Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle: Gaelic Warrior cut after Clonmel win
Given he was sent off the hugely prohibitive 1/14 favourite in the Munster Hurdle on a card transferred after being cancelled last week, he was only doing what was expected of him.
But having won by over 80 lengths on what was his Irish debut at Tramore in December, the Boodles Hurdle runner-up once again showed he possesses a big engine.
Bounced into an early advantage by Paul Townend, he never saw another rival and while stablemate Blue Sari made grounds to claim second, he was still 15 lengths in arrears.
He did jump out to his right on occasions, just as he did when beaten at Cheltenham, but he was so far clear it was an irrelevance.
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Coral’s Lewis Knowles said: ‘’The Ballymore is looking like a really hot race this year, and Gaelic Warrior has made himself a very strong contender after his straightforward victory at Clonmel this afternoon.”
He was also cut to 16/1 (from 20/1) for the Supreme Novices’, but with stablemate Facile Vega a warm order in that contest, it would seem the longer race would be the festival target.
“We know the Mullins team like to keep their options open as late as possible, so it will be interesting to see how things play out between now and Cheltenham, but one thing is for certain, Gaelic Warrior will be a strong contender wherever he turns up,” added Knowles.
Speaking after the Clonmel win, Townend said: “He was entitled to do it. We didn’t learn any more about him, but got more experience into him. He is a lovely horse.
“It is very hard work out there and he is hard enough on himself too but took breathers – the ground is proper testing.”
Regarding his tendency to jump right, he added: “I was trying to keep out to the outside (on better ground) but all the room was to the right, which was always going to happen.
“He does prefer to go right to correct himself but when he is racing and going about it, he straightens up. Hopefully he can make up for the disappointment at Cheltenham last year.”
Mullins and Townend had already struck earlier on the card with another impressive odds-on winner Night And Day (2/5 favourite) in the Kilsheelan Mares Maiden Hurdle.
“She was doing nice work last year and was thrown in very deep (in a Fairyhouse Grade One) and she has a future, that’s for sure,” said Townend.
“The hurdles are nearly too small for her, with the size of her and she will even improve for a fence but has a future over hurdles first.”
Hermes Allen (pictured above) remains the clear favourite in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle betting odds after winning the Coral Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on New Year’s Eve.
Trainer Paul Nicholls confirmed recently that he will now be prepared for the Ballymore, saying: “Hermes Allen, what is the point of running him?
“If we look after him he could go on to Cheltenham and then either Aintree or Punchestown. He’s in great shape, he’s come out of the race well and he’ll go straight to the Ballymore.”
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle betting odds
5/2 Hermes Allen
5/1 Champ Kiely
6/1 Gaelic Warrior, Impaire Et Passe
10/1 Facile Vega, Irish Point
12/1 Inthepocket, Jet Powered
All odds and market correct at date of publication