2020 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle tips – Tips for day two’s opener

A view of the final flight in last year’s Ballymore.

Ballymore Tips

We take a look through the betting for the 2020 Ballymore Novices Hurdle and pick out our best bets in the latest of our Cheltenham tips articles.

Ladies’ Day at the Cheltenham Festival opens with a bang, as some of the finest novice hurdlers in the business do battle in the Ballymore. This two-and-a-half-miler on day two has been a launching pad for many future stars of the sport. Istabraq, Hardy Eustace and Faugheen all claimed their first Cheltenham titles on day two of this famous Festival.

I’ve taken a look through the field in what promises to be a thrilling renewal of this Grade One to provide you with my 2020 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle tips.

Ballymore Tips – The Hot Favourite

Envoi Allen

All eyes were on Gordon Elliott’s Champion Bumper winner when he made his hurdling debut at Down Royal in November. Envoi Allen (5/4 Coral) lived up to his short price -tag with a flawless performance, cruising to an effortless six-length triumph over a future winner in Front View. Elliott then threw two of his top youngsters into the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse. Envoi Allen, who made every yard of the running, eventually prevailed, winning the fight to the line with stablemate Abacadabras to claim his first Grade One over obstacles.

Envoi Allen then stepped up to the Ballymore trip for the first time in the Lawlor’s Of Naas in January. The favourite faced some proven challengers that day, but there was nothing Elixir D’Ainay or Longhouse Poet could to deny Gordon Elliott’s star claiming another top prize. Envoi Allen’s form is rock-solid. He’s proven over both course, distance, and under the Festival spotlight. You can see why Envoi Allen has been touted as the Irish banker of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.

Ballymore Tips – The Home Challenge

Thyme Hill

A fast-finishing third behind Envoi Allen in the Champion Bumper last March. Philip Hobbs threw Thyme Hill (12/1 William Hill) straight into a Grade Two on his first start over fences, and Richard Johnson’s mount got the better of Fiddlerontheroof to win the Persian War. Another victory followed in the Hyde here at Cheltenham, before Thyme Hill ground out an attritional victory in the Challow Hurdle. The betting suggests connections are favouring an outing in the Albert Bartlett though. Yet, I think Thyme Hill has the class to give Envoi Allen something to think about, and he should really be running in the Ballymore.

The Big Breakaway

With Fiddlerontheroof and Master Debonair set for the Supreme, and Harry Senior likely to enter the Albert Bartlett, The Big Breakaway (10/1 Ladbrokes) looks to be Colin Tizzard’s top Ballymore contender. An impressive winner between the flags, Tizzard’s five-year-old has done nothing wrong in two novice hurdles since. The Big Breakaway has secured back-to-back victories over 20-furlongs at Newbury and Chepstow, beating several future winners with ease on both occasions. He looks a very high-quality young horse. Another for Envoi Allen to respect.

Chantry House

Nicky Henderson and his team toyed with the idea of going straight over fences with Chantry House (14/1 Ladbrokes) this term – such is the strength and size of this six-year-old. Having fallen when looking likely to beat Monkfish in a point-to-point, Chantry House has won all four of his starts since. Barry Geraghty had to ask his mount for an effort fairly early on his hurdling debut at Cheltenham, but Chantry House responded in good fashion, eventually beating Stolen Silver by a snug two-lengths. A much more straight-forward success followed at Newbury this month and there’s a strong chance, with stablemate Shishkin topping the Supreme betting, that Chantry House could get bumped up to the Ballymore.

Chantry House (right) gets up to win at Cheltenham earlier in the season.

Ballymore Tips – The Raiding Party

Asterion Forlonge

Despite jumping noticeably out to his right, Asterion Forlonge (8/1 William Hill) made light work of his hurdles debut at Naas, bolting clear to win by 10-lengths. Mullins’ charge then gave Easywork a sound thrashing over two miles in the Chanelle Pharma at the Dublin Racing Festival. The turn of foot he showed that day suggests Asterion Forlonge will be kept to two miles run in the Supreme. That’s even more likely when you consider that Mullins and owners, the Donnelly’s have a another arrow to fire at the Ballymore…

The Big Getaway

Their second chance comes in the form of The Big Getaway (10/1 Paddy Power), who carried the Donnelly’s colours to a sparkling 17-length triumph at Naas in January. Mullins’ will have been a little disappointed with the performance his youngster put in at Leopardstown over Christmas. Yet, The Big Getaway bounced back from that disappointing fourth in the style of a very good horse. He poses a big threat to the market leaders.

Easywork

Gordon Elliott’s charge was well-beaten by Asterion Forlonge at Leopardstown last month, despite carrying a short price to post. Yet, that race was run on good ground over two miles, so it was always going to suit the speedier horse. Easywork (33/1 Paddy Power) bolted up on heavy ground in a Grade One at Limerick over Christmas, a race run over the same trip as the Ballymore. He’ll likely join Envoi Allen in this Grade One and a bold showing isn’t out of the question.

