Searching For Speed

Searching For Speed

Before turning to the runners, it’s worth looking at the nature of the Neptune as, to me, it’s the most inexplicable of all the conditions events at the Festival. A novice hurdle over a stiff 2m5f ought to be for potential stayers, (and before the Albert Bartlett was introduced 9 years ago, it was branded as such.) Yet the Neptune, rather than the Supreme, has been the trial for the following season’s Champion Hurdle, with The New One bidding to emulate the likes of Istabraq and Hardy Eustace.

Some have argued that the Neptune attracts better horses which is why it’s the better Champion Hurdle trial. I don’t buy that. Two of the great stayers of the modern era, Denman and Inglis Drever, were done for toe in this by inferior horses. For some reason you need a really fast horse for the Neptune – the evidence has been going on too long for it to be a statistical anomaly. I’ve come up with loads of theories over the years for why this is, each more unlikely than the last – so I’m just accepting the nature of the race as it is.

That should help us knock out some of the 14 quoted at shorter than 33/1. Vautour (16/1) is heading for the Supreme. The Wylie/Mullins pair Briar Hill (14/1) and Sure Reef (20/1) both look stayers. One might run in this to keep them apart, but Sure Reef may not travel, with Briar Hill going for the Albert Bartlett. Captain Cutter (25/1) won the Challow, (no winner of which has won the Neptune in the modern era). In typical Challow winner fashion, he looks a stayer and ought to run in the Albert Bartlett. Kings Palace (25/1) is favourite for the Albert Bartlett and is a highly unlikely runner.

The key horse to this race is Faugheen (3/1) who is known as ‘the monster’ at Closutton. He beat Tolworth runner up Josses Hill 22l on the bridle in a bumper in the spring and has bolted up in 3 hurdles. From what we’ve seen he’s the best horse in the race. However, his Achilles heel has been his jumping and he has no real experience of jumping at pace. Willie Mullins has reported he hasn’t been happy with him recently and its possible he could switch to either of the other novice Grade 1s. With all that, you have to take him on at this stage.

Nicky Henderson said in his start of season stable tour that he hoped Royal Boy (8/1) “was a top class horse in the making.” He’d disappointed until winning a maiden at Ascot just before Christmas. That was on soft ground over 2m6f but he took the drop down to 2m, and step up to Grade 1 company, in his stride when winning the Tolworth. He won a point on good ground and might well have the right blend of speed and stamina for the Neptune. However, the bare form of the Tolworth doesn’t look great and, whilst its not a stat to take too much notice of, no horse older than 6 has won this century. He’s been put up by Pricewise and the value has gone.

Red Sherlock (11/2) is unbeaten in 3 bumpers and 3 hurdles, and we don’t know how good he is. He was getting 3lb from Rathvinden when beating him 2¼l at Cheltenham. 3 recent winners of that race have won the Albert Bartlett, whilst 2 beaten horses have won the Neptune – indicating what a test of stamina it tends to be, especially when, as this season, its on testing ground. It’s hard to tell with an unbeaten horse, but I’m not sure he’ll be quick enough for the Neptune. More worrying is the fact that he again flashed his tail when given a crack of the whip and Tom Scudamore didn’t feel able to use the whip again. He looks far from straightforward and it’s pretty unlikely he can outclass this field on the bridle. I’m keen to oppose him.

Having backed Zamdy Man for the Supreme, I’ve obviously got a pretty positive view of Un Temps Pout Tout (16/1) who got within 1¾l of Zamdy Man at Haydock. Un Temps Pour Tout has since bolted up from a decent horse (132 rated Cole Harden) over an extended 2m3f at Ascot. I don’t know how accurate going descriptions are at Bordeaux but he beat Greatwood winner Dell’ Arca (who received 8lb) on officially good to soft ground there in May, which suggests he’s not just a mudlark. Winning a Festival handicap off 147 might well be more difficult than winning a Neptune but given the handicap route is under serious consideration he’s one I’d want to wait until declarations before backing for this.

Deputy Dan (16/1) took advantage of Rathvinden coming down at Warwick in a Grade 2, (2m5f, heavy). There are two concerns – the first is that his form has been on really bad ground and his breeding suggests he may need it. The second is that he may well run in the Albert Bartlett unless it comes up soft. If the ground was testing he comes right into this and would be one to consider nearer the time if that looked likely.

