Neptune Novices’ Hurdle: 2m 5f, Wednesday 16, 1.30pm
Key Stat: The Irish have won this race six times in the past decade
By far the most punter friendly of the novice events. Ten of the last 25 winners were sent off as favourite – with just two of the last 30 winners not in the first five in the betting.
Last year, the Dermot Weld-trained Windsor Park gave the Irish their 18th win since 1971 and their sixth success in the last 10 years.
However, Alan King’s Yanworth is one of the highest-rated novices (158) ever heading into the Festival and is 9lb clear of last season’s highest-rated Neptune contender.
Willie Mullins has a 33 per cent strike rate with three winners in the last nine years, but his Bellshill and Long Dog under-performed recently and it may pay to side with the favourite.
Four of the last six winners started their career winning an Irish point-to-point so that’s a positive for Bellshill who already has two Grade 1 wins to his name. Long Dog came from the Flat like last year’s victor Windsor Park and the legendary Istabraq, but very few others have.
Experience counts as just two of the last 18 winners (Galileo and Fiveforthree) won the Neptune despite never contesting a Graded race over hurdles before. Punters sent Rite Of Passage and So Young off as favourite also in recent years but both could only finish third.
Challow Hurdle winners are 0-15 in this so beware of Barters Hill on the off chance he runs here rather than the longer distance Albert Bartlett hurdle.
Form is they key trend however with seven of the last nine winners winning last time out. Only Massini’s Maguire had failed to finish in the first two on his most recent outing for the past 32 years.