The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle has a pristine roll of honour that includes some of the greats of National Hunt racing. A race for young, up and coming types it’s been a stepping stone on to bigger and better things, for hurdlers and chasers.
2.00 Aintree – Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle
Ten runners go to post for the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle and after looking at the race it looks a tough one to crack. This coupled with prices that appear on the skinny side means it’s probably a no bet race.
A mouth-watering race is once again in store in the 2013 Arkle Novice Chase. A race down the years, on paper, has always delivered. In action, it’s rarely disappointed. No better sight in jumps racing will you see than top two mile chasers, racing at speed jumping proper fences.
Here’s hoping, but it’s already shaping up to be a superior Champion Hurdle this coming March than the previous year. A number of horses look to have returned to form, some are back from injury and as ever, we have the young pretenders hoping to step-up and challenge their elders.
The four day festival bonanza, as ever, will kick off with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the Tuesday. Historically a hugely competitive race finding the winner in the opener is tough, but if nabbed it could be the start of an excellent four days. A big field is nearly guaranteed which should add to the tension and action.
A horse who was written off by plenty coming into the season, but bounced right back to form when winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup off 159. It was a huge performance in one of the year’s most competitive handicaps. He gave the 2012 RSA fifth, Walk On, 14 pounds and a three length beating. It was a monster effort. Last season started off in good style winning a Grade Two at Cheltenham before winning the Grade One King Henry VIII at Sandown, beating For Non Stop (distance flattered the second) who has given the form a solid look.
Art Of Logistics
I’m very much still learning in this game and so may be wrong here, but I’m not sure I’ve heard Dessie Hughes ever really talk-up a horse of his in bold terms. He did with this well-bred son of Exit To Nowhere however, when the four-year-old won his bumper at the small track of Roscommon.
1.30 Cheltenham – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
As ever the Supreme will be met by the famous Cheltenham roar as these two mile novices kick off the four day festival. A current theme in recent years has been short priced favourites being turned over so many will be out to get the 2013 hotpot, My Tent Or Yours. That said very few favourites have come into the race with as high a rating as him. All his form has been on flat tracks, but I see no reason why this classy sort shouldn’t handle Cheltenham.
Still a little bit of an unknown quantity even after his recent third to Zarkandar in the Elite Hurdle. He’s not in the same class as Zarkandar, but if kept to the right races in soft conditions he’ll prove competitive. The key to this horse could well be soft ground. Genuinely soft should be perfect for him and the times we saw him last year with plenty give underfoot he was convincing on a number of occasions.
At this early stage of his career Aidan O’Brien is already the most winning trainer of the Irish 2000 Guineas. Seven wins with the likes of Rock Of Gibraltar and Henrythenavigator mean whatever he runs has to be taken seriously. The Master of Ballydoyle has won four of the last ten runnings and has had seven placed horses to boot – in 2001 the Wexford native saddled the first three home.
The Roy Hodgson era begins on Saturday as the former West Brom coach takes charge of England for the first time. His first outing is a tricky away fixture in Norway who are an excellent 12/5 chance to give our boys ‘one hell of a beating’.
The Champions League final takes centre stage this Saturday as Bayern Munich face Chelsea. If Chelsea can manage to scrape a side together – remember that many of their first choice players are injured or suspended – they are 10/3 to win their first European Cup. Bayern Munich have home advantage but were humbled 5-2 by Borussia Dortmund in last week’s German Cup final.