Ballyalton (20/1) is another whose form looked good in the autumn but has rather unravelled since. His defeats of Oscar Rock at Newcastle and Garde La Victoire at Cheltenham looked good at the time but both those horses have been well beaten since. Ballyalton himself was only 8½l 4th to Aubusson on bad ground at Cheltenham last month. Trainer Ian Williams said “whatever he does over hurdles is small fry as he’s an out and out chaser.” If he’d looked like he was a Festival novice hurdle winner he might be harder trained this season, but I doubt he is or that they’ll risk bottoming him this season.

Diamond King (25/1) has been kept to 3 small hurdles races this season at around 2m and would be unbeaten but for blundering at the last 2 runs ago. His form is nothing special and I couldn’t back him on what I’ve seen, but he’s an interesting wild card.

Lieutenant Colonel (20/1) looks set to be Gigginstown’s representative in this with Valseur Lido heading for the Supreme. He’s been brushed aside by Vautour and Wicklow Brave over 2m and whilst a step up in trip is sure to suit, he doesn’t look good enough to win a Neptune – he should come into his own as a novice chaser next season.

The likely shape of the Mullins novice hurdlers team is becoming clearer. Mullins said Vautour, Wicklow Brave and Valseur Lido are his likely 3 for the Supreme. With Faugheen seemingly set for the Neptune that leaves Rathvinden, Briar Hill and Sure Reef as Mullins other main contenders. The one I like is Rathvinden (16/1) who won an ordinary maiden over 2m and fell in a Grade 2 at Warwick, (still well there,) won by Deputy Dan. He then looked to be outstayed by Red Sherlock (who received 3lb) in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham, (extended 2m4f, heavy.) He was only beaten 2½l, so there’s little between them at level weights.

You’d therefore think they’d be similar prices but Red Sherlock is 6/1 and Rathvinden is 20/1 16/1. That would make sense if the test in the Neptune itself looked likely to favour Red Sherlock more, but I think the opposite is true. Rathvinden might be a similar type to Rock On Ruby and The New One, who were both outstayed in that race before winning the Neptune. Since joining Willie Mullins he’s raced only on testing ground but his breeding suggests he should be much better on good, (won bumper on good to firm).

Rathvinden looks a fast horse not a stayer to me and I think he’ll jump better on a sound surface. If Red Sherlock is 6/1, he should be about 9/1 and so he rates fantastic value at 16/1 and must be backed.

1pt Rathvinden e/w in the Neptune @ 16/1

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Cheltenham Countdown

Welcome to our exclusive betting blog focusing on the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.

For the third year running, we welcomed National Hunt expert Matt Tombs to blog all things Cheltenham through the winter. The highlight was Jezki's Champion Hurdle win, which was a vindication of a long-term plot and went some way to ensuring another Festival in profit. Click through to view the archive of 2012 and 2013.

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2014 Results:

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Western Boy - Supreme Novices - 1pt 20/1 - U/P

Zamdy Man - Supreme Novices - 1pt 33/1 - N/R

Ted Veale - Arkle - 1pt e/w 25/1 NRNB - U/P

Felix Yonger - Arkle - 1pt 16/1 - N/R

Jezki - Champion Hurdle - 1pt 12/1 - WON

Cockney Sparrow - Mares Hurdle - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Foxrock - National Hunt Chase - 1pt 9/2 - U/P

Gullinbursti - National Hunt Chase - 1pt 33/1 NRNB - N/R

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Rathvinden - Neptune Novices - 1pt e/w 16/1 - 3rd

Corrin Wood - RSA Chase - 1pt 14/1 - U/P

Ifandbutwhynot - Coral Cup - 1pt 28/1 - U/P

Arvika Ligeonniere - Champion Chase - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Balthazar King - Cross Country - 1pt 33/1 - WON

Modus - Champion Bumper - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

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Mozoltov - JLT Novices Chase - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Champagne Fever - JLT Novices Chase - 1pt 7/1 - N/R

Benefficient - Ryanair Chase - 1pt 9/2 - U/P

Baily Green - Ryanair Chase - 1pt e/w 20/1 NRNB - N/R

Salubrious - World Hurdle - 1pt e/w 25/1 - U/P

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Captain Cutter - Albert Bartlett - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Arctic Fire - County Hurdle - 1pt 16/1 - 2nd

