Cheltenham Festival News 2010 

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Weld Star Looks Just the Rite Answer

With so many lightly raced or unknown quantities in the race, the Neptune Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival could prove to be one of the toughest non-handicap races to solve, writes Elliot Slater.

Dual champion Hardy Eustace

Hardy Eustace

The two-mile-five-furlong novices' event has been won by some very high class horses over the years and proved a stepping stone to greatness for triple champion hurdler Istabraq and dual champion Hardy Eustace.

This season's renewal promises to be an exciting affair with another raft of potentially high class performers in the line-up, of these Dermot Weld's Rite Of Passage currently heads the ante-post market at a best priced 5/1.

The six-year-old son of the mighty Giant's Causeway was sent off favourite for last season's Cheltenham Festival Bumper, and although he ran well to finish third he proved no match Dunguib. Switching codes to race on the flat this autumn, Rite of Passage won impressively on his debut at Ballinrobe before routing a good field of handicappers in winning the Leopardstown November Handicap by a wide margin.

Returning to Leopardstown to make his hurdling bow in late January, Weld's gelding once again showed what a talented performer he is when, despite meeting interference in running, he showed a good technique and eventually won easily to justify his odds-on starting price.

Connections are keen to give their charge one more outing before heading to Cheltenham where he is likely to be taken on by unbeaten British hope Quantitativeeasing, trained by Nicky Henderson, fellow Irish hope Quel Esprit from the Willie Mullins' stable, and Nick Williams' Reve De Sivola, conqueror of the highly regarded Restless Harry last time out.

The Neptune Novices Hurdle looks one of the most competitive of the whole Festival meeting and the National Hunt steeple chase odds reflect this.

However, the unexposed Rite Of Passage is surely going to prove a tough nut to crack and he may be a worth backing with any free bet Cheltenham race goers might have.

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