Key Stat - Nine of the last 10 winners had already won that season.
Future form - None of the last ten winners of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle have gone on to win the race of the same title at the Cheltenham Festival (only three runners in the race).
Best bet - With the current form of the Paul Nicholls yard, current favourite, Hermes Allen, must be seriously considered. The 5yo has had just one racecourse start, but that effortless performance at Stratford put him firmly in the ‘could be anything’ category.
This race is one of few that Irish trainers, Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott, have yet to add to their CVs, but that may be about to change in this year’s renewal. Mullins’ Hubrisko is talented but may struggle with this test of stamina, so the vote goes to Elliott’s Music Drive, who ticks plenty of boxes. Another 5yo, Elliott’s charge has the benefit of two runs at Cheltenham already, and it seems like the further he goes - the better he gets. A bad mistake at the last put paid to his chances here last month, but with a clear round this time, he should be able to outstay his rivals on what could be testing ground.
Key Stat - Paul Nicholls has a tremendous record in this race, winning it five times and having a further seven runners placed.
Future form - Defi Du Seuil (2016) is the only winner of this race to go on and win the Triumph Hurdle back at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Best bet - Hurdles form is limited here, but Paul Nicholls is the trainer to follow in this race, and his French import, Blueking D’Oroux has three runs in his native land to his name. Dan Skelton’s Medyaf is one youngster to show his liking for hurdles with two wins from two, and that experience makes him a big player.
My vote, however, goes to one of three Milton Harris horses entered for the race. Scriptwriter was by far the best of all of these on the flat, and his winning hurdles debut at Sedgefield last month was impressive given his greenness in running and the unsuitable good ground he encountered.
Key Stat - Nine of the last 10 favourites have finished in the first three. 2020 market leader Fusil Raffles was pulled up.
Future form - The Arkle is the obvious end-of-season target for any horse that wins this race but only Azertyuiop (2002-03) and Put The Kettle On (2019-20) have gone on to win that festival race having landed this prize since the turn of the century.
Best bet - With Paul Nicholls having won this race on a record 10 times, he will have current favourite, Monmiral, well-tuned up for a crack at this. His lack of chasing experience might be a negative, but we all know that his trainer is better than most at getting his horses to jump. However, at the current bookmakers’ prices, I think it may be worth taking him on with a bigger-priced runner.
The Joseph O’Brien-trained Banbridge, could prove to be a bit of value at the current prices on horse racing betting sites. The 2022 Martin Pipe winner has obviously got plenty of class, and he always looked like his future would be bright when tackling the bigger obstacles. His Beginners Chase win at Gowran was satisfactory, and although a drop in trip to two miles may not be ideal, if the rain comes, he is better equipped with stamina than most of his rivals.
Key Stat - No favourite has won this race in the last ten years. However, only three winners have an SP greater than 10/1.
Future form - No winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup in the last decade has gone on to win at that season’s Cheltenham Festival.
Best Bet - Stolen Silver would be the most poignant of winners this year, given his connections, and he is not without a chance, whilst French Dynamite must also be considered as Mouse Morris looks to become the first Irish trainer since 2009 to win the race.
I will be taking an e/w chance on the Kerry Lee-trained, Demachine, however. The 8yo ticks all of the trend boxes, and his trainer certainly knows how to ready one for this race, having won in 2019 with Happy Diva. A wind operation saw him put in a vastly improved performance last time, and I would fancy him to run into a place at the very least.
Key Stat - Every Shloer Chase winner in the last decade was sent off favourite or second favourite.
Future form - Only two Shloer Chase winners have gone on to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase back at Cheltenham later in the season. 2019 winner Defi du Seuil is the only Shloer Chase winner in the last decade to go on and win the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
Best Bet - It is hard to look past the brilliant Edwardstone in this one. Alan King’s 8yo has been a revelation since being sent chasing, and ended last season with three Grade 1 victories to his name – including an easy win in the Arkle at the Festival.
Key Stat - No Greatwood Hurdle winner in the last decade had already won more than two handicap hurdles.
Future form - No Greatwood Hurdle winner in the last decade has gone on to Champion Hurdle glory in the same season.
Best Bet - Despite Irish trainers’ poor record in the race, both Emmet and Willie Mullins will send over live chances in the form of Thousand Tears and Dads Lad respectively. Sonigino will lead the British challenge for Paul Nicholls, but the Greatwood is a race known to throw up surprises, and I have a sneaky feeling that there is an outsider lurking in here that is worth taking a chance on.
First Impression is not likely to have many supporters, but I have a feeling he could be primed for a decent run. John Quinn’s 5yo has been kept busy on the flat over the Autumn and gets in here off a lovely weight of 10-10. He has shown plenty of consistency over hurdles in the past, and if the rain stays away, he could prove to be overpriced on the best horse racing betting sites.
Key Stat - Only one favourite has been out of the first three in the last 14 editions of this race.
Future form - This might be a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle trial in name, but in reality, it hasn’t really turned out that way. Only Altior (2015-16) has gone on to win the Supreme in the same season this century.
Best Bet - With so many unknown quantities involved, it is always tricky to pick a winner in a race of this nature. Springwell Bay rightly heads the market on all known form, whilst Gin Coco is another with winning experience under his belt. Father Of Jazz was a decent flat horse and could make a mark if taking to hurdles for Dan Skelton, but a chance is taken on JP McManus’ recent French import Iberico Lad. A classy winning bumper debut in France prompted McManus to stump up the cash for the 4yo, and Nicky Henderson is sure to have him fit and ready for his first UK start.