The Giant Bolster - Gold Cup - 1pt 16/1 - 3rd

Dynaste - Gold Cup - 1pt 25/1 NRNB - N/R

Certain Flight - Foxhunter Chase - 1pt 20/1 NRNB - U/P

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Gigginstown - Top Owner - 1pt 7/1 - WON

Good Ground - Official Going - 1pt 10/1 - LOST

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Advised Bets:

Sizing Gold - Aon Novice Handicap Chase - 1pt 7/1 - U/P

On The Fringe - Champion Hunters Chase - 1pt 7/4 - WON

At Fishers Cross - World Series Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - 3rd

Balder Succes - Ryanair Novice Chase - 1pt 11/4 - 3rd

Art Of Logistics - Three.ie Handicap Chase - 1pt 12/1 - 2nd

Lyreen Legend - Punchestown Gold Cup - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Shanahan's Turn - Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle - 1pt e/w 33/1 - U/P

Mozoltov - Boylesports.com Champion Chase - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Western Boy - Champion Novice Hurdle - 1pt e/w 10/1 - U/P

Mullaghanoe River - Irish National - 1pt 18/1 - U/P

Mozoltov - Powers Gold Cup - 1pt 11/2 - U/P

Quito De La Roque - Grand National - 1pt 40/1 - U/P

Salubrious - Liverpool Hurdle - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Ted Veale - Maghull Chase - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Saint Are - Aintree Handicap Chase - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Ballynagour - Melling Chase - 1pt 7/1 - 3rd

King Of The Picts - Top Novices Hurdle - 1pt 33/1 - 3rd

Themanfrom Minella - Sefton Novices Hurdle - 1pt 50/1 - U/P

Giorgio Quercus - Topham Chase - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Dynaste - Betfred Bowl - 1pt 15/8 - 2nd

Turn Over Sivola - Red Rum Chase - 1pt 8/1 - 2nd

Uxizandre - Manifesto Novices Chase - 1pt 9/2 - WON

Mossey Joe - Aintree Fox Hunters - 1pt 13/8 - 3rd

Baby Shine - Reynoldstown Chase - 1pt 7/1 - U/P

Grumeti - Kingwell Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - U/P

Bog Warrior - Red Mills Chase - 1pt 9/4 - U/P

Lord Windermere - Irish Hennessy - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Vautour - Deloitte Novice - 1pt 2/1 - WON

Tammys Hill - Hunters Chase - 1pt e/w 5/1 - WON

Vendor - Betfair Hurdle - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Boston Bob - Cleeve Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - U/P

The Giant Bolster - Argento Chase - 1pt 7/1 - WON

Unioniste - Sky Bet Chase - 1pt 9/2 - 3rd

Hidden Cyclone - Clarence House Chase - 1pt 7/2 - 2nd

Captain Chris - WH Chase - 1pt 2/1 - WON

The Liquidator - Tolworth Hurdle - 1pt 5/2 - U/P

Lord Windermere - Lexus Chase - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Hey Big Spender - Welsh National - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Shantou Magic - Challow Hurdle - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Morning Assembly - Topaz Novice Chase - 1pt 9/4 - 2nd

Cue Card - King George - 1pt 7/2 - 2nd

My Tent Or Yours - Christmas Hurdle - 1pt 5/4 - WON

Defy Logic - Racing Post Novice Chase - 1pt 6/1 - WON

Salubrious - Long Walk Hurdle - 1pt 9/1 - 2nd

Totalize - The Ladbroke - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Ma Filleule - December Gold Cup - 1pt 20/1 - U/P

Prince De Beauchene - Hennessy Gold Cup - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Grumeti - Fighting Fifth - 1pt e/w 10/1 - 3rd @ 9/1

Sizing Rio - Drinmore - 1pt 5/2 - U/P @ 3/1

Jezki - Hatton's Grace - 1pt Evens - WON

Roi Du Mee - Betfair Chase - 1pt e/w 20/1 - U/P

Ballynagour - Paddy Power Gold Cup - 1pt 8/1 - U/P

Gift Of Dgab - Paddy Power Gold Cup - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Cash And Go - Greatwood Hurdle - 1pt 13/2 - U/P

Cotton Mill - Elite Hurdle - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Cue Card - Haldon Gold Cup - 2pts 11/8 - U/P

Benefficient - Charlie Hall Chase - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Sizing Europe - JNwine Champion Chase - 1pt 3/1 - 2nd