Two things you can expect from Wednesday’s Neptune Novices novice hurdle feature; a top-class horse will win it and that horse will most probably be Irish…..
What happened in 2013?
A notoriously strong race, won in the past by Denman and Inglis Drever, was right up to standard once again on pre-race official figures as The New One powered up the Cheltenham hill to beat a very high standard of novices.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies had always been publically bullish about the chances of the five-year-old and duly delivered, settling the contest over the final flight with a frightening turn of foot.
With the only eight runners declared – by far the smallest field ever to contend a Neptune – the pace was sedate and perhaps it fell into the lap of the winner, who possesses plenty of speed. But on closer inspection, a legitimate case can be made that Twiston-Davies’ star was the best horse on the day.
Sixth in last year´s Champion Bumper, he was the only runner with a previous Cheltenham experience under his belt. He took the second-last in a share of fifth, before quickening up readily to lead on the approach to the final flight, where he flew it and soared away up the hill for a four and a half length win.
The Champion Hurdle is on the agenda this year for The New One, where he’ll be a big player if staying in the same form.
It would be foolish to completely forget about the horses he beat at Cheltenham though.
Ruler Of The World (second) and Ponte Alexandre (third) both were held in the highest regard by their trainers coming into the race and although they were no match for a classy The New One, there are big races to be won with both this season, especially went sent over a fence.
2014 Major Players
This is always a hard race to see into the future with as we’re dealing with young horses that have yet to fully develop and even jump a hurdle in public. By Christmas we should know which horses are the leading novices from the big stables of Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins.
At this stage, bookmakers are taking no risks by going 12/1 the field.
Briar Hill ran out a seven length winner of the Champion Bumper last season – a race that hasn’t always run as a strong trial for the Neptune but it was hard not to be taken by his strong staying performance. He’s 12/1 for the Neptune.
Trainer Harry Fry enjoyed a brilliant first season as a licence holder with Rock On Ruby and the next horse off the Fry production line may well be Oscar Rock, who floored a decent bumper field by eight lengths in February.
He will need to be kept an eye on, as will the likes of Tiger Cliff, Clondaw Court and Golantilla.
Betting advice: strong race trends
Historically, the Irish always seem to target this race with one of their toughest novices. The Emerald Isle have won 16 renewals since 1971 and four of the last eight runnings, including having the second and third last season.
Don’t get convinced into backing the winner of the Challow Hurdle at Newbury, all of the last 14 winners of that event have been beaten in the Neptune.
That race is usually run in a bog during the depths of winter and horses that prevail there find conditions at the Festival much more harder to negotiate.
It’s best to keep an eye on the Grade One Navan Novices Hurdle in December, the Grade One Deloitte Hurdle on Leopardstown’s Hennessy card and the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle Race at Warwick in January, which was won by The New One last year.
Not the strongest of races to have an early ante-post punt on, but a horse we think may turn into a top class hurdler is Ebor winner Tiger Cliff, who can be backed at 16/1 with Bet365.
Early days, mind.