Thursday 15 February 2024

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle


The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle is a Grade 1 hurdle run over 2 miles and 5 furlongs on the Old Course at Cheltenham in March. As the name suggests, the race is restricted to horses, aged four years and upwards, who start the current season without a win over hurdles.

The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle was inaugurated, as the Aldsworth Hurdle, in 1974 and has been known by various titles – including the Sun Alliance Novices' Hurdle and the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle – for sponsorship purposes down the years. Property developer Ballymore began its second spell of sponsorship in 2018 but, nowadays, the race is officially registered as the Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle, in honour of William Baring Bingham, who owned the racecourse at Prestbury Park until 1905 and began the National Hunt Festival.

Willie Mullins, who has been leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival nine times, is also the leading trainer in the history of the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, with five winners. The Co. Carlow handler saddled Fiveforthree (2008), Mikael d'Haguenet (2009), Faugheen (2014), Yorkhill (2016) and Sir Gerhard (2022). At this still early stage of the 2022/23 National Hunt season, Mullins dominates the ante-post market for the 2023 renewal, which is scheduled for 1.20pm on Wednesday, March 15.

The unbeaten Walk In The Park gelding Facile Vega, who won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, currently heads the ante-post lists at 4/1. However, Mullins also has James's Gate, Gaelic Warrior and Redemption Day in the first half a dozen in the ante-post betting, so further success for one or other of his staying novices looks a distinct possibility. Of course, there are countless more possibilities, so it will be fascinating to see how the division develops in the coming months.

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