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Cheltenham Festival Novice Hurdlers Preview

Keith Donoghue for Bookies.com

Keith Donoghue  | 9 mins

Cheltenham Festival Novice Hurdlers Preview

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Previous Blogs:

  • Keith Donoghue's National Hunt Season Five To Follow
  • The Storyteller, Envoi Allen and One For Troytown
  • Missing The Ride On Tiger Roll
  • Saint Roi The One To Take Out Of The Morgiana

It was another good week for the yard with Envoi Allen winning and I was delighted to ride a winner for JP McManus with Aramax at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

Easy For Envoi Allen

I shared everyone's frustration that we didn't get to see a race on Sunday, it was such a pity Asterion Forlonge came down at the first. In the end we didn't learn much about Envoi Allen apart from the fact that he is still alive and well.

Don't get me wrong, Fils D'oudairies, who ran a fine race in second, is a good horse who will give his connections plenty of big days, but like most novices he's just not in the same league as Envoi Allen.

You could only be impressed by Envoi's jumping, how straight-forward he is and just how effortlessly he went away at the finish. We simply might not find out how good he is until next season in open company.

Roll on Cheltenham!


As I said, I was absolutely delighted to get a winner for JP McManus with Aramax on Saturday at Fairyhouse. He jumped a lot better this day and the tongue-tie really woke him up.

He did it easily in the end, but it's very hard to know how good that race was. It's great to get another winner though and he should've learned plenty from that. He really picked up from three out and got the job done nicely.

I was particularly delighted to grab a winner for JP as the McManus family have had a very tough few weeks after the tragedy they faced over Christmas. They're a brilliant family, have done an amazing amount of good for horse racing and they're very much in my thoughts, and everyone else's in Irish Racing. I wish them the very best at this very tough time.

Tiger Roll

Whenever anyone meets me they only really want to know one thing, how is Tiger Roll? His fan base is still huge and that's great to see.

He has been well since disappointing at Cheltenham in November and our big job is freshening him up now and trying to get him to find that spark again. The thing was that he was showing all the right signs before that run, but just didn't show up at all on the day.

We do know however that he always properly comes alive in the spring and hopefully this happens again. We have changed a few things at home with him such as bringing him hunting and this seems to be waking him up a lot. Hunting can be great for horses like him as it's a completely different experience for them and can really get them thinking again.

He is a horse who has lost his way a few times in his career and I think he will bounce back again. Lisa O'Neill is doing most of the work this year on him as I am mostly on Envoi Allen at home and she's quite happy with him. He's starting to act up a bit and that's always a great sign for Tiger!

The Boyne Hurdle at Navan will tell us a lot and hopefully he shows that spark again as I'd love to go to Cheltenham with him as proper contenders for the Cross Country. He has been a really special horse in my career and hopefully he can bounce back to his very best once again.

Cheltenham Festival Novice Hurdles

We're only 8 weeks away now to Cheltenham and this week we will take a look at the Festival novice hurdlers, as well as the juveniles.

I know it's boring, but at the moment anyway I just cannot see past Appreciate It in the Supreme. He was so good at Leopardstown at Christmas, and while Ballyadam definitely didn't give his true running that day, similar to a few from Gordon's over Christmas, I'm just not sure he's up to that level just yet.

Appreciate It is a very strong 7 year old who nearly looks the finished article and the form of his first win at Cork has been franked as well by Master McShee. I think the rest of the horses from Ireland and the UK have a lot to do to reach his level.

Saying all that though it is fair to say that Ballyadam is a lot better than his run at Christmas and I wouldn't put anyone off an each-way bet on him, as 16/1 does seem very big after only one poor run that there is an excuse for.

The Ballymore looks a really hot division this year, but it doesn't look like Gordon has much for it at the minute. Gaillard Du Mesnil was very impressive at Christmas and he could be anything, but the top two of Bob Olinger and Bravemansgame look to set a very high standard. Both have been really impressive and are rightfully at the top of the markets.

If I had to pick one I'd probably lean towards Bravemansgame as he looks a really good prospect and particularly impressed me at Newbury last time. Of course though, I'd be happy with any decent ride in the race!

The Albert Bartlett looks a wide open division and I'm still hopeful Farouk D'alene is a proper contender for this race. He is 25/1 at the minute for Cheltenham in March and that does seem to be quite a big price!

Of course he will have plenty of competition, but he was very good at Limerick at Christmas and there is no reason he can't keep improving. We will learn a lot more about him at the Dublin Racing Festival and I'm really looking forward to seeing him there.

We never found a reason for Farouk D'alene's flop in the Monksfield Novice Hurdle at Navan, in a race where I rode Fakiera to win. I really like Fakiera and he would have a chance in this contest, but he is a big raw horse and I'm just not sure a test like the Albert Bartlett would be the best thing for him this season. Of course Gordon and the owner, Tim O'Driscoll, will decide this. Either way he's a very exciting horse going forward and will make a proper chaser in time.

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Juvenile Hurdlers

We are really stacked in the juvenile division with Zanahiyr, Quilixios, Duffle Coat, Riviere D'etel and Teahupoo. The majority of these have different owners so I'd imagine they will all end up here.

Zanahiyr has been brilliant and has won very different races easily each time. He deserves to be where he is in the market and arguably he could be shorter than 11/4 for what he has done so far.

The one thing I will say though is that while I would obviously pick Zanahiyr based on his form, Quilixios' work at home is very good and he has been impressive so far as well. I'm not convinced there is an awful lot between the two of them. Quilixios hasn't run simply because he was meant to go to Chepstow over Christmas, but travel was impossible and he had to miss it. I'm very interested to see how he gets on next time.

Riviere D'eteland and Teahupoo have both won well and are lovely horses, but the one I'm convinced is overpriced is Duffle Coat. He isn't as flashy as the front two, but he stays very well and has some nice form to his name.

Adagiohas really franked that Cheltenham form since, and experience at Prestbury Park is invaluable for him going into that contest. I'd love to ride Duffle Coat at Cheltenham and I think he's a bit overpriced here at 14/1. There is a circumstance where they go hard in front and he stays on over the top of them.

Zanahiyr is clearly the pick of them overall, but it wouldn't surprise me anyway if another one of ours popped up.

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About the Author

Keith Donoghue for Bookies.com
Keith Donoghue
Keith Donoghue is one of the top National Hunt jockeys in the world, famed for his partnership with Tiger Roll winning two Cross Country Chases at the Cheltenham Festival. Keith also boasts a Grade 1 winner over fences, and is a great writer to boot. Keith covered the day to day of being a jockey in his weekly blog exclusive to Bookmakers.