Feature image: By Carine06 from UK – Handicap chase, CC BY-SA 2.0.
The prestigious 2024 Cheltenham Festival is on the horizon and the ante-post markets for all of the top races are gradually starting to take shape.
The novice hurdles are the highlight for many punters during the four-day meeting, as the races often feature potential future superstars of the sport.
Every day at the Festival features a novice hurdle, each of which will provide useful form pointers for major races further down the line.
With that in mind, we have pinpointed four horses we think should run extremely well at Cheltenham in March, starting with one who is yet to be defeated.
Jeriko Du Reponet – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Two impressive wins for Jeriko Du Reponet at Newbury during December sparked a major shake-up of the Cheltenham Festival betting odds for the first race of the meeting.
The Nicky Henderson-trained horse cruised to victory on each occasion to earn quotes of 9/2 from several leading bookmakers for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
While Henderson thinks the horse will eventually make up into a top-class chaser, his excellent turn of foot should make him tough to beat at Cheltenham.
Main market rival Mystical Power did not impress with the manner of his jumping in a recent victory at Punchestown, but could be dangerous if he finds some improvement.
Ile Atlantique – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Despite suffering a narrow defeat on his most recent outing at Naas, Ile Atlantique is fancied to run a big race in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Jockey Paul Townend made too much use of the horse in the Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle, allowing stablemate Readin Tommy Wrong to snatch an unlikely win.
Trainer Willie Mullins believes the race was the top novice hurdle run in Ireland or England this season – a viewpoint which punters would be well-advised to take seriously.
Providing Townend rides Ile Atlantique with a little more restraint at Cheltenham, the combination can reverse the form in the Ballymore.
Jade De Grugy – Mares’ Novices Hurdle
Jade De Grugy was snapped up for €230,000 after winning at Saint-Brieuc in late 2022, before being given time to develop by the Mullins stable.
That decision paid dividends over the festive period as she made light work of her rivals in a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown to win by 15 lengths.
The five-year-old earned quotes of 14/1 for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, but has subsequently been cut to 8/1 after a flurry of support.
The SBK Solerina Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on January 27 could be next on the agenda for Jade De Grugy before heading to the Festival in March.
Sir Gino – Triumph Hurdle
Sir Gino was heavily touted as a genuine Triumph Hurdle contender before making a successful debut for the Henderson stable at Kempton last month.
The Seven Barrows handler has made no secret of how highly he regards Sir Gino and punters have been quick to latch onto the horse in the ante-post market.
Odds of 6/1 will disappear if the horse records another win at Festival Trials Day later this month, particularly if he improves his jumping.
Burdett Road, Storm Heart and Bunting are among the other fancied horses for the Triumph, but Sir Gino could be the value bet to get the job done.