The Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle: What It Is, History, Analysis

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The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle is one of the newer races to take place at the Cheltenham Festival. It was initially known as the Aldsworth Hurdle and the first running was in 1971, a race won by Midsprite. The 2 mile 5 furlong race is run round Cheltenham’s Old Course, and is open to novice hurdlers four years and older. It is a non-handicap race, so horses five years and older have to carry 11st 7lbs, while four-year-olds have to go round with 10st 12lbs. Fillies also get a 7lbs allowance. For most horse racing fans, the race will be best known as the Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle, which continued until 2006. It is the first race to take place on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Being a novice hurdle, it is, of course, open to any horse which had not won over hurdles prior to this season. Due to its nature as a leading novice hurdle race, it has also proven to be the platform for some of the great hurdlers of the past 40 years. In fact, argually the greatest Champion Hurdle winner of all-time, the three-time winner Istabraq, won the 1997 running of the Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle, before winning his first Champion Hurdle in 1998. Hardy Eustace won the race in 2003, before going on to win the Champion Hurdle in 2004 and 2005. Simonsig went a slightly different direction, winning in 2012, then going on to win the Arkle in 2013. So it’s safe to say that, especially in recent years, some classy horses have come out of the this novices’ hurdle.

Good recent form is key in this race, with the majority of winners being in the first two in their last run before Cheltenham. It is not a race where shock results tend to happen – winners are usually classy horses with good form behind them coming into the Cheltenham Festival. It is also a race where five-and-six-year-olds dominate, with only 3 four year-olds winning the race, the last one being Crystal Spirit back in 1991 (the others being Sabin du Loir in 1983 and Fealty in 1984). One eight year-old has won the race, but you have to go back to 1974 and Brown Lad. This is, obviously, that many horses will race as four year-olds in Bumpers, then go to novice hurdling the year after, so it makes sense that five year-olds and six year-olds have the most success, as it’s rare for a four-year-old to go straight into hurdling and be a huge success.

The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, as you can tell from the distance, is all about stamina, but the race also favours speedy horses, with success in the Champion Hurdle pointing to the fact that, in recent years, horses that can win at the highest grade over two miles are the likely winners of this race. If the race is won comfortably, look for this year’s winner to go near the head of the market for next year’s Champion Hurdle.

Key Trends:

Look for five or six year olds.
In the top two last time out.
Towards the head of the betting (it’s not usually a race for upsets).
Bred for National Hunt racing, not a convert from flat racing.