Ballymore Novices Hurdle: Complete Guide to The Horses & The History

ballymore novices hurdle

The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, is a, Grade 1 novice hurdle race held at the Cheltenham Festival. The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle holds great prestige and excitement as part of the Cheltenham Festival, the pinnacle event of National Hunt racing. Run on Ladies’ Day, the second day of the Festival, the Ballymore instantly captures attention as the curtain-raiser for the afternoon action.

First staged in 1971 as the Aldsworth Hurdle, the Ballymore has steadily grown in stature and is now firmly established as one of the leading novice hurdle events in the racing calendar. As a prestigious Grade 1, the quality is unrivalled, regularly attracting future champions still early in their careers over jumps.

The race is contested over a distance of 2 miles and 5 furlongs. Horses must be aged 4 years or older and carry 11-7, except for mares who receive a 7lb weight allowance. The field is usually capped at 12 runners to allow for a clean gallop up Cheltenham’s storied home straight.

In recent decades, Irish maestro Willie Mullins has dominated with six wins in the last ten years. His record includes legendary mare Annie Power and brilliant 2018 winner Samcro who were both unbeaten at the time. Last season Mullins saddled confident odds-on favourite Impaire Et Passe to victory under Paul Townend.

The Ballymore often provides an early clue for future Champion Hurdle or Gold Cup contenders. Past roll of honour features the likes of dual Champion Hurdler Hardy Eustace, brilliant hurdler Istabraq and 2014 hero Faugheen who would go on to Cheltenham glory after beginning his Festival account in the Ballymore.

Here’s a brief overview of its key features:

  • Grade: Grade 1
  • Distance: 2 miles 5 furlongs (4,225 metres)
  • Hurdles: 10
  • Age: 4 years and older
  • Weight: 10st 9lb (4yo), 11st 7lb (5yo+); Fillies and mares receive a 7lb allowance.
  • Prize money serves as a significant incentive, with the fund for 2023 amassing £132,800, of which the winner earns a handsome £75,965.

Trends and Stats for Picking a Ballymore Winner

The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle sees a highly competitive field full of potential stars of the future. With several key trends and statistics to analyse, we can gain crucial insights into the profile of a typical winner.

By analysing recent results and legendary former winners, we can spot exciting patterns.

Recent Betting Trends

Favourites have fared well historically, with 5 of the last 10 winners going off as market leaders. Willie Mullins has been the dominant trainer in that period too, saddling 6 winners at short odds including triple champion Annie Power in 2014.

However, it’s not always simple for jolly backers as Willoughby Court (14/1 in 2017) and City Island (8/1 in 2019) demonstrated with their surprise victories. Keeping stakes small on fancied runners until the final declarations are made is prudent.

Key Criteria for Success

Age: 6 year olds have the best record with 8 wins from the last 10 runnings. Exceptions were Sir Gerhard as a 7 year old (2022) and last year’s impressive 5 year old winner Impaire Et Passe.

Previous Wins: Look for horses that have won over hurdles already that season and ideally placed in a Graded race last time out. This indicates they have the class and experience to cope with Festival pressure.

Ratings: No winner this decade had an official rating lower than 146. Most exceeded 150, so this is a good benchmark for potential contenders.

In identifying a likely winner, proven form over 2m 4f – 2m 6f is key, allied with untapped staying power that suggests the step up in trip to near 3 miles should suit. Establishing this profile early can reveal ante-post prospects with the engine to shine on the famous hill.

Leading Trainers & Jockeys


Willie Mullins has saddled a record 9 winners, closely followed by Gordon Elliott and Nicky Henderson with 5 and 3 wins respectively. Mullins and Elliott in particular regularly unveil high class novices.

Mullins 2023 winner Impaire Et Passe became the third odds-on Mullins favourite in 4 years to oblige under jockey Paul Townend. Their previous winner Sir Gerhard (2022) was also unbeaten at the time.

Prior to this purple patch, Gordon Elliott’s brilliant Samcro (2018) and Willie Mullins’ Annie Power (2014) both prevailed at prohibitive odds to extend their perfect records. This underscores the strength in depth of Irish novices.

Historical data shows the dominance of Irish-trained horses, capturing 8 out of the last 9 wins, a testament to their superior training regimes and selection of contenders. The affinity for six-year-old winners in recent times, eight out of the last 10 winners, underscores a pattern favoring matured equine athleticism.

However, English runners have sporadically upset Irish winners, with Willoughby Court (14/1 in 2017) and City Island (8/1 in 2019) causing surprises. So assess the likely pace and ground conditions before siding solely with Irish-trained favourites.


Ruby Walsh rode 4 Ballymore winners in his illustrious career. Paul Townend has quickly matched that tally, emphasising how vital local course knowledge is around Cheltenham’s undulations.

Legendary Former Champions

The Ballymore has been won by some all-time greats. Dual Champion Hurdler Hardy Eustace took the 2003 edition while the brilliant Istabraq was a runaway 25 length winner in 1997 for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Faugheen also captured the Ballymore in 2014 en route to subsequent Champion Hurdle glory. His turn of foot that day marked him as an exceptional talent that would earn the nickname ‘The Machine’.

These victors all honed their burgeoning talent in the Ballymore before ascending the steeplechasing summits. Their early displays of class should make this novice event very much one to keep close tabs on for clues to future household names over jumps.

