This race often ends up being fairly competitive, and this year appears to be no different with no horse currently looking like a superstar. It doesn’t help that long time Ante Post favourite, Blazing Khal, has been ruled out with an injury, but even he was only 9/2. There’s also a lot of uncertainty as to which of the principles will run here, with 3 of the top 5 possibly favouring the Ballymore.
Minella Crooner is the tentative favourite at 4/1. Winner of two bumpers at the start of the season, he made a very good hurdles debut over 2 and a half miles , splitting two very good horses in Journey With Me and Kilcruit. Kilcruit was high class last year and though not at his best this season, could have a live chance in the Supreme, whereas Journey With Me is likely to go off favourite for the Ballymore. He then won his next start, when upped to 3 miles, 11 lengths back in second was Eye Van, a good second in a 3 mile Grade Three next time out. Dropped slightly in trip to the 2 mile 6 furlong Nathaniel Lacy at the Dublin Racing Festival, Minella Crooner was a strong finishing second, but really the race was won from the front by a typically brilliant Danny Mullins ride. The winner was the similarly named, Minella Cocooner, who is 9/1 for this race would have a chance again here but wouldn't have it as easy out front in this better race. You got the impression, too, that the extra two furlongs would suit Minella Crooner more and Minella Cocooner might even drop back slightly in trip to the Ballymore. At 4/1 he is short enough in the betting, but has a decent amount of experience and has been running well, I expect him to go well here.
In third just half a length behind Minella Crooner in that Nathaniel Lacy, was Hollow Games, 10/1 for this race. I like him and think he has the sort of profile I like for this race, having run four times this season. He made a winning debut in a Down Royal race that Gordon Elliott loves to send a good horse to. He won it previously with Farouk D'Alene, who beat last years Bartlett winner over Christmas that year and has confirmed himself as high class this year now chasing. The year before he sent Fury Road, who ran a brilliant race in that years Bartlett. Hollow Games on next start dropped in trip to 2 miles 4, beating a good horse in Lunar Display in a Grade Three. Despite looking in need of further he won that well and was upped in class to the Grade One Lawlors of Naas over the same 2 miles 4 on his next start. He was a solid enough third when staying on in behind stablemate and for the same owners, Ginto. I think the trip is sure to suit him better in the Bartlett and last time I'm happy to forgive as he tried to go after Minella Cocooner and only lost third late to Minella Crooner when using all his energy to try and catch the winner in vain. His stablemate, Ginto, is 6/1 for this race, had unbeaten this year. He won the Ballymore trial, the Lawlors of Naas and I think he will more likely run there. I would give him a chance if he were to run here, but won't be considering for this race right now.
Second favourite for the race is Hillcrest at 9/2. A huge horse, supposedly over 18 hands tall, that runs in the Trevor Hemmings Colours. He has done nothing wrong all year and has had 5 runs, so ticks the experience box for me. For a big galloping stayer, they did brilliantly to win a 2 mile bumper with him last year. He won his first three hurdle starts all over around 2 and a half miles. The best of which was a 2 length win over the highly regarded, I Am Maximus in a listed race at Cheltenham. He was unlucky in being brought down when just 4/5 favourite for a Grade Two over the Ballymore course and distance, but showed no ill effect when bolting up in the Prestige Novices' Grade Two at Haydock. That was over 3 miles on horribly testing ground and he proved he had the stamina for this, I really like the horse and at 9/2 is a great price. Connections weren't certain he would run, but definitely worth a NRNB play.
