Punters will be hoping the type of result seen in the 2012 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle will be seen again 12 months on.
Last year’s renewal was a bit of a one-sided affair as Simonsig ran out a hugely impressive winner. He was arguably the biggest gamble of the entire Festival and landed the odds of 11/10 with most bookmakers.
Nicky Henderson’s charge was faultless with his jumping and showed a remarkable turn of foot to leave his rivals trailing in his wake. He has gone chasing this year and will be very hard to beat in the Arkle Chase on the Tuesday of the Cheltenham Festival.
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The Irish have won the Neptune in four of the last seven years wins and 16 times in total since its inception in 1971. As with most Festival races, Willie Mullins has a tremendous record in the race, and has won the race twice in recent years with Fiveforthree and Mikael D’Haguenet.
So Young would have also arguably won in 2010 if he didn’t buckle on landing at the final flight.
Mullins looks to have the horse they all have to beat this season in form of the classy Pont Alexandre, who made quite an impression on his debut at Naas at the end of last season.
Bookmakers have seen plenty of money wagered on the chances of the speedy customer with the likes of Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes cutting his price into 6/1 in recent weeks.
Ex bumper horses have ruled the roost in the Neptune, winning 11 of the last 14 running’s, and what better place to look that last season’s Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner – Champagne Fever, who is also trained by the excellent Mullins. He hasn’t progressed as much as anticipated over hurdles but the faith still remains.
Things haven’t gone too swimmingly in terms of his preparation though as he was beaten by Jezki, who completed a significant hat-trick of wins in the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse. However, Champagne Fever looks certain to be better over further and will relish a return to Prestbury Park. The 14/1 available on him with Coral looks a decent wager.
When searching for the winner of this prestigious middle-distance novice event, keeping horses on side that have had plenty of experience over hurdles is a key thing to consider.
The fact that 13 of the last 15 winners had contested pattern races over hurdles before taking in this race makes pleasant viewing for trends followers.
That stat suggests that ambitiously campaigned horses, in terms of having run in pattern races earlier in the season, seem to appreciate the test of the Neptune rather than horses that may have had just a couple of runs in ungraded novice events.
Of the crop for this year’s race, the horse to watch out for who has plenty of experience is Taquin Du Seuil, who is trained by Jonjo O’Neill and likely to ridden by AP McCoy. He has been busy racing since November and looks a horse who appreciates racing.
He romped clear in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury, which gave the impression he loves soft ground.
The 12/1 on offer with Coral looks an interesting price, despite the fact all 13 Challow Hurdle winners to contest this 2m5f festival prize have failed since 1981.