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Press Release 13th March 2024 Cheltenham


Wednesday 13th March


Considered one of the bankers of the meeting by many, Ballyburn more than lived up to his reputation when coming home the very impressive winner of the Grade One Gallager Novices’ Hurdle, the opening contest on Style Wednesday.

Willie Mullins was winning the contest for a recording-extending seventh time and was saddled the first five horses home.

Willie Mullins said: “A lot of people have been talking about it, but this was the first time he has wowed me. That was some performance. For Paul [Townend] to take a look around turning for home - that must have been the feel the horse was giving him. Then to see him opening him up - I was afraid, are we going to have an Annie Power moment at the last, he went into it so fast. But he pinged it and was away again, and to come up the hill like that… Wow, what a performance.

“Paul says he [Ballyburn] pretends to be keen. He looks keen, he’s awkward with his head, even walking round the parade ring he’s all the time shaking his head. Paul says he looks keener than he is; it’s just his head carriage and the way he does things, but he doesn’t actually pull as hard as it looks he does.

“When you see what Slade Steel and the rest of our team did yesterday - we had a good team yesterday - and I said, wow, that really puts the form back into [a word I can’t decipher, Ben, sorry].

“He could be anything. That was a Champion Hurdle performance in my book. You’d love to be going chasing with his pedigree and size and scope, but imagine - there you are, with Lossiemouth for the Champion Hurdle next year. I’ll have to have a word with Ronnie [Bartlett] and David Manasseh, who own the horse. I don’t know, we might just get on chasing and try to make a Gold Cup horse out of him, I don’t know. He’s out of an Old Vic mare and he’d love that.

“But then I’m thinking, if you have two horses for a Champion Hurdle and you might get one there, as we’ve seen this week. Nicky Henderson must be devastated, having to pull out his horses. That’s what I’m already dreading, that you have an axe swung in from the side that takes you out at the knees. With the sort of firepower that we have, and that Nicky has - it’s going to be a very quiet week for him, and we all feel for him, because we’d rather have beaten Constitution Hill to win the Champion Hurdle. We’re good pals and we like the competition, and it’s just awful for people. You save it all up for the whole year, your energy, everything, put it all into this and then the horses are taken out because of some mystery, whatever’s going through the yard. It’s tough, really tough. It’s our one dread every year - where is it coming from, what is going to come out of the side that you can’t see coming, and that’s what’s happened at Seven Barrows this year. It’s not good for the racing - we like competition. We have to have it.”

Winning jockey Paul Townend said to ITV Racing: “That was a fair feeling. It wasn’t a big field obviously, and we had five of them, but I respect a lot of the horses behind him and he has blown them out the water. It was a bigger performance than I thought he was going to put in to be honest. But riding them you always make doubts I suppose.

“Keep it simple. His bark is a lot worse than his bite, in that, I suppose, if you did get in a row with him, there’s only going to be one winner. But you can let him just put his head down and play with him away and he’s definitely not as strong as he visually looks. He was very good, jumped brilliantly. He is wow.”

The jockey went on to say: “He was brilliant. Brilliant. It was a huge performance, because I know all the horses behind him and I thought it was a talented field. It was a big, big performance.

“If he wasn’t like that (looking fairly keen) you’d be more worried. But his bark is probably worse than his bite because to ride him he doesn’t pull like a train - you just have to play with him and mess away with him, and he’s actually simple enough then.

“Whatever speed you are going he does that. He does that at home too, and he gave me a nice headbutt at the start because he throws his head around a bit, but that’s just him. If you got  in a row with him you’d probably upset him so you just have to play with him. He’s looking at the jumps, and you just have to trust him.

“My worry coming going back up in trip after racing over two miles the last time was that he might want to run like a two-miler, but no. His jumping was savage, and his galloping wasn’t bad either!

“I was doing a half-speed everywhere to be honest. The ground is hard work, I just let put half an inch of rein going to the last and then getting over it was the main thing.

“He could be anything, and I think he’d take a fair bit of whacking at two miles too. He’s just a very, very talented horse, and he fairly blew away the Supreme winner at Leopardstown, so the form was stacking up.

“It was a doddle of a performance.”

Winning owners Ronnie Bartlett and David Manasseh told ITV Racing:

Ronnie Bartlett: “He jumped well, we didn’t know how he was going to handle the ground, but that was exciting. Let’s enjoy today, the future is in front of him so we will just keep fingers’ crossed. He had different options [coming into the meeting], in typical Willie style he didn’t want to tell us too much – all came right in the end.”

David Manasseh: “I need to breathe, I can’t [sum it up in words]. It’s been a long journey and the last five weeks to get him… just to be here today, with the people that are here at Cheltenham – they are legends of racing, and I’m here and have managed to win at Cheltenham, I can’t believe it!

“I’ve been coming 20 years with the same friends and to just have a runner! And then he was 1/2 [odds]. And the pressure and the hype, it’s unbelievable… thank you very much.”

Sean O’Keefe, rider of runner-up Jimmy Du Seuil, said: “He ran a cracker. The winner is a very good horse but Jimmy Du Seuil took a nice step forward. He’s only learning all of the time and he’l improve again.”

Patrick Mullins, rider the third Ile Atlantique, said: “He’s run well but I think he’s a better horse than the bare form.I think maybe going over fences and coming back to two miles we could let him use his stride and that might be better for him.”


1.45pm Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 5f

1 Ballyburn 1-2 Fav

2 Jimmy Du Seuil 66-1

3 Ile Atlantique 9-2

7 ran

Distances: 13, 3½

Time: 5m 22.96s  

32nd winner at The Festival for jockey Paul Townend

98th winner at The Festival for trainer Willie Mullins

8th winner at The Festival for joint-owner Ronnie Bartlett


Ireland 7

Great Britain 1


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