Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1)
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The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle is a Grade 1 for novice hurdlers, run over 2 miles and 5 furlongs. Won recently by horses including Simonsig, The New One and Faugheen, it is often a stepping stone to the next year’s Champion Hurdle.
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The betting trends for the Neptune Novices Hurdle are as follows:
- 10 of the last 10 winners were aged either 5 or 6 years old
- 10 of the previous 10 winners placed on their last start before the Neptune Novices Hurdle, with 7 of them winners
- 9 of the last 10 winners had previously run in a National Hunt Flat race.
- 8 of the last 10 winners had won over 2 miles 3 furlongs or further over hurdles already.
- 7 of the previous 10 winners had 3 or more starts over Hurdles.
- Only 1 of the last 10 winners had Flat experience (Windsor Park who was also a bumper horse)
Willie Mullins is the only multiple winning trainer of this race in the last 10 years, taking the prize in 2008, 2009, 2014 and 2016, and making him the leading trainer. Ruby Walsh rode all four Willie Mullins’ winners, while Davy Russell has also won this race twice – on First Lieutenant in 2011 and then 2015 on Windsor Park.
Trends Analysis: Horses with experience over the Neptune distance of 2 miles 3 furlongs or further appear to dominate runnings, so looking for something with proven stamina is prudent. Experience is important as normal, while the number of previous NHF runners suggests a turn of foot is beneficial. Keep an eye on the Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle in February which can often be an important trial race.
If you want a “Who’s Who” of hurdlers, look no further than the winners of this race with Istabraq, Peddlars Cross, Simonsig, The New One, and Faugheen all scoring here before going on to bigger and better things. Only time will tell if 2017 is a vintage year and produces such a high class hurdler for the future.
The antepost favourite after dismantling a talented field in the Tolworth Hurdle, it isn’t hard to see why Finian’s Oscar is now a best priced 11/2 for the race. Winner of his first start over timber with ease at Hereford in December, he marched to Sandown and made a mockery of his rivals, quickening clear between the final two flights in stylish fashion. Colin Tizzard is having a remarkable time of it at the moment and he now has another stable star on his hands, with the sky seemingly the limit for this 5 year old by Oscar, as even Tizzard himself was amazed by the performance: “He’s a beautiful young horse, but we didn’t know he was going to do that.” Winning his point to point on good ground and his latest two on softer, ground is not a factor that will worry him. Stepping back up in trip will also be a likely plus with how easily he won on his hurdling debut at Hereford and when all is analysed, it is not hard to build a case for this potential high class horse, as Tizzard set out the plans for the rest his season in an interview after the Tolworth and hinting at the Neptune as a possible target: “He probably will run again and then go for one of the races at Cheltenham. He could go any trip, I think the easiest option is to go two-and-a-half, but he’s got the speed for two and he stays.”
Favourite for the Albert Bartlett and now best priced 8/1 for this race, Death Duty has proved himself to also be a smart horse. Gordon Elliott’s 6 year old is now a multiple graded winner after his latest Grade 1 success at Naas and although possibly fortunate that a smart Willie Mullins horse came down at the last when challenging, in all probability he would have held her with Jack Kennedy still not fully animated. Another horse where anything seems possible at present, he travels supremely well through his races and Bryan Cooper was quoted as saying his jumping ‘kills’ other horses in an interview after his Navan success: “His jumping kills other horses, and he gets four lengths at a hurdle when another horse might get two. Shane McCann rides him in all his work, and he told me that he has more gears than you think“. The Neptune Hurdle is usually a stamina heavy race and this horse seems to have it in abundance, galloping on strongly to line in all of his completed starts over hurdles this season. He’ll need softer ground to show his best form but he is a worthy candidate for the race as he bids to continue Gordon Elliott’s impressive season, and give him a first win in the race.
Documented as one of our Dark Horses for the 2016/17 campaign, Messire Des Obeaux has gone from strength to strength this season. Dispatching the Champion Bumper winner Ballyandy at Sandown in a Grade 2 in December, he was an impressive winner of the Challow Hurdle at Newbury on his latest start. Proving to be extremely progressive, he seems to be going from strength to strength for Alan King and is yet to find a challenge to difficult for him this season. He travels supremely well through his races and keeps up the gallop well, giving his opponents no chance of battling back and is a formidable force at present. Alan King is yet to win the Neptune Hurdle and his 5 year old by Saddler Maker will certainly give him a huge chance, with his stamina assured and a bold bid almost guaranteed.
