Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Betting Tips

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Preview: Tips, Betting Offers and Odds

The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (formerly known as the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle) gives us the opportunity to see some of the classiest novice hurdlers doing battle at the track. We have betting tips and history of the race covered here, as well as some of the best odds and offers available.

Neptune Novices Hurdle Tips and 2020 Race Preview

Ladies Day at the Cheltenham Festival starts in much the same way as the first day, with a Grade 1 hurdle for novices. The main difference between the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the trip, Wednesday’s contest taking place over 2m5f.

The nature of this race is such that it has provided some top class staying hurdlers over the years and more who have had their greatest success over fences. Many punters are of the opinion that Envoi Allen is the most likely to go on to bigger and better things but will he get the job done on Wednesday?

Gordon Elliott’s six-year-old does look a worthy favourite thanks to an winning run which includes victory in the Champion Bumper last year. However, this will be his first meeting with Sporting John who looks the value play at 7/2 with Paddy Power. Owner, JP McManus, had a couple of options for the Ballymore and it is very interesting that he’s gone for the versatile Sporting John who has the combination of stamina and finishing speed required to cause an early upset.

Neptune Novices Hurdle Previous Winners

  • 2019 – City Island – jockey Mark Walsh, trainer Martin Brassil
  • 2018 – Samcro – jockey Jack Kennedy, trainer Gordon Elliott
  • 2017 – Willoughby Court – jockey David Bass, trainer Ben Pauling
  • 2016 – Yorkhill – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
  • 2015 – Windsor Park – jockey Davy Russell, trainer Dermot Weld
  • 2014 – Faugheen – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
  • 2013 – The New One – jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies
  • 2012 – Simonsig – jockey Barry Geraghty, trainer Nicky Henderson
  • 2011 – First Lieutenant – jockey Davy Russell , trainer Mouse Morris
  • 2010 – Peddlers Cross – jockey Jason Maguire, trainer Donald McCain, Jr
  • 2009 – Mikael d’Haguenet – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
  • 2008 – Fiveforthree – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
  • 2007 – Massini’s Maguire – jockey Richard Johnson, trainer Philip Hobbs
  • 2006 – Nicanor – jockey Paul Carberry, trainer Noel Meade

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Trends

The most obvious place to start with the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle is the age of recent winners. This is a prestigious, Grade 1 race contested by novice hurdlers who are tipped to go on and secure plenty more success so trainers all want their leading prospects to get it under their belt nice and early in their careers. That’s why only two horses aged over six have been successful since the race was introduced in 1974.

Six-year-olds have the best record and but five-year-olds can win providing they have amassed enough experience over hurdles. A minimum of three appearances over hurdles is required to win the Ballymore Hurdle and incoming form is also important. The vast majority of winners finished in the top two in their most recent performance before their Cheltenham Festival assignment.

Irish Trainers Leading the Way

The importance of hurdling form means that it’s rare for a horse to win the Ballymore Hurdle having gone completely under the radar. Willoughby Court managed to win at 14/1 in 2017 but that is very much the exception rather than the rule. Winners tend to be found towards the top of the betting market and plenty of winning favourites have obliged punters.

Irish bred horses and trainers have had an increasingly big say on the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Gordon Elliott, Dermot Weld and Willie Mullins have each saddled the winner in recent years but it’s the latter who has the best record. Mullins and Ruby Walsh have combined very well and are always worth keeping in mind when they partner up.

The 2m5f trip is relatively long for a hurdle and it is important that the horse you back has shown a certain amount of stamina. Most recent winners had already won over 2½ miles whilst experience amongst Grade level competitors has helped several winners.

Neptune Novices Hurdle History

Having made its first appearance in 1971, the race was known as the Aldsworth Hurdle for its first three editions. In 1974 Sun Alliance began a long running sponsorship of this race which lasted until 2006. Neptune Investment Management took over sponsorship of the race in 2010 and the contest soon came to be known as “The Neptune”.

The official registered title is the Baring Bingham Novices Hurdle. Baring Bingham purchased Prestbury Park in the late nineteenth century and is the man we have to thank for these magical four days in March. Bingham initiated the very first Cheltenham Festival back in 1902.

The race has had many popular winners over the years but began to enjoy a real golden spell from the mid 1990’s.

In 1994 the race was won by one of the most popular Irish horses of the decade, Tom Foley’s Danoli. The horse came home to a hero’s reception that day and whilst he failed to achieve further festival success, he did go on to record multiple high level victories, including two Aintree Hurdles and a Hennessy Gold Cup.

Better known as a master of the flat these days, Aidan O’Brien actually recorded back to back successes in this race with Urubande (1996) and Istabraq (1997), Whilst Urabande went on to add a Aintree Hurdle and a Grade 3 at Navan to his haul, Istabraq did somewhat better. Racing in the famous green and gold silks of J P McManus, Istabraq succeeded in winning a further 12 Grade 1 contests including three Champion Hurdles and four Irish Champion Hurdles. This legend of the turf is currently enjoying a well-earned retirement at the Martinstown home of his owner.

Another high class winner was Nicky Henderson’s 2012 hero Simonsig. Given his somewhat fragile nature this horse was never likely to go on to rack up the Grade 1’s in the manner of an Istabraq or a Hurricane Fly but proved to be pretty untouchable when fit. He recorded another festival success when translating his ability to the larger obstacles in the 2013 Arkle.

Then came Faugheen in 2014. This was the race when the horse known as, “the machine” really announced himself on the big stage. His approach to victory was a somewhat unconventional one, almost running through his hurdles at times on the second circuit, but nothing could come close to matching him up the hill. The Mrs S Ricci owned gelding later smartened up his jumping considerably and landed the Champion Hurdle in 2015.

Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins had no wins between them prior to 2008 but thanks to the exploits of Fiveforthree, Mikael d’Haguenet, Faugheen and Yorkhill, they now sit atop the leading jockeys and trainers tables with four wins apiece.

Behind Walsh on three wins is Charlie Swan who was aboard Danoli and the O’Brien pair of Urubande and Istabraq. Nigel Twiston-Davies is perched just behind Mullins thanks to Gaelstrom (1993), Fundamentalist (2004) and The New One (2013). The last named being ridden by his son Sam Twiston Davies.

The race is open to novice hurdlers aged four and older. There were back to back four-year-old winners in 1983-84 and another when Crystal Spirit prevailed in 1991. However the race has been overwhelmingly dominated by five and six-year-olds who accounted for 40 of the first 45 winners between them. Brown Jack is the old man of the winners list having shown the youngsters how it’s done in 1974 at eight years of age.