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Cheltenham Festival: The Ultimate Guide - 2021-03-05

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Slick jumper Bob looks just the job

BALLYMORE NOVICES’ HURDLE WEDNESDAY 1.20

Tom Collins

Appreciate It Big-striding seven-year-old who wouldn’t win awards for the most visually impressive victories but has the ability to grind his rivals into submission over 2m and 2m4f. Connections appear likely to go for the Supreme, for which he is a short-priced favourite, despite this race looking ideal, such is the novice firepower in the yard. The five-time winner has suffered defeat only once since his debut at Fairyhouse and that came at this meeting last year when a narrow second to stablemate Ferny Hollow in the Champion Bumper. An unlikely contender but a change of heart would see him head the Ballymore market. Ballyadam Purchased for 330,000gns by Cheveley Park Stud after an impressive four-length point success at Portrush, Ballyadam has long held a lofty reputation but could finish only third on his rules debut at prohibitive odds of 1-4. He duly made amends in his second bumper in March before returning with two cosy hurdling successes this season, one of which gave him his first Grade 1 victory in the Royal Bond. His jumping let him down the last twice when he finished behind leading Supreme hope Appreciate It, but he appears ready for a step up in trip. Bear Ghylls Underrated due to his unfashionable connections, Bear Ghylls deserves utmost respect thanks to a record of four wins from four starts – he clearly possesses a large engine. Despite racing keenly in the early stages of his bumper on his debut, Bear Ghylls shocked punters with a 19-length romp, and his lack of fluency over hurdles has not harmed him enough to break his winning sequence with recent successes in novice and handicap company. His last-time-out score off a mark of 130 was undoubtedly his best yet, although his messy hurdling technique will need to be improved if he is to play a part in the finish of a Grade 1. Blue Lord Winner of a conditions race on the Flat in France before being purchased by leading owners Isaac Souede and Simon Munir and sent hurdling with Willie Mullins. Blue Lord readily outfoxed a 125-rated rival on his Irish debut in November but wasn’t able to back up that success in Graded company with two subsequent defeats. Although hopes of invincibility were dashed, he wasn’t beaten far by the reopposing Bob Olinger (Lawlor’s Of Naas) or Supreme favourite Appreciate It (Chanelle Pharma) and remains thoroughly unexposed. He became outpaced over 2m last time, so the step back up in trip will suit, although he needs to reverse the form with a couple of leading players. Bob Olinger One of the most popular betting prospects of the festival, Bob Olinger represents the shrewd team of Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore, and shares a similar profile to Appreciate It – both of whom have looked untouchable since losing to the sidelined Ferny Hollow. Bob Olinger’s defeat came in a Gowran maiden hurdle in November on just his second start under rules (pair 30 lengths clear of the rest) and the step up to 2m4f has clearly helped improve him mentally and physically. His superb jumping was on show when he smashed Blue Lord in the Lawlor’s last time and a similar display would make him hard to beat. Bravemansgame Scopey six-year-old who cost £370,000 at the Cheltenham sales following a ready six-length Irish point success for Donnchadh Doyle. Initial disappointments under rules followed with his first three appearances resulting in defeats, although two came at the hands of subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory. Once stepped up in trip, Bravemansgame looked a different proposition entirely. A couple of novice hurdle victories were followed by a ready ten-length success in the Grade 1 Challow – a race that was used to find out his true capabilities at this trip. Freshened up since, he gives Paul Nicholls a definite player on his hands. Eskylane Far more experienced than most of his Ballymore rivals with five runs in points and seven races under rules to his name, it’s hard to believe that the 133-rated Eskylane is up to this standard. However, his career-best effort came when fifth behind Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It in the Champion Bumper last year and he appears to have the stamina to stay this trip after a spell over 2m. Although trounced in handicap company most recently, it is likely that race was used as a prep run for his Cheltenham target and a better effort is expected. Gaillard Du Mesnil Aqps-bred gelding who showed enough speed to finish second in Grade 2 and Grade 3 1m4f bumpers on testing ground, before being purchased at the same sale as Gentleman De Mee for a €30,000 cheaper price tag. Gaillard Du Mesnil has had longer to prove himself with three Irish runs to his name, resulting in two wins and a second. The form of his maiden hurdle success at Leopardstown was boosted when runner-up Mr Incredible bolted up next time, and a first-time hood proved the catalyst to an improved display when he landed a Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival. On that evidence, he could be suited by a step up in trip, although speed certainly isn’t his downfall. The horse to beat on ratings. Gentleman De Mee Intriguing French-bred who hails from the Guillaume Macaire academy and was sold for €280,000 after taking the runner-up spot in two hurdles contests in late 2019. His jumping was a bit novicey in those events, although that can be expected given he was just a three-year-old, and the form of his second start was boosted when winner Magrudy took third in Grade 1 company this season. Gentleman De Mee’s preparation hasn’t been ideal (suffered a setback) but it is hard to fault his victory on his Irish debut last month. He is sure to improve for that run, although he will need to as he has about just under three stone to find on ratings. VERDICT With Appreciate It likely to run in the Supreme, Willie Mullins will rely on Gaillard Du Mesnil. He’s the form horse but might be suited by a longer trip and looks worth taking on at the prices. Bravemansgame rates a big threat after a three-month break and his Challow victory was unquestionably impressive, but he will need to improve again to deny Bob Olinger. A significant improver since being upped in trip, the Henry de Bromhead-trained hurdler laughed at his opposition in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Hurdle and his jumping prowess can see him gain lengths on his rivals at every flight. 1 Bob Olinger 2 Bravemansgame 3 Gaillard Du Mesnil

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