The Neptune Novices Hurdle is perhaps the most important novice hurdle of the National Hunt season, behind only the Supreme Novices Hurdle the day before.
On Ladies Day at Cheltenham, a top quality field lines up for this Grade 1 contest over two miles and five furlongs. The Harry Fry trained Neon Wolf was massively impressive at Haydock last time out, beating a good field easily over two miles. He is a 5/2 top price with a few bookmakers and obviously has a big chance on ratings.
Neptune Novice Hurdle?— OLBG UK ?? (@OLBG) March 8, 2017
Neon Wolf 5/2
Finians Oscar 5/1
Lets Dance 8/1
Death Duty 10/1
Messire Des Obeaux 12/1
Second in the best Cheltenham free bets selection is the intriguing contender Finian’s Oscar, a huge bay gelding who is unbeaten in three starts under rules and is held in the highest regard by Colin Tizzard. This five-year-old son of Oscar appears to have the racing world at his feet in terms of visual impact, but his form hasn’t been stacking up very well and he too needs to prove he handles this track. At 5/1, he will have loads of supporters.
It’s no secret that Willie Mullins doesn’t have a vintage crop of novice hurdlers, but what he does have is a selection of solid, talented youngsters and once such horse is Barcardys. He has been learning his trade steadily but nicely in Ireland this season and is a strong each-way bet at odds of 6/1 with 32Red.
This six-year-old was a close-up third in the Champion Bumper on Cheltenham Ladies Day last year, so we know he handles this track very well. He fell on his hurdling debut at Cork in November, but bounced back to get off the mark at Leopardstown over the Christmas period under Ruby Walsh.
Bacardys goes Neptune 'at the moment'.— Paddy Power Racing (@pphorseracing) March 8, 2017
Last time out in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle, Bacardys graduated to near the head of the novice hurdle pile in Ireland with a brave and gutsy success over Bunk Off Early and Brelade, two fine prospects in their own right.
That was over two miles and two furlongs on soft ground and he was doing his best work at the finish, so this step up in trip looks certain to suit, even though he doesn’t lack speed.