Cheltenham Festival 2011 

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Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle

The Grade One Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (2.05pm) over two miles, five furlongs on Wednesday, March 16, has in recent times produced two horses that went on to win five Stan James Champion Hurdles between them - the great Istabraq (1997) and Hardy Eustace (2003).

Bobs Worth
© Grossick Racing Photography

Bobs Worth
Among the 96 entries for the 2011 contest is the Nicky Henderson-trained Bobs Worth who landed a four-timer over an extended two and a half miles at the course on Festival Trials Day, defeating the Paul Nicholls-trained Rock On Ruby by two and a quarter lengths with the previously undefeated Jonjo O’Neill-trained Grade One Challow Hurdle victor Backspin in fourth and the Alan King-trained Habbie Simpson third.

Henderson, seeking a first success in the race, has 11 entries in all. Minella Class easily landed the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Newbury, while Chablais made a winning hurdles debut at Kempton in January, Mossley took the three-mile Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in December when Prince Of Pirates was also successful, Problema Tic is unbeaten in four outings and Sprinter Sacre is a dual bumper winner.

The Emma Lavelle-trained Court In Motion was runner-up to Backspin in the Challow Hurdle but then slammed the opposition to land the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick in January.

Willie Mullins landed back-to-back wins in 2008 and 2009 with Fiveforthree and Mikael D’Haguenet, respectively. He has entered 14 contenders, headed by Grade One Royal Bond Hurdle winner Zaidpour, as well as recent Thurles winner Bishopsfurze, dual Grade Two winner Gagewell Flyer and impressive maiden hurdle victors So Young, Day Of A Lifetime, Dare To Doubt and Cottrelsbooley.

Also among the 39 Irish-trained entries is the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant, victorious from Zaidpour when winning the Grade One Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29.

Hidden Universe won the Grade One Champion Bumper at Punchestown in April and Dermot Weld’s charge made an easy winning debut over hurdles at Leopardstown in December, while Prunella Dobbs has entered the prolific mare, Our Girl Salley.

Jessica Harrington saddled Oscar’s Well to easily land the Grade One Navan Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles in December, while other Irish-trained contenders include the Terence O’Brien-trained Ballyadam Brook, Patrick Neville’s Grade Three winning mare Macville and the Morris-trained Grade Three juvenile hurdle winner Tillahow.

Philip Hobbs has entered Dare Me, unbeaten in two outings over hurdles, and the useful Dunraven Storm, while Nicholls has also entered recent Doncaster winner King Of The Night, Challow Hurdle third Al Ferof and Grade Two JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial third Indian Daudaie.

Megastar was a high-class bumper horse, winning a Grade Two contest at Aintree in April, and after making a winning debut over hurdles the Gary Moore-trained six-year-old has taken second to Rock On Ruby at Newbury and to Minella Class in Sandown’s Grade One Tolworth Hurdle. Stablemate Captain Kirkton has also been entered.

The King stable could run two-time Newbury winner Pride In Battle and Grade One Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle third Smad  Place. Others of note include the Tim Vaughan-trained Bottman and Spirit Of Adjisa, as well as Tornado Bob, whose trainer Donald McCain took the spoils in 2010.


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