Sprinter Sacre’s dramatic run may still be in the minds of punters but Day Two of the Cheltenham Festival features a whole host of top grade races.
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Nicky Henderson has a wretched record in the Neptune Investment Management Novices´ Hurdle but Simonsig look set to break a duck that has stretched back 22 runners.
Not only have none of them been succesfull but only two of them have been able to finish in the top ten since 1990.
Many people believe the reason behind this poor record lies in the fact that Henderson is usually sent speedy horses to train rather than battle-hardened chasers in the making, which is usually the type to prevail in the Neptune.
Additionally, not many horses win this on the bridle and Henderson is well renowned for not pushing his younger horses hard in their work in order to keep them fresh for a career over fences.
Simonsig does however fit tick a lot of the trends required for this race, the standout being his age. Six-year-olds have held sway in this race in recent seasons; they would have had a 1-2-3 last year if Oscars Well hadn’t suffered a race ending stumble at the last whilst they recorded a 1-2-3-4-5 in 2008.
He also has won a Pattern race this season, which 12 of the last 14 winners had achieved, but so has his rivals at the head of the market – most of whom are Irish trained.
The Emerald isle have won four of the last six renewals, two of them being trained by Willie Mullins, who sends over Sous Les Cieux and Make Your Mark this season.
Monksland, trained by Noel Meade, has also been shipped over from Ireland but has also run twice over hurdles, which will count him as 22 of the last 25 winners have had at least three runs over hurdles.
Plenty of hurdling experience also has been key, and three winners in the last 26 years have been second season hurdlers since 1986, which gives Batonnier, trained by Alan King, a positive look to his chances.