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Britain’s best novice hurdle chances

Matt Brocklebank nominates the horses he thinks are most likely to deliver British success in the novice hurdle division at the 2024 Cheltenham Festival.

Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – TELLHERTHENAME (Sky Bet: 16/1)

We don’t yet know where Ballyburn runs at Cheltenham but wherever he rocks up I’ll be looking to take him on at skinny odds with an each-way alternative as he couldn’t have had things go his way much better than at the DRF, where the bad ground and omission of the last flight made it a proper test at the trip.

I’m half-hoping they run him in the Supreme as I’d be far more wary of opposing the horse over the intermediate trip, and if he comes here then the Brits might have a squeak.

I wasn’t that impressed with Jeriko Du Reponet at Doncaster and reckon Ben Pauling has a live one in Tellherthename, who clearly wasn’t himself at Aintree over Christmas but set the record straight with a smooth success at Huntingdon (replay below).

His early-season form with Jango Baie – more on that one below – reads very well and I reckon this son of Malinas has the gears to cause a couple of the Irish stars a few issues.

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Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle – GIDLEIGH PARK (7/1)

Only a nose separated winner Jango Baie and runner-up Tellherthename (nutted on the line) in a two-mile novice event at Ascot back in November and they’ve clearly proven themselves to be two bright prospects.

Jango Baie backed up that win with Grade 1 victory in Aintree’s Formby Novices’ Hurdle – formerly the Tolworth – on Boxing Day and he looked the best horse in the race, despite suffering defeat, when just failing to concede 5lb to the Pauling-trained, and Harry Cobden-ridden, Handstands in the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon last time.

I liked how Jango Baie kept responding all the way up the straight and he’s not one to be giving up on in the medium to longer-term, but Harry Fry’s Gidleigh Park appears to hold stronger Festival claims.

He beat subsequent Challow third The Jukebox Man by six lengths in a Chepstow bumper last March and has taken to hurdles seriously well this term, racking up a hat-trick at Exeter, Newbury and Cheltenham on Trials Day in the ‘Classic’ Novices’ Hurdle won by the likes of Wichita Lineman, Diamond Harry and Bobs Worth in the past.

He didn’t look suited by having to dispute the lead in the six-runner field and was ultimately made to pull it out of the fire against a tenacious Lucky Place, but it’s an effort that probably wants marking up and he goes to the big meeting with his bubble still very much to be burst. He also holds an Albert Bartlett entry if the ground happened to come up quicker than expected.

Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – DYSART ENOS

The ‘Dawn Run’ became something of an Irish benefit after being introduced to the Festival programme in 2016, Willie Mullins winning the first five editions before Telmesomethinggirl scored for Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore in 2021.

However, Love Envoi and You Wear It Well have done the home team proud in the past two seasons and Dysart Enos – trained 20 minutes down the road at Fergal O’Brien’s Withington base – spearheads the local challenge this year.

Her bumper form from last year continues to work out well, the nine-length Grade 2 Aintree win over Golden Ace a standout effort in the spring, and she’s been well placed this year.

Wins in relatively shallow waters at Huntingdon, Cheltenham and Doncaster last time mean she avoids the 5lb penalty for the return to Grade 2 level at the Festival and she definitely has the requisite gears to cope if the sun shines and the ground is on the better side. Gordon Elliott’s giant mare Brighterdaysahead looks the horse she has to beat.

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – CAPTAIN TEAGUE

Paul Nicholls is perfectly happy to skip the Cheltenham Festival if it’s likely to benefit a horse’s long-term future so, in hindsight, it was quite significant he was content to run the once-raced Captain Teague in last year’s Champion Bumper, a race in which the champion trainer had only had one runner across the three previous editions.

Captain Teague rewarded the decision by running a huge race in third and was the only Brit among the first 11 home, while he’s won two of his three starts over intermediate distances so far this season including the Grade 1 Challow at Newbury.

The sole defeat came on Cheltenham’s Old Course at the November meeting so he looks bound to tackle three miles for the first time on the New Course if heading to the Festival, and he should be a major player on form especially if there’s rain around.

JCB Triumph Hurdle – SIR GINO (8/11)

Ireland may have the obvious budding stars in most of the novice hurdle races (and the novice chases for that matter…) but Nicky Henderson’s Sir Gino is odds-on favourite across the board for the juvenile championship – Friday’s JCB Triumph Hurdle.

He doesn’t look likely to drift much either given his stunning victory over the same course and distance on Trial Day towards the end of January.

He’d shown considerable promise when making a winning start on these shores at Kempton a month earlier but the most impressive element of his Cheltenham win was the improvement in his jumping, which looked a bit sketchy first time out in Britain and could hardly been much better at the second time of asking.

The Irish onslaught will no doubt test his mettle to a greater extent but this looks a special talent and he’s clearly in the right hands given Henderson is the leading Triumph trainer with seven wins on the CV already.

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