What is the best bets for Neptune Novices' Hurdle?
13:30 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, 2m5f
Last year’s 1-2-3: Windsor Park (9/2), Parlour Games (13/2), Nichols Canyon (7/2) – 10 ran.
This race houses the shortest-priced favourite of the entire meeting (with most firms) and many people’s idea of a banker bet in the shape of the Alan King-trained Yanworth, who arrives here unbeaten in four hurdle starts. A smart bumper performer who was good enough to finish fourth in last season’s Champion Bumper, giving him that all-important festival form, and he was most impressive when dismissing some smart rivals out of sight on Trials Day here over 2m41/2f. The seven-length second Shantou Village was previously unbeaten and is favourite for the Albert Bartlett and the fourth, Chef D’Ouevre, has won since, so the form is rock-solid, albeit the winning time was very slow. There were question marks over his stamina before the race but he was strong up the hill on testing ground and he seems to stay well. It will take a good one to lower his colours. Top price: 5/4 Paddy Power (NRNB).
Who else is fancied?
It was 7/1 bar the favourite a couple of days ago but an 11th hour change of heart from Willie Mullins has seen his Yorkhill switch to this contest from the shorter Supreme, and he’s now no bigger than 9/4. Unbeaten in four starts under Rules, the six-year-old has shown plenty of gears over the minimum trip, including when winning a strong Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle when last seen, but he showed he stayed further when winning his maiden hurdle over 2m4f. The fact connections have opted to take on the ‘supposed’ banker Yanworth indicates he must have been working like a dream in the run-up.
Mullins is leaving nothing to chance, though, as he is also represented by A Toi Phil and he clearly has an engine too judged on his impressive success in a 2m4f Leopardstown Grade 2 last time. He was given a very positive ride by Bryaan Cooper on that occasion and, with stamina beyond question (he’d probably get 3m) I’d expect something similar here.
And the rest?
Willie Mullins Bleu Et Rouge, and Thomas Hobson, but of more interest is Nicky Henderson’s O O Seven, who was no match for Yorkhill in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown but has since won over 3m at Musselburgh. He looks an each-way player.
Trainer quote: “He’s a very exciting horse. I’m convinced he’ll be better still on quicker ground and would be one of the value bets among our team. You certainly haven’t seen the best of him yet.
Best bookie offer?
Sky Bet are refunding all losing bets on this race as a free bet up to £25, so you can bet with some confidence, and Paddy Power are refunding losing stakes on the second horse home in the same way.
What’s the verdict?
The race surrounds the fate of Yanworth and he is the most likely winner, though I’m taking him on and not just because he’s a very short price (a good enough reason). For one he will be racing on faster ground than he’s used to – he was beaten on good ground at last year’s festival – and the way this race is run may not suit. It’s conventionally a slow-early/fast-late race and he looks ripe for getting done for a turn of foot up the hill. Well, that’s the theory. I was all set to take him on (each-way) with A Toi Phil but Mullins has thrown the cat among the pigeons by declaring YORKHILL and, while his price has since crashed (understandably) he can justify the strong market confidence and give his unstoppable trainer another festival winner.
SELECTION: Yorkhill @ 9/4 Sky Bet (money back if he loses)