviations at the last two flights. She must have forfeited many lengths, allowing Allegorie De Vassy to take up the running at the second last and stay on to win by three and a half lengths. Bookmaker reaction was initially to push Brandy Love out in the betting for Cheltenham, although it was clear she may well have won if she had not wandered around so dramatically.

In theory, if this trait does show itself at the festival it should not be too much of an issue on a left-handed track. With her highly rated stable companion no longer in opposition, Brandy Love now heads the Mares Novices Hurdle betting at a best-priced 5-2 favourite. However, her biggest threat could still come from within her own stable in the form of Dinoblue.

Dinoblue steps up in class after Clonmel romp

Dinoblue is owned by JP McManus who is the leading owner in Cheltenham Festival History. This was always likely to be her target after she bolted up by 15 lengths on her debut at Clonmel in January. The second and third ran well at Limerick next time and the winning time was much the fastest of three hurdles races over the same course that day.

Dinoblue is certainly bred to be smart, being out of Doctor Dino who sired her illustrious stable companion Sharjah. She is a half-sister to the useful Blue Sari who finished second to Envoi Allen in the 2019 Champion Bumper. There have also been reports of some exciting homework by Dinoblue emanating from Closutton. Mullins won this race for the first five seasons after it was added to the festival programme in 2016, losing out last year when Telmesomethinggirl won for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.

Gordon Elliott looks set to rely on Party Central as he bids to add his name to the roll of honour. She appeared to be idling in front when winning by a length and three-quarters at Leopardstown in a competitive mares handicap hurdle last month. The British handicapper was sufficiently impressed to rate her on 141 for her Coral Cup and County Hurdle entries, 20lbs higher than her last Irish success.