Overall, the Ballymore Novices Hurdle presents a fascinating spectacle within the Cheltenham Festival, offering insights into the potential stardom of young horses. Its legacy, enriched by the calibre of participants and the thrill of competition, continues to captivate audiences and bettors alike, year after year.

Memorable Race Moments

The Ballymore Novices Hurdle thrives on moments that stir the hearts of racegoers: thrilling finishes, unexpected triumphs, and the sheer adrenaline of witnessing equine excellence.

Noteworthy among these was the charged atmosphere during Faugheen’s record-setting run. As the field turned towards home, the palpable excitement among the crowd underscored the race’s ability to captivate and entertain.

Similarly, Simonsig’s victory delivered an electrifying performance, effortlessly clearing hurdles and demonstrating a fluidity in motion that seemed almost effortless. This achievement not only solidified Simonsig’s prowess on the course but also underscored the competitive spirit that defines the Ballymore Novices Hurdle.

How to watch the Ballymore Novices Hurdle

To catch the exciting moments of the Ballymore Novices Hurdle, your best bet lies in television coverage and streaming services. ITV offers comprehensive coverage of the Cheltenham Festival, including this prestigious race. It means you can watch the race live without leaving your comfort zone. For those who prefer online streaming, ITV Hub presents a seamless option. You’ll need a stable internet connection, and remember: signing up on ITV Hub is a requirement.

Another excellent Cheltenham streaming service is Racing TV. This platform dedicates itself to horse racing, ensuring you do not miss any action from the Ballymore Novices Hurdle. Whether you choose to stream through their website or app, the quality and speed of their service stand out. Note, Racing TV requires a subscription, but it is worth it for enthusiasts who crave extensive racing coverage.

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Best Places to Watch the Race At The Course

Experiencing the Ballymore Novices Hurdle in person brings an unmatched thrill. The Cheltenham Racecourse opens its gates for fans to witness the spectacle live. Among the various vantage points, the stands offer a panoramic view of the entire race. You’ll feel the pulse of the competition and the cheer of the crowd around you.

For those seeking a more relaxed atmosphere, the hospitality packages at Cheltenham provide a luxurious experience. Enjoy gourmet meals, exclusive viewing areas, and the company of fellow racing enthusiasts. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the event’s prestige.

Finally, for a closer touch with nature and an informal setting, the open course area allows spectators to spread out on the grass. This option suits families and groups who enjoy picnics while watching the races. Each spot at the Cheltenham Racecourse offers a unique experience, ensuring all attendees have a memorable day.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Ballymore Novices Hurdle?

The Ballymore Novices Hurdle is a Grade 1 hurdle race, a significant part of the Cheltenham Festival, showcasing promising young horses. The race is renowned for its history, competitive field, and the anticipation it generates among fans and bettors alike.

When Was the Ballymore Novices Hurdle First Run?

The race was first introduced in 1929, evolving significantly over the years with various sponsorships shaping its current prestige and importance in the National Hunt racing calendar.

What Distances Do Horses Run in The Ballymore Novices Hurdle?

Contestants in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle compete over approximately 2 miles and 5 furlongs, challenging their speed, agility, and endurance across hurdles.

Are Irish-Trained Horses Dominating the Ballymore Novices Hurdle?

Yes, in recent years, Irish-trained horses have shown remarkable dominance at the Ballymore Novices Hurdle, attributing to the excellent training and breeding programs in Ireland.

Who Are Notable Winners of The Race in Recent Years?

Noteworthy champions include Faugheen in 2014, Simonsig in 2012, and No Refuge in 2005, with their performances still celebrated by fans and analysts.

Who Are the Key Figures in The Upcoming Ballymore Novices Hurdle?

Leading trainers like Willie Mullins, paired with jockey Ruby Walsh, are prominent figures, often bringing strong contenders to the race, symbolising excellence and competitive edge.

Where Can I Watch the Ballymore Novices Hurdle?

ITV provides extensive coverage of the Cheltenham Festival, including the Ballymore Novices Hurdle. Racing TV also offers dedicated streaming services for horse racing enthusiasts. Live viewing experiences can be enjoyed at Cheltenham Racecourse with various ticketing and hospitality options.


The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle occupies an intriguing position on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival. As the curtain-raiser, it holds appeal for those seeking early clues on future stable stars over the coming years.

If recent trends continue, Willie Mullins seems likely to field another strong favourite as he pursues a seventh win in 11 years. Gordon Elliott often unveils a leading hope too seeking a first Ballymore success since Envoi Allen in 2020.

However, don’t discount Nicky Henderson who saddled 2017 shock winner Willoughby Court at 14/1. If he has a promising novice hurdler that fits the key profile of proven form around 2m 5f, expect bold showings from his grey and orange silks.

The Ballymore has steadily grown in stature to become a “must see” event for jumps enthusiasts. As the first Grade 1 on Ladies’ Day, initial impressions matter and a spectacular display from a potential star can set the tone for the day.

With names like Istabraq, Hardy Eustace and Faugheen adorning the roll of honor, it has proven a rich breeding ground for future champions. That illustrious heritage ensures it retains a special place as a highlight of the Festival where reputations can be carved on racing’s greatest stage.