Now, if there’s one division that I feel has been unusually weak this year; it’s novice hurdlers. It’s been a very long while since, mid-way through January, when they bet 10/1 the field in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Paul Nicholls’ Irving has looked the best-of-a-bad bunch, but I’m not convinced he’s beaten a lot at all. In fact, the form of his last race at Ascot couldn’t possibly get worse, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t live up to expectations.
However, one novice hurdler from the Nicholls’ yard that I do see going extremely well at Cheltenham, is 25/1 shot Port Melon, in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle. The Ditcheat handler has learnt about the consequences of hyping up horses but did make some very loud noises about this Graham Roach owned gelding, before the season had begun. He’s won two points when in the care of Richard Barber and he made his seasonal debut in the 2m5f graded hurdle at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting, which speaks volumes in itself. From two-out, he looked all over the winner, but got caught for toe and then stayed on again to finish third, in a season where every runner from this yard have needed their first run.
The runner up in that race had previously won a Grade 2 hurdle and then went on to finish second in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle, so the form is fairly reasonable. Expect him to take a novice hurdle or two before before lining up the Albert Bartlett, for which he will not be 25/1 if all goes to plan. Although, I must add, he does already look a chaser in the making, so expect him to be a likely type for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham Festival 2015.