Stamina-laden Briar Hill unlikely to drop back in trip for Supreme
Briar Hill’s win at Navan on Sunday has forced him into 10/1 joint-favourite for the Neptune Invesment Management Novices’ Hurdle.
Willie Mullins’ son of Shantou eventually came clear to win by four lengths but it was a performance which suggested that he still has plenty of growing up to do.
Ruby Walsh was constantly trying to encourage this large, scopey horse to go half a click faster than he was and turning for home it looked as if Azorian might cause a big upset in the two-runner race.
However Walsh’s mount responded well when challenged at the second-last flight of hurdles and put in his best jump of the contest at the last when asked by his jockey to go and win the race.
Bet on Briar Hill to win Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at 10/1
That Navan Novice Hurdle was run over 2m4f and it’s almost impossible to see the horse dropping in trip.
Ok, he had to make his own running and he still looks like a green, inexperienced horse who could do with horses to follow, but it was still a performance that suggested he would be run off his feet in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
After the race, Mullins explained: “I’d imagine we’ll be looking at two-and-a-half miles or longer. He seems to have loads of stamina. Christmas might come a bit too soon and we could possibly look at the Slaney Hurdle at Naas in January.”
Willie Mullins has won three of the last eight Slaney Hurdles
Mullins has won three of the last eight renewals of the Slaney Hurdle and it’s interesting to see where those horses have headed to afterwards.
The 2005 winner Homer Wells didn’t run at Cheltenham, whilst 2011 winner Gagewell Flyer went on to contest the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in March.
He was pulled-up, having failed to handle the much quicker ground; something which might worry fans of Briar Hill who has put his best performances in on testing going.
Mullins’ 2010 winner Mikael D’Haguenet had the biggest reputation of all and he justified the hype with a win the following spring in the Neptune.
Bet on Briar Hill to win the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at 10/1
No sign of the Supreme then for those three, and the County Carlow handler has no need to force square pegs into round holes.
Mullins said: “This is definitely the best crop of novice hurdlers I’ve ever had. They are all fit and healthy and hopefully we can keep them like that.”
Ireland’s seven-time Champion Trainer has won the Supreme on three occasions but none of those horses won over further than 2m2f prior to the Festival.
With stablemates Faugheen, Moyle Park and Vautour already towards the head of the Supreme betting – and the possibility of more to come from the yard – there is no chance that Briar Hill will run in that race unless the ground comes up very heavy.