The Neptune Novices Hurdle is a race for novices’ run over a distance of 2 miles 5 furlongs, and despite its distance it has proven a rich source of producing future Champion Hurdle winners, even more so than the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle which is run over the same distance as the Champion Hurdle.
Faugheen, Hardy Eustace, Istabraq are three examples of those who went on to success in the Champion after winning the Neptune the year previous, and horses such as Rock On Ruby went on to success in the Champion Hurdle despite being beaten in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle the previous year.
Cheltenham 2016 – Neptune Novices Hurdle Contenders
Norse Dancer (IRE) — Yota (FR) (Galetto (FR))
Notes: The “Orange Machine” as he is affectionately known in a few spheres, he had continued his progression into the hurdles game and has looked even better with each outing. The manner in which he simply destroyed his rivals in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle at the end of January was simply devastating, and if he turns up in the same form next week then he is going to take some beating – the one they all have to beat, rightful favourite.
A Toi Phil
Day Flight — Lucidrile (FR) (Beyssac (FR))
Notes: A six-year-old Day Flight gelding who we haven’t seen much of so far, but seemed to find considerable improvement for the step up to this sort of distance at Leopardstown at the end of January. The horse he beat has won again since and the manner in which he beat him was most impressive, and that’s before we even mention the slickness of his hurdling throughout the race. On the evidence of his most recent run he is a major player.
Notnowcato — Latanazul (Sakhee (USA))
Notes: Has run up a sequence of six victories on the bounce after finishing second on debut over hurdles, and heads here very much still underrated, which is a rare thing for a Willie Mullins horse these days. He seems versatile where trip is concerned having won over both the minimum distance and the Neptune trip, to be honest he doesn’t have many negatives and should he line up he looks sure to run a big race for his powerhouse connections.
Presenting — Lightning Breeze (IRE) (Saddlers´ Hall (IRE))
Notes: Difficult to tell which race they will go for with this guy at the moment, although recent support and vibes suggest a tilt at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle the more likely option. He is undefeated so far in four starts under rules, and hasn’t really been tested either to see the extent of his ability. If he lines up in the Neptune you’d have to consider him a major player.
King´s Theatre (IRE) — Fairy Native (IRE) (Be My Native (USA))
Notes: Hasn’t impressed me with his hurdling technique so far, he makes far too many mistakes for my liking and in the top grade that can often be the difference between success and defeat. Was the antepost favourite for this race for a good couple of months over the winter period, but a combination of the impressive victories of Yanworth, and defeat in the Deloitte saw him usurped at the head of the market.
Bleu Et Rouge improved for the step-up in distance when winning the Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle at Leopardstown a month ago. He looks more likely to run in the Albert Bartlett looking at the exchanges, were he to line up here he would be of interest.
O O Seven a winner of three of his four hurdles starts to date, found only Yorkhill too good when runner-up to that rival at Sandown at the start of January. Had to battle to a gritty success over three-miles at Musselburgh when last seen a month ago, and the form of his races so far suggest he needs to find improvement to figure here.
Both Shantou Village and Barters Hill look certain to line up in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at this stage.
Itsafreebee has strung together a sequence of three wins on the bounce, and showing considerable improvement for the switch to Dan Skelton in his latest two starts. Those two victories both came at Haydock, which is a completely different test to Cheltenham altogether but it would be unwise to discount the capabilities of his trainer, and should they go for this race you have to give them respect.
Thomas Hobson looks more likely to go for the Albert Bartlett at this stage also.
To be honest it’s hard not to like Yanworth at the head of the market. He has done absolutely nothing wrong in his starts over hurdles so far, and just a repeat of his most recent victory at the track would be good enough to win this.
If you’re happy taking the shorter prices then the 5/4 on offer with PaddyPower, WilliamHill and Betway, I couldn’t put you off but the green and gold silks always give me nightmares when I’m having a bet, and my gut is telling me to look elsewhere.
The one which clearly sticks out is A TOI PHIL who looks an outstanding each-way bet against the favourite. His lovely athletic hurdling last time will stand him in good stead for this race and there is a feeling that Willie Mullins still hasn’t unlocked his full potential with just two starts under his belt.
At the current price of 7/1, you’re essentially getting 7/4 he finishes in the first three which represents a better value bet to me than backing Yanworth to win it.