The Neptune Investment Management Novices´ Hurdle has traditionally been a race that has been dominated by the horses at the head of the betting, and Bluesq make Nicky Henderson’s Simonsig top odds of 5/2.
It’s is very unusual for any horse outside the first six in the betting to feature in the first three even, with no horse bigger than 10/1 being able to finished placed in the race since Velanmar (11/1) in 2008.
That means you can automatically put a line through 14 of the 19 runners in your search for some each-way value as those horses are likely to go off at double figure prices.
The one to keep an eye on is the Alan King-trained Bationnier, who has shown rapid improvement in his second season over the hurdles. He is able to compete in novice races due to the fact he failed to break his maiden tag.
Three winners since 1986 have been second season hurdlers Ten Plus, Gaelstrom and Massini’s Maguire, so it’s not an impossible challenge awaiting the King runner, especially considering the form he brings to the table.
He had still been maiden before his last run at Cheltenham Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle trial where he blitzed a high-class field in a style of a horse that is very much on the upgrade. It will be hard to keep him out of the first three.
Another who looks a solid each-way bet against the weak favourite, Simonsig, is the Willie Mullins second string Make Your Mark, who has been highly regarded by the Mullins team for a while now and Cheltenham success is the least they expect from the classy individual.
Davy Russell has been booked for the ride as Ruby Walsh has elected to ride Sous Les Cieux, who is seen as the Mullins first string. However, the second string is very lightly raced and you can put a line through his last run where the ground was far too soft behind Boston Bob.
The fresh conditions at Cheltenham should bring the best out of this stayer.