Tom Stanley: "Where Does Last Weekend Leave Us Looking Ahead To The Novice Hurdle?"

12 min

Matchbook Ambassador Tom Stanley looks back at the fallout from some disappointing showings at Naas and Sandown last weekend.


The Grade 1 at Naas was billed as something of a battle. Willie’s Tornado Flyer. Gordon’s Battleoverdoyen.

Sadly, the battle was over almost as soon as it had begun. Last year’s Punchestown bumper winner, having his second start over hurdles, never seemed to be moving correctly. The head on angle over the first didn’t tell us much but the side on towards the second, where he took a false step, showed him looking scratchy, moving with little fluidity. His stride looked effortful and short. Little surprise he was pulled up and that’s a big setback to any end of season Grade 1 aspirations.

The winner was as impressive as he was immature. ‘Chaser in the making’ was the official description afterwards and that’s there for all to see.

He saw out the trip well, for all he’d shown a good bit of speed over shorter last time, and you’d think there’s plenty more improvement and professionalism to come. He duly halved in price to 7.0 for the Ballymore, his likely Cheltenham target, but I’d have reservations about backing him for that at this stage.

It’s a race which often suits a speed horse at the trip. And whether he’ll be streetwise enough come March is another question. This was just his second start over obstacles after all. He reminds me a little of Pont Alexandre, a little of Denman (lofty expectations I know), future chasers ready for a fence now. Both short-priced favourites beaten in a Ballymore, for all they may have harboured the most talent in the race.

Gordon Elliot’s Battleoverdoyen moved from 14.0 to 7.0 for the Ballymore following Sunday’s success at Naas.

You could also view his closest market rivals as disappointing and the second stumbling on landing late on as reasons to crab the form. I’m inclined to be very positive about it though. And the winner. Just not with a view to backing him this season.

Sams Profile ran a most encouraging race for a step back up in trip and could be a potato racehorse. It’s also worth keeping an eye on the mark allotted to Lone Wolf in future. He jumped well in the main and was still there travelling turning in. Whether he stayed I’m not certain but am inclined to think he did and does. He was looked after with chance gone after the last and this may have been too hot but he’s talented. He’s run to around 132 based on the two with a rating ahead of him and it’d be nice for that to be taken literally…we can but hope.


Tolworth favourite, Rathhill, was very disappointing. He lacked fluency at his hurdles, appeared to hate the ground and was beaten turning for home. Against that was a horse who has taken a huge step forward this year and relished bowling along out in front. And he doesn’t half hurdle well. Low and slick, quickly away the other side, he made ground at almost all eight of his obstacles.

It’s a race with a rich recent history of providing festival form (last year’s one-two in the Supreme, Yorkhill won a Ballymore) and it’s difficult not to be positive about the Elixir De Nutz. He also proved himself on softer ground, just in case we have a repeat of last year’s weather. As far as the Supreme goes, he now sits around the 13.0 mark and that seems the likely target. He’s achieved more than current favourite Angels Breath but the current favourite lives at Seven Barrows.

You’d have to be positive about the Nicholls pair in behind too. Southfield Stone ‘chaser in the making’ klaxon, and certainly Grand Sancy who’d run well previously in a big field handicap at Ascot on soft. He wears a hood to help him settle and I’d love to see him back in a handicap on a sound surface.

So where does all this leave us with regard to a Novice Hurdle play?

The Ballymore is most interesting. Last week I wrote about current favourite Champ (6.0) as a horse I’d want to be against as favourite. Now, this week’s mover Battleoverdoyen (7.0) doesn’t float any personal boats, as stated above.

Two horses jump out in the betting.

Both Jarveys Plate and Brewin’Upastorm are likely to run in the Classic Novices Hurdle on trials day, according to their trainers, and there’s little point going in now.

We saw a very good performance earlier this week from Jarveys Plate. I didn’t immediately watch his win and want to have him on side but the 20.0 available now has to be interesting with his recent form boost by the Tolworth winner. The Classic is a race with a good history of producing festival winners, though not as might be expected.

Tom makes the case on why Jarveys Plate is worth monitoring for the Ballymore.

Winners of the Classic have gone on to win three Albert Bartletts. At Fishers Cross, Bobs Worth, Wichita Lineman. Last year’s winner, Santini, was placed in that same race. Horses beaten in the race have gone on to win or run well in a Ballymore. The New One for example, second to At Fishers Cross. Massini’s Maguire was third on trials day, a place behind Tidal Bay. That pair followed up with a one-two in the Ballymore. Rock On Ruby was second and went on to be second in March. And he won a Champion. Black Op was second last year to Santini…then second to Samcro.

The point being that not everything rides on winning that race.

It could be worth waiting to see what happens at the end of January before wading into the March market. A beaten horse in the race may not be cut a huge amount in the ante post market but may have just the right profile for the race.

Jarveys plate beat a disappointing on the day I Can’t Explain (yet to be explained) and that may worry some form wise but the winner could hardly have been more impressive. And the Sandown form of the second has been boosted a few times. Watching back the Challow run of Brewin’Upastorm,(22.0 for the Ballymore), I really don’t think he was suited by the kick off a crawl pace and that was just his second outing over hurdles. He and Jarveys Plate are the two of interest currently.

Save a mention for Nicky Henderson’s Birchdale who likely lines up for a Leamington at Warwick at the weekend. That race is another good guide for the Ballymore (Willoughby Court, The New One, No Refuge). Trouble is he has a fair few owner/stable companions who could go for the same race in March. Champ, Rathhill, Champagne Platinum and I’m sure I’m missing one. Those waters are a little too muddied at the moment to wade into.