Sir Gerhard - Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Best odds 7/1)
The Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser has gone back to Ireland six times since 2013 and talk of Constitution Hill and Jonbon dominating the 2022 edition for Nicky Henderson might just be a touch premature, for all that they look well above average.
We have missed the boat in terms of price about Dysart Dynamo but he might not even turn out to be Willie Mullins’ best chance in the race in any case should Sir Gerhard impress in the Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in February.
Last year’s Champion Bumper winner has kept his powder relatively dry over hurdles so far but he looked a natural on his jumping debut at Leopardstown on Boxing Day, where he cruised to an 8-length success, and his trainer appears to be priming him for the big spring targets.
Festival form counts for an awful lot and Sir Gerhard rates a cracking each-way play in the Supreme at 7/1, a price which could disintegrate when he appears at the Dublin Racing Festival.
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Flooring Porter - Stayers’ Hurdle (Best odds 11/2)
There has been a feeling that last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle form isn’t particularly reliable but Flooring Porter could hardly have won the race more emphatically and the time was strong.
Furthermore, he stuck to his task really well behind Klassical Dream, who stole a big lead at the start, in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. Flooring Porter hasn’t always looked the most straightforward under pressure but he saw that race out well, finishing 21-lengths ahead of everything else. We know he can come up the Cheltenham hill, unlike the headstrong Klassical Dream, who is half his price but just looks exactly the sort of horse that should be taken on at the festival.
Given there are doubts about plenty of those that are prominent in Stayers’ Hurdle price lists, Flooring Porter rates a rock-solid contender at an each-way price.
Al Boum Photo - Gold Cup (Best odds 10/1)
It isn’t too difficult to have reservations about the horses that dominate the ante-post betting Gold Cup lists and that increases interest in two-time winner Al Boum Photo who was hardly disgraced when third in the blue-riband event 12 months ago.
Willie Mullins was at pains to point out ahead of the 2021 Gold Cup that he felt Al Boum Photo was a piece of work short of where he ideally wanted him and drying conditions later in the week meant that the ground on the day was a fraction quicker than ideal for Paul Townend’s mount.
Al Boum Photo just got tapped for an instant change of gear off the home turn as the front two stole a march, but he kept on well all the way to the line and nothing we have seen from this horse suggests that he is past his best. That includes his Tramore return on New Year’s Day, in which he gave 7lb and a 4-length beating to stablemate Burrows Saint.
Horses aged ten or older have a poor record in the Gold Cup but Al Boum Photo has been campaigned much more sparingly than most horses of his age (not seen more than three times in a calendar year since 2018) and his Gold Cup credentials are a good deal stronger than his ante-post odds imply.
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Bob Olinger – Marsh Novices’ Chase (Already advised at 5/1)
Assuming that connections don’t go up into staying territory with Bob Olinger next season, then the 5/1 about him for the Marsh Chase looks well worth snapping up.
For me, he posted the novice hurdle performance of the week in dismissing top horses like Gaillard Du Mesnil and Bravemansgame and you would certainly not be discouraged by what trainer Henry de Bromhead told the media immediately after that seven-and-a-half length romp.
“He's built like a chaser and jumps like one so we'd normally love going that way but we'll see what everyone wants to do and work from there,” said the trainer, so it looks highly likely that he’ll be switched to the bigger obstacles next year and it is not impossible that he could go off the same sort of price that Envoi Allen did this year.
Let us hope he has more luck if he does.
Bravemansgame – Festival Novices’ Chase (Already advised at 14/1)
Drying ground wouldn’t have helped Bravemansgame in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and he was outpointed by two horses that have more natural speed over that trip.
However, I still retain a good deal of faith in this horse and still believe that he could be a top-notcher in three-mile chases, especially on soft ground.
Paul Nicholls has been telling everyone all season how good this horse is and his physique has even earned him comparisons with the mighty Denman.
Up in trip and with fences to jump, he can show everyone just why connections rate him so highly and the 14/1 about him for the Festival Novices’ contest just looks too big.
Nicholls won the race with Topofthegame in 2019 and this fellow will surely have that race as his big 2022 target.
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Elle Est Belle – Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Already advised at 12/1)
As I said earlier, there were a few horses to take out of the Champion Bumper given the way the race was run and Elle Est Belle was yet another one of Dan Skelton’s to run with great credit through the week.
Hopelessly placed given the way the race was run, Elle Est Belle passed every rival bar the front two, finishing her race off in really taking fashion.
Having dead-heated in a Listed bumper at the track in November, Elle Est Belle has shown that she loves Prestbury Park and connections will surely be targeting the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle with her next year.
The Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle has been dominated by the Irish so far but Elle Est Belle looks an obvious candidate for the race at this stage providing she takes well to hurdles, which is unlikely to be an issue given there are winning hurdlers in her family.