With Aigle DOr heading the Ballymore Novices field there are 156 entered in total which is run on the second day of the festival and of these there are 57 trained in Ireland. These include the Nicky Henderson-trained Aigle DOr, the current ante-post favourite and an impressive scorer at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, January 26, in the Grade Two Ballymore Properties Novices Hurdle. Other leading contenders include Breedsbreeze, trained by Paul Nicholls and successful in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown earlier this month.
Alan King captured the 2007 JCB Triumph Hurdle with Katchit and he trains this years market leader Franchoek, successful in two out of his three starts at Cheltenham already this season, most recently in the Grade Two Wragge & Co Finesse Juvenile Novices Hurdle on Festival Trials Day.
The one horse to have got the better of Franchoek over hurdles was the Gordon Elliott-trained Harper Valley, successful in the Boylesports.com Juvenile Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham on December 15 when he proved a length and a half too good for the J P McManus-owned horse and the duo could re-oppose on March 14.
Totesport has installed Franchoek as the 8/1 second favourite for the Ballymore Properties Novices Hurdle following his entry today. The JP McManus horse is the current 3/1 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle and is also 10/1 for the Supreme Novices. Paul Petrie, totesport spokesman commented, Those sitting on an ante-post voucher for the Triumph will be very concerned by these entries. The horse will be a serious contender regardless of what race it goes for and we have had to reflect that in the betting.