What are the best bets for the Mares' Novices' Hurdle?
16:50 Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle, 2m1f
A new race for the 2016 Festival, making it seven on the Thursday (like the other three days) and open to fillies and mares aged four-year-olds and upwards.
Willie Mullins has dominated Tuesday’s Mares’ Hurdle, winning it seven times, and this new race gives him another opportunity to share out some more prize money with his rich owners. And it’s odds-on that Rich Ricci will be the beneficiary here as his Limini is no bigger than 10/11 after winning both her hurdle starts since coming over from France, where she won three races from six tries. It was only a Grade 3 she won at Fairyhouse when last seen in January but she toyed with her rivals to score by eight lengths and her jumping, which has left something to be desired so far, should improve for better ground and a faster pace. That said, her price is more of a reflection of her home reputation that her actual achievements on the track to date. Top price: 10/11 Paddy Power (NRNB).
Who else is fancied?
Away from the Mullins mare, there is plenty of substance in the form of Brian Ellison’s Smart Talk, who has won four of her six starts over hurdles and established herself as the chief British challenger when beating Lily Waugh (who was chasing a four-timer and getting weight) in a Grade 2 at Doncaster when last seen in January. The only real blip on her CV is an Ascot defeat in November but her trainer put that down to the 2m5f trip (which just stretched her stamina) and ‘gluey’ ground. A strong galloping sort who jumps well, she should be suited by Cheltenham and won’t be faltering up the hill.
And the rest?
Myska and Apples Jade provide back-up Willie Mullins, though the former may be saved for a Garde 1 at Fairyhouse over Easter, while the latter could run in Friday’s Triumph. Nicky Henderson could be double-handed with Chocca Wocca, who made hard work of winning at Market Rasen last time and perhaps lacks the necessary know-how for a festival race at this stage of her career, and Bloody Mary. The latter came over from France with a big reputation and impressed on her British debut at Taunton, giving her strong each-way claims here.
Trainer quote: “It would be very nice to actually stand in the winner’s circle at the festival and this mare might be the one to crack it for us as she jumps well and runs her heart out. If she lands in front at the final hurdle I think she’ll win as it will take something special to come past her on the run-in.” – Brian Ellison on Smart Talk.
Best bookie offer?
Paddy Power are refunding losing bets on the second horse home as a free bet (up to £25) and, in a similar way, Boylesports will refund losing stakes (including the win part of each-way bets) if your horse finishes second to the SP favourite or falls.
What’s the verdict?
Rich Ricci makes Limini his ‘banker’ of the meeting and he may be right, but she’s priced up accordingly and, with some doubts over jumping, I have to take her on. Brian Ellison has had a few agonising near-misses at the festival and he sounds full of hope that SMART TALK can put things right. I have to agree and she is an each-way price thanks to the presence of Limini. Even better, we can back her with some confidence thanks to the above generous bookmaker concession.
SELECTION: Smart Talk each-way @ 6/1 Boylesports (money back if 2nd to the SP favourite)