JOHNNYWHO 4/1 generally – 1 POINT WIN
The Grade 1 Challow Hurdle and at the head of the market is Willmount, a horse we have in the bag as an Ante Post Bet for the Supreme Novice Hurdle. Today’s trip is 2m 41/2f so it looks to me that they are planning the Ballymore Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, over 2m 5f. That is where the 4 of the last 5 winners have ended up anyway. I rate Willmount highly so I would not be surprised to see him win but at the same time I believe he has plenty of speed and at this stage of his career, more a 2 miler than a 2m 4 1/2f. For that reason I am going to take him on in this race with another horse who I have no doubt is running at the correct trip in JOHNNYWHO and a horse who has looked just as impressive as Willmount.
JOHNNYWHO was an impressive winner at the end of last season in a bumper and then once again on his debut over hurdles at Carlisle, at the start of November. He travelled well, jumped well enough and did everything in second gear. He just looks like a very smart horse and a horse with a huge amount of potential. Trainer Jonjo O’Neill holds this horse in high regard and this has been the plan since his win at Carlisle. I am expecting a decent pace for him to come off and for him to be travelling just as well as Willmount when they turn in and then hopefully outstay Willmount on the run in.
Captain Teague comes with an excellent reputation but he will need to improve after losing at Cheltenham last time out.
I may even be tempted by a reverse exacta/forecast on the day with Willmount and Johnnywho but for now I am sticking with the single on JOHNNYWHO who looks decent value at 4/1.
WALKING ON AIR 4/1 generally – 1.5 POINTS WIN
My NAP of the day is WALKING ON AIR who is making his debut over fences. I am not one to raise the stake on a horse making their debut over the bigger obstacles but as many of the long term members know from last season, I have WALKING ON AIR down as one of the best handicapped horses in training. My view is that all he needs to do here is jump and if he jumps it is going to take a very good one to get him beat, a chance I am happy to take. This horse is only a 6 year old who looked special when winning at this course in Newbury 2022, so much so he went to Aintree for the Grade 1 Mersey Novice Hurdle following his success. It didn’t work out that day but last year he returned with a nice win at Exeter and then really should have won at Cheltenham in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle but for a poor ride by Nico that day.
Now going over fences for the first time he is a horse who looks every bit a chaser and jumps hurdles with the scope of a chaser. The reports are that he has taken well to fences and if that is the case, I don’t see many dangers. WIN.