We've covered the main 5 in the market and after them you have Journey With Me who, similarly to Ginto, I would give a very good chance to, but expect they will run him in the Ballymore. So I won't go into any real depth on him here. Next at 11/1 is Shantreusse for Henry De Bromhead who won that Grade Three, the previously mentioned Eye Van was second in. The distance was 5 lengths, so on a strict line of form would have 6 lengths to find with Minella Crooner. He has kept on improving ever since his debut and that was only his second run over hurdles, so could feasibly keep on improving to challenge those at the top of the market. His bumper debut he was perhaps unlucky to run into Ginto, who bolted up by 8 lengths. He then won a bumper next time out and was then sold and moved to Henry De Bromhead. Upped in trip to 2 miles 5 on hurdles debut, he was about a length second to Mr Fred Rogers in what was a decent run. He looked a little slow over that trip and 3 miles next time out did the trick, where he was a 17 length winner. The next race was that Grade Three he won, and it caught my eye mostly that day, that he seemed to have improved past Mr Fred Rogers and was going much better before that horse slipped up and suffered a fatal injury. He is still just about an each way backable price, and with it looking to cut up could be worth a bet.
Next at 12/1 is The Nice Guy who won over 2 miles 3 on his first start. To my eye, Ramillies, 33/1 here, was possibly getting the better of that argument and seemed to be the stayer of the two, before nearly falling at the last. That being said, Ramillies won very well today so the two could both be above average. Mullins may surprise me and run him here, but at this stage I think the Ballymore trip would suit this horse better. Unbeaten and massively unexposed, he has only had the one hurdles start, and with that lack of experience I would possibly rule him out as a betting prospect for this race. Bardenstown Lad has been supported throughout the season, he ran three times at the start of the year winning twice in including a good Cheltenham race at the October Meeting. Between that he was a 2 length third to Tullybeg. He reappeared at Musselburgh on the 5th of February, winning a 3 runner contest. He's hard to knock but I just personally think he'll find one or two too good. He'll definitely be plugging on and gets the trip well so may end up placing, but he's not for me. Stag Horn is 16/1 and is a high class flat stayer, he has won both starts over hurdles, moat recently in the Grade Two Leamington Novices'. He won that by two lengths and looked pretty good, however I would be a little cautious on that form as the third and fourth have both been beaten since. The third, Scipion, was just 4 lengths behind him and was beaten nearly 50 by Hillcrest on next start. He could run well, but I prefer one with more runs under their belt as I've already mentioned. Next is Whatdeawant for Mullins, but is another one who will more likely run in the Ballymore, especially as he is owned by the sponsor of that race.
A few at bigger prices I'll mention, firstly, Classic Getaway at 20/1. A mouth watering purchase from the point to point fields, he bolted up by 15 lengths hard held in a bumper at the end of last season. This year he made his hurdles debut, finishing 6 lengths second to a stablemate, pitched straight into the deep-end, the stablemate that beat him was Cash Back, a 154 rated chaser who had been second in the Irish Arkle, he also had race fitness on his side. The third was Uthred, 85 lengths further back, a listed winner who had run in a grade one on his previous start. There was a huge overreaction based off that defeat, and he made amends next time out in calmer waters, winning a maiden hurdle without needing to be asked a question. He's definitely underrated, but could be one for the Ballymore too.
Because I never had a strong fancy for the race and still think it‘s an incredibly open looking contest, I only put two horses up for it in my Ante Post blog. Both were long shots and I wouldn’t be confident at all on either.
Ramillies - Albert Bartlett 33/1 0.5pts each way (03/05/2021)
Gringo D'aubrelle - Albert Bartlett 66/1 0.5pts each way (03/05/2021)
Of the two, Ramillies would have the best chance, he won well today over 2 and a half miles, but was entered over three tomorrow as well. On his hurdles debut he was staying on well and looked the likely winner to me, before a mistake at the last. He still plugged on to take third and there is a chance he runs in this still. Though I usually like to back one with a bit of experience and he would be lacking on that front. Gringo Daubrelle has been a decent horse this year, I thought on Pedigree he would be a stayer but won his race over 2 miles and has been running at that trip or two and a half. He’s been beaten by some good horses and also beat a good horse. I wouldn’t be surpirsed to see him do well in a Martin Pipe, but he won’t be winning this unfortunately.
I will put up a bet for this race as I think with the market likely to cut up, it could represent some good value. 1pt win on Hillcrest at 9/2.