The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, the opening race on Day 2, is arguably the strongest of the four novice hurdles run at the Festival.
Sponsored for many years by Sun Alliance (1974-2006) - it has since been known as either the Neptune or the Ballymore Hurdle.
It has often been an excellent guide to future Champion Hurdles, even though it's run on a trip of over half a mile longer.
Previous winners of both races include Istabraq, Hardy Eustace and Faugheen.
The race has also been won by plenty of future chasing stars such as Davy Lad, Sabin du Loir and First Lieutenant.
BALLYMORE NOVICES’ HURDLE TRENDS
Class has come to the fore in recent years and there has been no Ballymore Hurdle winner rated below 146 in the past decade.
Three of the last four favourites have won and there has only been one winner priced at over 8/1 since 2007.
The New One (2013) is the only five-year-old to win in the last 10 years, with six-year-old's dominating.
Willie Mullins is the most successful trainer with 4 winners, but the last of those was in 2016 (12 runners in the 5 renewals since).
Gordon Elliott has been successful recently with Samcro (2018) and Envoi Allen (2020).
LAST 5 WINNERS’ DATA
The 2021 Ballymore Hurdle was won by Bob Olinger, ridden by Rachael Blackmore:
Irish banker Envoi Allen extended his unbeaten record, ahead of stablemate Easywork for a Gordon Elliott 1-2 in 2020:
The ultra-tough City Island was trainer Martin Brassil's first Festival winner in 2019:
Samcro was another unbeaten hotpot to score for Gordon Elliott in 2018, having cruised into contention at the final bend:
Willoughby Court just beat favourite Neon Wolf in a thrilling battle to the line in 2017, a first Festival winner for trainer Ben Pauling:
Looking back further, Istabraq was made to graft to win this race in 1997 before returning to win three Champion Hurdles:
But the most popular winner of the race must surely be Danoli - darling of Irish race fans.
There was a great roar when 'The People's Champion' hit the front at the top of the hill and delirious scenes after the race: