14:05 Cheltenham – Monksland can edge close Neptune finale
The defection of Boston Bob to the Albert Bartlett has robbed Ireland of their leading hope for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle, but Monksland can prove more than an able deputy to land the spoils at 9/2.
Ireland can count the Neptune as one of their favoured Festival contests in recent years, as they have been responsible for four winners in the last six renewals.
Monksland is now their leading hope and arrives at Cheltenham on the back of three solid victories and he looked particularly useful when landing a Grade Two cosily at Naas in January.
Furthermore, there is the small consensus that he may prove better than Boston Bob in any case, given the beating he gave to Lyreen Legend, who had previously finished much closer to the Albert Bartlett contender.
An enthralling finish beckons to the Neptune, given that Monksland is unlikely to be the only challenger on the bridle swinging into the home straight.
Favourite Simonsig is a notable strong traveller and the fact that he has plenty of speed is backed up by how close he as to competing in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
However, 5/2 is a short price for a horse that is not guaranteed to see out the 2m4f trip and comes from a Nicky Henderson yard that has never won the race from 22 runners since 1990.
Another strong traveller is Alan King’s Batonnier at 6/1 and although he has consistently improved all season, a horse that has won just once in eight starts is a negative.
It pays to stick with the market leaders as 24 of the last 26 Neptune winners have come from the top six in the Cheltenham betting.
Sous Les Cieux is the other horse prominent in the betting at 6/1 and could appreciate the step up in trip having been campaigned over shorter for the majority of the season.