Ballymore Tips – Overlooked Outsiders

Fiddlerontheroof

Although he’s won a Grade One over two miles and sits prominently in the Supreme betting, there is a small chance Colin Tizzard could throw Fiddlerontheroof (14/1 William Hill) into the Ballymore instead. Everything this horse has done suggests two-and-a-half-miles will be his best trip moving forwards. He could even be a three miler when he steps up over fences. He won’t be one of my Ballymore tips, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fiddlerontheroof run here.

Sporting John

Unbeaten in three starts so far during his short career, following a bumper victory with two wins over hurdles. Sporting John (20/1 Paddy Power) held off Harry Senior to win on his debut under rules, before thrashing a very modest field under a penalty on his second start. Philip Hobbs and his team think a lot of this young horse. Sporting John clearly has plenty of talent and wouldn’t look out of place in a Ballymore.

Elixir D’ainay

Got the better of Longhouse Poet when they clashed over this trip at Naas in November, before following Envoi Allen home in that Grade One at Naas. Willie Mullins’ charge failed to see out the extended trip in the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners on his most recent start. Elixir D’Ainay (25/1 Coral) should be much more comfortable over this shorter distance and has shown enough to suggest he can compete at Grade One level.

Ballymore Tips – Look At Those Odds

Diol Ker

A second-season novice, who’s only been seen once this season so far. That outing came at Fairyhouse in November, where Diol Ker (33/1 William Hill) defeated Monkfish by eight-lengths over two-and-a-half-miles. The form of that race has been boosted considerably and Noel Meade thinks the world of this talented young horse. His inactivity this season is a real worry, though. He won’t be one of my Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle tips.

Mossy Fen

A lovely big, raw horse, who will certainly be better over fences. Mossy Fen (33/1 Paddy Power) has still managed to enjoy some big-race success over hurdles, getting the better of Décor Irlandais to win the Leamington at Warwick. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge didn’t seem to enjoy Cheltenham when finishing fourth in the Bristol Novices’ Hurdle, and I don’t fancy backing him here.

Champagne Well

A regular here at Cheltenham, with the only victory of his career coming in a modest novice contest at the Showcase Meeting back in October. Having failed to see out three miles twice now, I would be shocked if Fergal O’Brien threw Champagne Well (50/1 Ladbrokes) into the Albert Bartlett. An outing in the Ballymore tips is inevitable, but he won’t have the class to challenge.

Protektorat

Got the better of Imperial Alcazar to win the Listed Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on New Year’s Day. Protektorat (40/1 Coral) then managed to place a fairly close third behind to Harry Senior and King Roland in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle. An excellent performance when you consider Dan Skelton’s charge was carrying a five-pound penalty thanks to that Listed success. Protektorat is no market back-marker.

McFabulous

I expected McFabulous (50/1 William Hill) to turn into a genuine Supreme contender at the start of the season. Sadly, Paul Nicholls’ charge has disappointed slightly thus far, suffering a surprise loss on debut before a limp showing in an average renewal of the Kennel Gate. McFabulous seemed to enjoy a step up to two-and-a-half-miles on his last outing, securing a maiden victory over hurdles at Market Rasen. He won’t feature as one of my Ballymore tips, but Nicholls’ charge is certainly a horse to follow.

Envoi Allen paints a lovely picture on his hurdling debut.

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Tips – Verdict

It’s very hard to pick holes in anything ENVOI ALLEN has done this season. One thing you could say is that Envoi Allen has idled a little in the closing stages of both of his Grade One wins. That’s either a sign of inexperience, and he’ll start to knuckle down more in the finish as he gets older. Or, he simply just does enough to win – a trait many champions have possessed down the years.

I’ve already tipped Envoi Allen as one of my main Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle tips earlier in the season, and he features in several of my ante-post multiples. I would love to see Gordon Elliott’s favourite get the job done.

That being said, there’s plenty of scope for an each-way punt here, and there are several challengers who could serve up a stuff challenge to the favourite. I think Chantry House will relish this extended trip and warrants attention at 20/1. As does Easywork, who I think has been vastly overlooked on the back of a race where conditions didn’t suit.

While both appeal, the one I’m going to side with as my each-way Ballymore tip is THE BIG BREAKAWAY. I’ve been blown away by both of his victories over hurdles so far this season. Colin Tizzard’s charge has swept aside some capable rivals with the minimum of fuss, winning by eight lengths on both occasions with Robbie Power virtually unmoved in the saddle.

The ease in which he’s scored in both of those races means we don’t know how well The Big Breakaway will respond to pressure. He’s bound to be asked several big questions in the Ballymore and it will be interesting to see how he copes. Yet, my eyes are telling me that this is a very, very good young horse. Maybe even as good as Envoi Allen. Only time will tell. He’ll be the second of my Ballymore tips.

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