On the second day of the 2013 Cheltenham Festival, you’ll find the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle.
A Grade 1 in stature, the Neptune is open to novices’ aged four and above and is run over the trip of two miles and five furlongs on the Old Course, with a total of twelve hurdles that require jumping along the way.
A few key stats to keep an eye on;
– Horses aged five or six have a certain monopoly on this contest, especially those that came first or second in their previous race.
– It’s been beneficial sticking towards the top of the market in recent years, not to mention focusing on horses who have already found success in an around this distance and boast no less than a 50% strike-rate over timber.
Despite the competitive nature of this event history dictates that it pays to side with those with recent form, as 28 of the last 29 winners of the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle came either first or second on their most recent run prior to Festival success.
Dai Jin — Panzella (FR) (Kahyasi (12.8f))
Notes: This German bred gelding has an absolutely huge reputation at Closutton, and heads into the Cheltenham Festival as the current antepost favourite for this event. A winner of his two starts for Willie Mullins (both in Graded races) by a combined distance of 24 lengths, his most recent effort was a very impressive all-the-way success in soft ground at Leopardstown. He is following a similar route to stable-mate Mikael D’Haguenet in winning the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at Navan prior to lining up at Cheltenham, and given that Mikael was successful in winning both you can’t see any reason why Pont Alexandre hasn’t got a favourites chance.
THE NEW ONE
King´s Theatre (IRE) (11.4f) — Thuringe (FR) (Turgeon (USA) (10.4f))
Notes: Held in the highest regard by trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and has so far strung together a whole host of impressive performances, including when second the last day over the same course and distance he’ll face in March. His form at Cheltenham reads well (1612) and many in the Twiston-Davies camp thought he hit the front too soon at Cheltenham last time and was still green when put under pressure. That run ought to have educated him in what is required when the pressure is on, and the larger field and better ground likely will be another help to this high-class sort. Currently second favourite in most antepost lists he looks a live threat, and certainly one to keep on side.
TAQUIN DU SEUIL
Voix Du Nord (FR) — Sweet Laly (FR) (Marchand De Sable (USA) (7.5f))
Notes: This is a nice horse from the Jonjo O’Neill yard, he came to England with experience on the flat in his native France so has had plenty of racing experience. He is a winner of the Challow Novices Hurdle by nine lengths back in December but his only logical rival Clondaw Kaempfer went wrong when brought to challenge and was subsequently pulled up (and is now effectively out for the season) so there are question marks over that form and what it is worth. He has also display a soft ground action which could work against him if we get better ground at Cheltenham in March, and to be honest although I think he is a high-class sort, he looks the type to need the softer winter ground we tend to get earlier in the season, and although he is likely to run well I can’t see him being good enough here.
Heron Island (IRE) — Downtown Train (IRE) (Glacial Storm (USA) (13.0f))
Notes: This son of Heron Island has really impressed me with everything he has done so far. I think the fact he has been showing such pace and high-cruising speed over the minimum distance, suggests to me he is going to be a top-class horse over longer distances in the future. He is certainly bred and built to be a three-mile chaser, and with the way My Tent Or Yours won the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury yesterday I certainly would be looking towards the Neptune Hurdle as with his pedigree opposed to the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Gold Cup winners in the past have ran well in the Supreme Novices Hurdle without winning; two recent examples being Best Mate and War Of Attrition so it wouldn’t be impossible to think he could go for that race and turn out to be a high quality staying chaser next season – I just think he would have a better chance of winning if connections opted for the Neptune. He is due to run at Exeter in approximately an hour’s time so that is likely to tell us more about where he will go next, hopefully it will be the longer distance race.
RULE THE WORLD
Sulamani (IRE) (11.9f) — Elaine Tully (IRE) (Persian Bold (10.4f))
Notes: Aside from Pont Alexandre this looks the horse with the best chance of victory in this race coming from Ireland. He would have won over three miles in November but for two costly errors towards the end of the race but he battled on admirably to be just edged out by Our Vinnie. Dropped back in trip for his next run he disposed of Joncol (150 rated chaser) with the minimum of fuss giving him 7lbs. He improved on that effort further when winning the Slaney Novices Hurdle in style from Minsk and Champagne Fever, with the latter since winning the Deloitte Novices Hurdle (Grade 1) at Leopardstown this weekend. It is hard to get away from the quality of his form, and the suggestion is that given his pedigree he will improve further for the better ground he is likely to encounter next month.
Melodic Rendezvous looks likely to head towards the Supreme Novices Hurdle instead of this assignment, although his run against Puffin Billy at Exeter is likely to tell us more – he is a high class horse though and although Tolworth winners historically don’t do well at Cheltenham in March he looks sure to run a race in whatever event he lines up in.
Chatterbox could end up going for this race and although he has beaten My Tent Or Yours, he has won two jog and sprints so the difference in pace and faster ground is going to be an unknown for this horse. I think he’d be a better prospect in the Supreme Novices but judging by the Betfair market he looks like taking a hand in this event.
Champagne Fever certainly looks like he needs further but he is heading for the Supreme Novices from what I’ve read.
Another tough race but it is what you come to expect really with these championship races now. Looking at the race from a class angle you’d have to be with Pont Alexandre given the manner of victory in his two performances to date, and his reputation at home in Ireland.
The one question I would have over Pont Alexandre is what would happen to him if he was taken on for the lead at Cheltenham? So far he has had it all his own way in front and this could be because he is just that much better than the remainder, but I don’t like taking short prices about horses I have questions marks over, albeit only small ones at that.
Puffin Billy would be a threat if he comes through Exeter unscathed and connections opted for this route, and I think Rule The World is another high-class recruit who could have a say in proceedings here.
However after looking through the form and with a liking for the course THE NEW ONE has to be my selection. I think the better ground anticipated will suit him, as will the larger field which will enable Sam Twiston-Davies to get cover for as long as possible on the run towards the last.
I think he’ll have come on plenty for that run last time in a mental capacity and he’ll be more battle ready for his big assignment of the season.
That’s what I think! What do you think?