Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Tips

Pricewise is the legendary Racing Post tipping service set up in 1987, admired by punters and feared by bookmakers. Renowned for his big priced selections, lead tipster Tom Segal, shares his thoughts and gives his best Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle tips ahead of the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Unheralded Irish novice well capable of making splash

City Island ridden by Mark Walsh jumping the last to win The Connollys Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Novices Hurdle.

Champ has probably been the outstanding novice hurdler on either side of the Irish Sea so far this jumps season and he gives the strong impression that the best is yet to come. He appeared to win the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury with loads in hand and might well be overpriced for the Ballymore, as seven of the last ten winners of the race have started at the same price or shorter than he is currently available at.   However he doesn’t do everything right in his races as he is keen, and he hung quite badly after the last at Newbury too. That hasn’t stopped him yet and Nicky Henderson will have been working on getting him to settle, but he clearly isn’t straightforward.

Battleoverdoyen is unbeaten over hurdles and won a Grade 1 at Naas last time, but that race fell apart with the two fancied Willie Mullins horses running shockers, and I think he’s far too short a price on what he’s shown so far. The runner-up had been beaten further in a Grade 3 the time before, and while Battleoverdoyen is good, his form doesn’t suggest he’s exceptional just yet.

Consequently, I reckon it’s worth trying to find one at a big price to back against those two at this stage and the trial which takes place at Cheltenham on Saturday is a good starting point. Birchdale, Jarveys Plate, Emitom and Brewin’upastorm are all potential opponents for Champ, if he turns up, and an impressive win from any of them would see their price shorten. My personal preference of those four would be for Brewin’upastorm. His Huntingdon win has worked out really well with the three horses chasing him home all winning next time, and he was compromised by the way the race was run when fourth in the Challow afterwards. He was staying on well close home, though, and given that was only his second run over hurdles and fourth in all, he is entitled to improve a good deal for the experience. The issue with backing him or anything that runs on Saturday now, is that whatever wins could still be a decent price after the race and you can back them then with much more knowledge about how good they are.

Ante-post betting is all about timing and the one that makes most appeal at present is the relatively unknown Irish novice City Island for Grand National-winning trainer Martin Brassil. He won a bumper beating a horse Noel Meade thinks the world of in Valdieu last May and has since finished in front of decent pair Getareason and Debuchet over 2m5f. Getareason was third to Battleoverdoyen in that Grade 1 at Naas last time, while Debuchet wasn’t beaten much further by the likes of Samcro and Summerville Boy in top-level races last season.

Last time out, City Island had no problem dropping back to 2m at Leopardstown, where his jumping was particularly slick, and he simply looks like a horse of great quality. The runner-up that day has subsequently won a race by ten lengths, and every time I look at City Island’s form it gets better and better. The other plus for backing him now is that he is owned by the race sponsors, so it is definitely the plan for him to run at Cheltenham and we know that he stays the trip well.

Pricewise selection – City Island 33/1 (each-way)

Click here to view the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, card and betting.


Key stats and trends

  • Aged five or six, 10/10
  • Rated within 9lb of RPR top-rated, 10/10
  • Adjusted RPR of at least 152, 10/10
  • Started career in Irish points or bumpers, 9/10
  • Won at least 50 per cent of hurdle runs, 9/10
  • Scored over at least 2m4f, 9/10
  • Won a Graded hurdle, 9/10
  • Finished first or second on all completed starts over hurdles, 8/10
  • At least three runs over hurdles, 8/10

Other factors
Four of the last ten favourites have obliged (Mikael D’Haguenet 2009, Simonsig 2012, Faugheen 2014, Samcro 2018), and in that period, only Willoughby Court’s SP (14-1 in 2017) was bigger than 7-1.