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Press Release 12th November 2022 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark and Nick Seddon

Hermes Allen (9-4) maintained the outstanding start to the season for Paul Nicholls when making every yard a winning one in the Grade Two Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham today, day one of The November Meeting. After today’s eye-catching victory, the 13-times champion Jump trainer described Hermes Allen as “the best of our novices at the moment”.

A winning Irish point to pointer, the five year old Poliglote gelding had created a very favourable on his hurdling debut when making all to score by 27 lengths at Stratford last month. It was a similar story in today’s two miles and five furlongs contest with Hermes Allen going straight to the front under Harry Cobden. Jumping superbly throughout, he kept finding more and stayed on resolutely to take the honours by nine lengths from Irish raider Music Drive. 

Nicholls said: “He is a lovely horse. I’m astonished as before he went to Stratford he showed nothing at home and I’m not just making that up. Some of the girls were saying are you seriously running this on Saturday, but I said we have got to go somewhere. We picked that and bingo.

“He didn’t jump great at Stratford but he jumped great today. He has improved bundles since Stratford. He is a proper horse. He made it the other day and I said to Harry they are fit and they are jumping so there is no point hanging on to him so take advantage of the way they are running. He stays three miles and he has class.

“He jumped brilliantly in front so why drop him in. He has took a big step forward since Stratford, working wise and jumping wise. He literally showed nothing before Stratford then in his last bit of work the other day it was like two different horses. At the end of the gallop we can’t stop him so he is obviously a hugely talented horse.

“To be fair I had nothing to do with buying him Aidan Murphy got him for John (Hales, co owner) and I was a bit disappointed with him in the spring and that is why we never ran him. He was a bit small and showed us nothing but he had a good holiday with John and Lisa in the summer and that bit of time he came back a different animal. He has just physically improved and clocked on to the way we train and do it.

“He would get further than that but that is far enough. He looks the best of our novices at the moment.”

Harry Cobden added: “It is nice to have one good enough to run here. He gave me a fantastic feel and jumped very well. As soon as he got over the second last he pricked his ears and had a little look around, changed his legs then he was gone.

“He is a horse that would show you nothing at home but he clearly is full of ability. He is one of those horses that comes out every day, goes back in and doesn’t show you anything. He had to be okay to go around Stratford and win the way he did. I think is probably one of the strongest novice hurdles run all season so far and he has put them to bed fairly well.

“One hundred per cent he has enough toe for two and a half miles later on. I was a bit negative on the way round as I didn’t want to go too quick but he has got plenty of class.”

John Hales, who co-owns the winner along with Ged Mason and Sir Alex Ferguson, commented: “It was a great performance. This is a different league to Stratford but that was up against quality animals. That was a great win. He has taken them apart. When you front run it is always a gamble but he just pulled away again. Yes and no he has surprised me but he won by 27 lengths at Stratford. I got a lot of stick about paying too much for him (£350,000). I said to Bryony (Frost, at Stratford) if you feel it's your day and you can by a few lengths it will put the knockers to rest.

“He has beaten quality horses today. We have bought him for chasing not hurdling. He jumps beautifully. Paul’s horses are running phenomenally at the moment.”

Trainer Gordon Elliott said of the runner-up Music Drive: “I’m very happy it was a great run. He was a bit novice and missed a few but overall I’m happy. I think we will look at options over three miles for him.”

Day one of The November Meeting was topped and tailed with Irish winners when Contrapposto (28-1) claimed the concluding Valda Energy Novices' Handicap Hurdle over an extended two miles. Scoring by a head in a thrilling finish, it was a first Cheltenham winner for both Co Kilkenny-based trainer Richard Donohoe and jockey Michael O’Sullivan.

Johnny Donohoe, part-owner and brother of the winning trainer said: “Richard (Donohoe) the trainer is not here as he wasn’t able to get over, which is a shame.

“We were happy with the horse and although he was a bit disappointing for us in the summer on the Flat he hides a bit up his sleeve – which he showed today. He was good at Punchestown the last day over hurdles and we’ve had this race in mind for months, this is his Champion Hurdle!

“He ran in a Racing Post Trophy as a two year old, that was a long time ago now but he’s a nice //horse and we’re thrilled. I’m only a part-owner but it’s magic, I’ve been coming here for 25 years. It’s nice to see it come together, we saw him run on the all-weather 10 days ago and he was disappointing but we’ve grabbed the bull by the horns and the ground was a big help.

“We might come back for something else at some point, but it’s just a great day. Richard has only four in training, so he’s only a small yard and he’s a very shrewd man. He’s listed as the owner but I assure you we’re silent partners! There’s nowhere like Cheltenham and we were here at 8am watching him work on the track – I’ll die happy now!”


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