Eclipster: Sporting John looks good for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival

1:30 – Cheltenham – 2m 5f (Old) Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Baring Bingham) (Class 1) (4yo+)

The Ballymore Novices Hurdle was first run in 1971 and was won by Midsprite who was trained by Harry Thomson-Jones. In 1974, Sun Alliance started sponsoring the race with the association lasting for over 30 years. Ballymore Properties first sponsored the race in 2006 and became sponsors again in 2018 after Neptune Investment Management ended their sponsorship.

The race has produced some top class hurdlers in the past including Istabraq and two times Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace.

There are some strong statistics associated with the race:

  • Only three of the 34 winners have won from outside the first five in the betting
  • Nine of the last 14 winners were trained in Ireland
  • Only one winner aged over six has won since 1974
  • 15 of the last 22 winners had previously won a Graded race
  • 11 of the last 13 winners won on their previous start
  • The last 12 winners were aged five or six
  • Nine of the last 12 winners ran within 60 days of the race
  • 11 of the last 12 winners had won over distances between 2 miles 3 furlongs and two miles 5 furlongs
  • 10 of the last 12 winners had won at least twice over hurdles
  • 10 of the last 12 winners were rated 146 or higher
  • 10 of the last 12 winners had run at least three times earlier in the season
  • The last 12 winners had won at least once earlier in the season
  • 10 of the last 12 winners had won at least twice earlier in the season

The Phillip Hobbs trained Sporting John comes into the race unbeaten over hurdles. The five year old bay gelding started off in a Class 3 Novice Hurdle at Exeter over 2 miles 1 furlong winning by 1¾ lengths. His most recent run in February was at Ascot in a Class 2 Novice Hurdle over 2 miles 3½ furlongs in Soft ground. The race was contested by only four runners, but Sporting John stayed on strongly before being eased down to win by 6½ lengths. Although he is markedly up in class, he does look potentially very good for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle, and is worth his chance in this grade.

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