Also known as the Ballymore Novices Hurdle, this race kicks off Day 2 of proceedings. With a distance of 2 miles 5 furlongs and 10 hurdles to jump, the Ballymore Novices Hurdle is for novice hurdlers aged 4 years and older and is a Grade 1 race. The race is run on the old course and previous winners have included Willoughby Court, Yorkhill and Faugheen and City Island. The race is named after Baring Bingham, a developer who purchased the land that Cheltenham racecourse now occupies and organised the first Cheltenham festival in 1902.

The Ballymore Novices Hurdle looks to be a competitive affair this year with the unbeaten Envoi Allen looking like he’ll target this race. 4 of the last 12 favourites have won this race in previous years, with 7 of the last 12 coming from the top 3 in the betting. It’s always hard to know who is going where in this race, with trainers often leaving it until the last minute to decide between the Supreme Novices Hurdle and the Ballymore. We’ve given our thoughts on a few that we think have a chance here if they turn up.

Envoi Allen

On paper there isn’t much not to like about Envoi Allen. He’s undefeated and won the Champion Bumper at The Festival last year, so has the form firmly on his side. He always does enough to win his races and at even money, he’s approaching that “banker” category of horse this year. I just wonder how hard he has really had to work for those wins in Ireland and if it really gets thrown down to him in this year’s Ballymore, will he have enough to cruise past the post in first place? He’s a worthy favourite that’s for sure, but there is something that niggles at me with him. Would I be surprised if he won? No, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got found out either. Interestingly Elliot has said that Envoi Allen always only does just enough to win, both in his races and at home, so maybe he’s far better than his races show. If he’s even money on the day, I’d probably stick him in a couple of trixies, doubles and trebles to try and get some additional value.


  • Lawlor´s Of Naas Novice Hurdle - 5th Jan Watch  /li>
  • Royal Bond Novice Hurdle - 1st Dec Watch  
  • Tayto Group Maiden Hurdle - 2nd Nov Watch  


Thyme Hill

Looking at the various horses that are likely to run here, Thyme Hill will most likely be 2nd or 3rd favourite for this race. He won the Ballymore Novices Hurdle here on 16th November and is unbeaten in his 3 starts this season. Richard Johnson seems to like to restrain him at the back of the field in the early part of the race, before producing him around the home turn for a late charge, a tactic that has been successful so far this season. For me though, none of his victories have looked terribly convincing and I’d have major concerns about him finding enough in a race that will almost certainly be run at a much faster pace than the November renewal. Perhaps he’s one of those horses that doesn’t look great on the eye and always just does enough, but I’d be wanting a bigger price than the current 7-1 on offer for an EW bet on him

  • Betway Challow Novices´ Hurdle -28th Dec Watch  
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  • Unibet Persian War Novices´ Hurdle - 11th Oct Watch  


Sporting John

Sporting John has had just the one prep race in the lead up to The Cheltenham Festival, but he looked like a proper horse, winning comfortably by 6 ½ lengths. That race was 2m3 ½f and think this would be the race for him over the Supreme Novices Hurdle. The way he quickened up at the end was very encouraging and at a current price of 8-1 he’d be my pick for the race If he ran here. He’s never raced at Cheltenham, so we don’t know how he’ll cope with the hill, but I expect him to be there or thereabouts and cracking value for it.

  1. 13 of the last 15 winners in this race were in the top 4 of the betting
  2. 13 of the last 21 winners had won a graded race before
  3. Only 1 horse over 6 years old has won this race since 1974
  4. Horses aged 5 or 6 years old have won this race the last 13 times
  5. Willie Mullins trained horses have won this race 4 times and placed 7 times in the last 14 years
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