We continue our build up to the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival by looking at the prospects of Bob Olinger who currently heads the market for the Grade 1 Turners Novices’ Chase next month.
Trained by Henry De Bromhead in Ireland Bob Olinger has only met with defeat in one of his seven starts under rules and that was by former Cheltenham Bumper winner Ferny Hollow on his hurdles debut over two miles.
That was his sole start over the minimum trip, and he looked a superstar when landing the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle under Rachel Blackmore at Cheltenham last March when he came home over 7L clear of subsequent Punchestown Grade 1 winner Gaillard Du Mesnil with the Paul Nicholls’ trained Bravemansgame another 4L back in third.
Bob Olinger certainly has the scope for fences, but the way he travelled through his race in the Ballymore last year at Cheltenham suggested he would have the necessary pace to return to the minimum trip but, with unbeaten Champion hurdler Honeysuckle in the same stable, connections decided to go chasing this season and he has won both his starts at Gowran Park and Punchestown.
There is no question that Bob Olinger has not been as impressive over his fences as Galopin Des Champs who is vying for favouritism for the Turners over the intermediate trip of 2m 5f, although the latter does have the option of stepping up to three miles in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – a distance over which he won a Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival over hurdles last spring.
What Bob Olinger does have is an electric turn of foot. I thought he was momentarily in trouble going to two out at Punchestown, but his class shone through like a beacon, and he had more than 4L in hand at the line over the Mullins’ trained Capodanno. The latter then lined up against stablemate Galopin Des Champs at the Dublin Racing Festival but only got as far as the fifth, having made a mistake at the first, as he was taken out of his comfort zone by the gallop and fast fluent jumping of the winner.
If Galopin Des Champs lines up in the Turners, it really will be a clash of the titans. But what of the British challenge? L’Homme Presse has made great strides over fences this term for Venetia Williams and has answered every question asked of him. This will be another step up in grade, but he will give the Irish raiders plenty to think about although I worry about L’Homme Presse trying to keep tabs on Galopin Des Champs in the first mile if the latter takes the option of the 2m 5f contest.
At the time of the Dublin Racing Festival earlier in the month we highlighted the poor form of the De Bromhead stable but, at the time of writing, they have had four winners from their last 17 runners in the last fortnight and they look to be coming to the boil nicely.
Bob Olinger is a wonderful horse and is a top price of 10/11 Non Runner No Bet with Paddy Power for the Turner Novices’ Chase. That price suggests Galopin Des Champs will take on Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor in the Brown Advisory, although the ground will surely decree where Mullins targets his own unbeaten chaser.
Bob Olinger is 14/1 with William Hill for the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup – as opposed to Galopin Des Champ’s 6/1 quote – which suggests the layers don’t believe his stamina will stretch to 3m 2f+ as he develops. I certainly won’t argue as I still believe he has the speed to win a Champion Hurdle!
For many Bob Olinger will be the banker of the week – as he was 12 months ago. Others will point to his mistake three out and at the last at Gowran and tell us his fencing isn’t good enough.
Rachel Blackmore was riding A Plus Tard in the Betfair Chase when Bob Olinger made his chase debut and jockey Darragh O’Keefe was asked about his novicey jumping after the victory. He said:
“If you want to be critical of him, I suppose you could say that, but it’s his first run over fences and these (fences) take plenty of jumping.
“Overall, I thought his jumping was very good and he’ll come on plenty from today as well.
“He has the scope and he won a point to point for Pat Doyle. Today was just about getting round, we know he has the engine.”
As O’Keefe said we know he has the engine so, are his doubters just clutching at straws?
Not long to wait now!