If it wasn’t bad enough that we had to experience a rare blank day of racing (in the UK and Ireland) on Monday just gone, things got worse when it was confirmed that last week’s ante-post selection Dynamite Dollars had experienced a minor setback in training which would prevent him from running again this season. However, from the darkness, there was light, when the BHA confirmed that racing would resume on Wednesday – read our views on today’s action in our free racing tips section.
The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle market is currently headed by the Nicky Henderson trained Champ. This seven-year-old son of King’s Theatre is unbeaten from his four starts over hurdles to date, and he arrives here on the back of success in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury. There are reasons to believe that he may be vulnerable though. Firstly, that aforementioned race has been a poor trial for this contest – with a horse yet to complete the double. And he is aiming to be just the second seven-year-old winner of the Ballymore in the race’s forty-seven-year history. He has also shown a tendency to edge left once shown the whip, and it will be difficult to win a race of this quality if giving ground away.
This is a race that the Irish have farmed in recent years, with four of the last five winners being Irish trained. The Gordon Elliott, Jack Kennedy and Gigginstown combination teamed up to win this race last year with Samcro, and all things being well they are likely to have a leading contender this year in Battleoverdoyen. This former Point to Point winner is also unbeaten over hurdles, with his latest success coming in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle. The form of that contest is open to question though, with his two main market rivals that day both disappointing. And unless connections can get another run into him, he will be bidding to be the first horse since Peddlers Cross in 2010 to land this on the back of just three starts under rules.
We haven’t seen much racing over the past week, but City Island continued his progression to land a novice hurdle at Naas on Saturday – and Martin Brassil’s charge is my selection. He would be arriving here with a perfect 3-3 record over hurdles were he not disqualified from a maiden hurdle at Galway in August after testing positive for a trace of arsenic. He made amends, however, when scoring at Leopardstown in December, and the form of that contest has worked out well since – with the second-placed horse Dallas Des Pictons winning both of his subsequent runs. Saturday’s Naas race was arguably a weaker contest, but it impressed me how he quickly made up ground with the front-running The Echo Boy on a track which strongly favoured those that raced prominently. He was all but eased down towards the line there, so looks value for much further than the winning margin, and connections are adamant that he will stay further – so the 2m5f trip on this stiff track should be no problem for him. Interestingly, he is a son of Court Cave – who sired 2017 winner Willoughby Court – and he is in the ownership of the race sponsors Ballymore, so this looks likely to have been his target for most of the season.
CITY ISLAND – 10/1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
DYNAMITE DOLLARS – 7/1 Arkle Novices’ Chase
N/A – Out for the season
THOMAS DARBY – 20/1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
FOX NORTON – 14/1 Ryanair Chase
Read our ITV Racing Tips page for selections on the build-up to the festival!