The Jumps season is underway which means, love it or hate it, so is the build-up to the 2024 Cheltenham Festival.
Once a week for the next 20, I’ll be casting my eye over the ante-post markets, adding a new selection to the book – which I’m hoping will feature several winners come March – each time.
To start, I’m suggesting one for the Festival’s curtain-raiser. First tip, first race. Fitting.
The stable tours are imminent, so now’s the time to get those exciting prospects onside. Those who, in a matter of weeks if not days, will be talked up by their trainers and backed accordingly.
I had a few on my radar, but none excite me more than Willie Mullins’ Mirazur West, who I’m tipping for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The five-year-old is a full-brother to 2020 Champion Bumper hero Ferny Hollow with the reputation to match. He was bought by JP McManus after falling at the last in a PTP he was highly-likely to bolt up in late last year, before making a winning debut under rules at Naas in March.
As you can see from the replay above, he made quite the impression in what looked a strong contest, with the runner-up He’s My Hero and Mahon’s Way, who finished third, costing £120,000 and £360,000 respectively.
I know that Derek O’Connor, who’s ridden him twice, is a massive fan of the horse – and clearly they’re in agreement at Closutton, as he was backed off the boards the last day.
I’ve seen people knock the form, but I think that’s unfair. He’s My Hero ran very respectably in a bumper at the Punchestown Festival a month later, while at the same meeting, just a couple of days prior, the fifth-placed Rhaenyra (who was was over 30L behind Mirazur West at Naas) was second in a Grade 3.
Even so, let’s not forget how easily he won. It was like the son of Westerner was doing a piece of work, frankly. Clearly there’s a lot more in the tank.
So, that’s my case for the horse itself, but what about the chosen race?
First of all, I think he shapes like a two-miler. He seems to possess a high cruising speed and isn’t short of stamina – two traits we know Mullins looks for in a Supreme horse.
I also don’t think it looks a vintage division, at least at this early stage. I’ve got major reservations about current antepost favourite A Dream To Share, who also sports the iconic green & gold, over hurdles – while Ballyburn, Tullyhill and Fact To File, who are all shorter in the betting, look like stayers to me.
Mirazur West could easily shorten off the back of Willie’s first stable tour alone. Then I make it odds-on that he starts off in a maiden over two miles and makes light work of it – then it’s up to him to prove he’s good enough to be a Grade 1 horse at the distance. I’m betting he will be.
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2024 ANTEPOST BOOK
Mirazur West @ 16/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle