Impaire Et Passe will lead a four-strong team for Willie Mullins into battle in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Wednesday.
Ireland’s perennial champion trainer has saddled five previous winners of the Festival’s day two curtain-raiser, with the brilliant Faugheen (2014) and last year’s victor Sir Gerhard among them.
In the lead-up to this year’s renewal, the Closutton dogs have been barking the name of Impaire Et Passe, who was an 18-length winner at Naas on his Irish debut before dominating his rivals in the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
The latter event is more traditionally a trial for Cheltenham’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, with Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015) both doing the double – but Mikael D’Haguenet won the Moscow Flyer and the Ballymore in 2009 and Impaire Et Passe is a hot favourite to follow suit.
Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, does not expect a step up in trip to be an issue, saying: “The training preparation has gone well and soft ground shouldn’t be a problem. He is a nice individual.
“Obviously, he is trying a new trip, but he has won on soft and heavy ground on his two most recent starts, so we go in there really hopeful.”
Impaire Et Passe is joined by a trio of stablemates in Gaelic Warrior, Champ Kiely and Ho My Lord.
Gaelic Warrior was beaten a head after being heavily backed for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at last year’s Festival, but is three from three this term – most recently carrying top-weight to success in handicap company at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Champ Kiely won at a Grade One at Naas on his latest outing, while Ho My Lord faces a steep rise in class after winning a maiden hurdle at Navan.
Paul Nicholls has perhaps his best chance of the week with Hermes Allen, although has made no secret of the fact that he considers him a chaser in the making.
The six-year-old also puts his unbeaten record on the line, having won all three starts over hurdles, including the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle in soft ground at Newbury.
Nicholls said: “Almost everything that finished behind him at Newbury has won since, so it has turned out to be a very good race.
“He has got a huge amount of ability and I’m excited about going to Cheltenham, but I’m as excited about going chasing with him next year – he will be a lovely horse to go chasing with.
“He has worked nicely and is in good shape. Two and a half (miles) is ideal for him.
“It is a very good race, the Irish have some good horses in there, but he’s got a great chance – he jumps, he’ll be ridden forward and he is a lovely horse.
“He has probably got the best chance of ours, according to the betting, anyway. It is a very good-looking, competitive race. He’s done very well and will hopefully go close to winning.”
On a high after the victory of Marine Nationale in the Supreme Novices’, owner-trainer Barry Connell justifiably has high hopes for Good Land, who won a Grade One novice hurdle over two and three-quarter miles at Leopardstown last month.
He said: “He is like Marine Nationale, a late developer. This one is seven and only just started running this year.
“Unlike the other one, he won’t mind soft ground. He won his bumper on heavy ground at Wexford and any ground would be fine for him.
“He is a strong traveller and has plenty of stamina. He jumps great and has all the attributes you need to be successful in a Grade One at Cheltenham. I think he has a genuine chance of winning.”
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