This year’s Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle looks set to be a real blockbuster with the best of British and Ireland going head-to-head for festival glory.
Ante-post favourite Pont Alexandre looks a real classy hurdler and punters will feel even more confident about their backing this five-year-old, with trainer Willie Mullins, claiming this is his best chance of festival success. A bold statement, especially when you think he has Quevega (as short as 1/2) to continue her festival winning streak.
His class is there for all to see. He has bags of speed and combines that speed in his jumping and looks a real stayer. You don’t really look for much more in a race like this.
He smashed his rivals on debut at Navan, coming home 13 lengths ahead of Busty Brown. The odds on favourite Don Cossack fell at the last in that race but it would not have stopped Pont Alexandre from slamming him.
He is not the only Irish chance in this race with Jonjo O’Neill trained Taquin Du Seuil 6/1 and Rule The World 10/1, emphasising the Irish stronghold on this race.
Taquin Du Seuil will be the mount of champion jockey AP McCoy and although his all round speed and jumping don’t stand out as much as other rivals, he has quietly gone about his business and picked up the coverted Grade One Challow Hurdle.
Trainer Jonjo O’Neill thinks the world of this six-year-old but he had no answers to My Tent Or Yours pace on his second run and only loss of the season.
However, despite that defeat, O’Neill believes he has improved leaps and bounds since we last saw him and that he’ll have his star novice in tip top condition come the festival. Another plus point is how versatile he is with the ground. With unpredictability surrounding the ground going at The Festival, that will prove in his favour.
Despite the Irish having three of the top four in the betting, the race is by no means going to Ireland as The New One holds massive claims on behalf of Britain.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained five-year-old looks the real deal despite a ¼ length defeat by At Fishers Cross on heavy ground at Cheltenham last month.
He will have definitely learnt more from that race and improve for it. Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies probably went slightly too early on him and on another day, on better ground, would have gone on to win easily.
Last year’s Champion Bumper sixth followed up that festival ride with an emphatic win over My Tent Or Yours at Aintree on Grand National day. Bearing in mind My Tent Or Yours emphatic Betfair Hurdle win last month, that form looks very good.
Twiston-Davies regards this five-year-old as potentially one of the best he has trained and a win in this race come the festival will set him on his way to potential greatness.
Puffin Billy (12/1) was beaten last time out by Melodic Rendezvous. Connections suggested there were genuine excuses but he looked well beaten for most of that race and will have to improve immensely to challenge.
Chatterbox (14/1) is a very interesting one, should he run, as he holds some potentially tremendous form yet is a large price considering.
Unbeaten in his three starts but gave out a thumping to a somewhat under-par stablemate, My Tent Or Yours. The form obviously stands out but is dismissed by many as the race time was run extremely slowly. However, with the weather the way it has being, it is hardly surprising that that was the case.
This race is so close I have personally changed my mind three times in the space of a couple of weeks. Off first impressions my allegiances lied with Taquin Du Seuil after I was very impressed with the way he went about his win in the Challow Hurdle.
However, backed into 6/1 from 12’s since tipped by Pricewise leaves me thinking he is now too short.
Pont Alexandre looks set to go off a short priced favourite with money continuing to come for Willie Mullins’ star. He looks as bomb proof as it gets looking at his performances in Ireland and that is backed up by his trainer’s confidence.
Many have compared Pont Alexandre to the great Denman and you can see why. He looks like he will go on to be a potential staying chaser as he looks blessed with staying ability. However, should you look further into the comparisons with Denman, you’ll see that Denman went on to lose this race and that is what I see happening to Pont Alexandre.
The horse that will deliver this defeat will be The New One. I was super impressed with this five-year-old on his first three victories over hurdles, but I was even more impressed the way it was defeated by At Fishers Cross at Cheltenham.
Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies let him go at an area of the course that is avoided by most on heavy ground but he simply kicked away at phenomenal speed. Should Twiston-Davies have got another chance he’d have held on longer and I’m certain he’d have won very easily.
Winner: The New One (4/1 William Hill)
Each Way: Chatterbox (14/1 Ladbrokes)