Putting his unbeaten record on the line, Invitation Only was unable to continue his roll when losing out to Death Duty in a Grade 2 at Navan in December. He obviously lost nothing in defeat as that rival went on to win a Grade 1 a few weeks later, but he was a shade disappointing as the odds on favourite. In any case that effort was still a progression on his hurdling debut where he was an easy winner at Gowran Park. Still jumping questionably at times, he will need to improve that if he wants to be challenging the market principles. What isn’t a concern is his stamina, as a winner of a three point to points at Ballynoe before joining Willie Mullins, with the second of that race going on to win another point to point in impressive fashion. There is no question he will need to improve before the Festival if he wants to feature but that is highly probable and Cheltenham should suit him, as tougher test of stamina will surely bring out more improvement from him.
Being given 7lb by Messire Des Obeaux was not enough for Champion Bumper winner Ballyandy to take victory in the Challow Hurdle at Sandown in December. Although travelling well throughout the race, he was unable to see off the attentions of the Alan King horse and now after three attempts over hurdles, he still remains a maiden. Unable to live up to his Champion Bumper form, he has been quite the disappointment this season and seems to be lacking a final change of gear which is preventing him from getting his head in front. Still with time on his side and scope for progress, he does need to show something extra on the lead up to the Festival to prove that will be able to compete at Grade 1 level over timber. Nigel Twiston-Davies has won this race three times in the past and will be hoping that his 6 year old can add a fourth and tie him on the honour roll with Willie Mullins.
Considering that he was only 3 lengths behind Death Duty in a Grade 2 at Navan in December, Monalee‘s best price of 25/1 could be underestimating his potential. Only twice raced over hurdles thus far, he comfortably beat some useful rivals under hands and heels at Punchestown on hurdling debut before his creditable effort at Navan. A likely pace angle in the race, he is a strong galloper who wears his heart on his sleeve and also seems quite progressive on past evidence. A track like Cheltenham should suit him as a stamina test would certainly bring out the best in him and force his rivals to dig deep to get past him.
Five-year-old Peddlers Cross took the 2010 renewal of the Neptune Novices Hurdle for trainer Donald McCain Jr. and jockey Jason Maguire.
Nine horses had real chances with five furlongs to travel and it was eventual second Reve De Sivola who usurped the long time leader at the head of the field with two to jump. Peddlers Cross got the better of the last and emerged the one-and-a-half length winner – that win would be the horse’s second victory of a seven race unbeaten streak.
First Lieutenant would get the better of Rock On Ruby by a short head a year later in what would be one of the closest finishes in the history of the race. Paul Nicholls’ runner up tracked the Mouse Morris charge throughout, before battling hard to victory following the second from home
Nicky Henderson’s favourite Simonsig would secure the race in the following season for the Lambourn yard, a stunning victory in the 2012 Neptune Novices Hurdle that saw the grey seven lengths clear of Felix Yonger in a strung out field.
It was the turn of The New One in the 2013 Neptune Novices Hurdle, the horse taking the plaudits in a small field of eight. In the opening stages the representative of Sam and Nigel Twiston-Davies settled in third, tracking the favourite Pont Alexandre who was looking to make all and Ubak who ran just off the pace.
The New One raced upsides Taquin Du Seuil throughout but fell behind this horse and a host of other rivals with lukewarm jumps over the third- and second-last. Despite this, Twiston-Davies pulled his charge wide and challenged the favourite just before the last, he would be followed through by Rule The World as he ran out the four length winner.
2014 was the year of Faugheen to win the Neptune Novices Hurdle impressively. The six-year-old grabbed Ruby Walsh’s third winner of this race in the colours of Rich Ricci, Walsh held Faugheen at the head of the main body of the field, Cole Harden and Creepy setting the pace. Despite mistakes at four and three out, he took the league over the second last and won by four and a half lengths.
It was no surprise to see Willie Mullins saddle the favourite for this race in 2015, with Nichols Canyon being sent off 7/2 favourite, narrowly ahead of Willie Mullins’ second string Outlander at 4/1. They could only manage 3rd and 6th respectively though as Windsor Park won the race by over 3 lengths, left in splendid isolation by a terrible mistake by Nicky Henderson’s Vyta Du Roc at the last.
Willie Mullins became the top trainer for the race in 2016 when Yorkhill saw off the challenge of Yanworth in what was an absolute thriller. Sent off 3/1, he showed a lot of determination to hang on from the favourite who was possibly given a poor enough ride by Barry Geraghty on the day it has to be said. Take nothing away from the winner who returned at an SP of 3/1.
Of the 118 horses currently declared for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, these are the most important potential runners:
- Death Duty
- Neon Wolf
- Finian’s Oscar
- Peregrine Run
- Messire Des Obeaux
- Baltazar D’Allier
- Consul De Thaix
- Blood Crazed Tiger
- Peter The Mayo Man
- The Storyteller
- Crack Mome
- Le Martalin
- Beyond Conceit
- Chateau Conti
- Invitation Only
- Geordie Des Champs
- Keep In Line
- Laser Light
- Bunk Off Early
- High Bridge
- Thomas Campbell
- Catamaran Du Seuil