Just a week to the start of the Cheltenham Festival and the money on Monday morning came for Neon Wolf (4/1 from 5/1) at BetVictor for Neon Wolf not in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle (2m 5f) but for the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Harry Fry insists the ground would need to be soft on the opening day to consider the Supreme and it is possible that it is just punters insuring their Neptune bet given most bookmakers are non runner no bet for the Festival.
Top Irish jockey Mark Walsh was also confirmed as the partner for both Yanworth (Champion Hurdle) and Uxizandre (Ryanair Chase) and was immediately cut in the betting from 10s to 8/1 with BetVictor to be the top jockey at the Festival.
Soft ground at Exeter this afternoon and Shoofly Milly (2.20) deserves to get her head in front having been running well in defeat of late including when runner up off this mark over C&D last month. Kim Bailey’s Ben Arthur is 6lbs higher than when scoring at Ffos Las on his latest start and a bigger danger could come from Midnight Request who bounced back to form at Carlisle last time.
Lower Hope Dandy (3.50) wouldn’t be the most consistent of animals but he travelled well for much of the race when second at Bangor last time and this lightly-raced ten-year-old can race from the same mark this afternoon.
At Newcastle Airpur Desbois ran a fine race on his first start for Oliver Greenall and is taken to go one better off the same mark with talented conditional in the saddle. That was his first start in three months and a repeat of that Uttoxeter effort might be good enough for him to break his maiden at the “lucky” 13th time of asking.
Only three to post for the 3m Handicap Chase but all have realistic chances. Plus Jamais landed a touch at Ayr last time over timber and must go well back over the larger obstacles from a 5lbs higher mark. Marginal preference, however, is for Donald McCain’s Whiskey Chaser (2.40) who was not at his best at Uttoxeter last time but has bits of chase form that give him every chance.
Caraline is still 4lbs higher than when last successful and I hope to see Two Smokin Barrels (3.30) bounce back from her last run when an early mistake did not help her cause. Tom Scudamore keeps the ride and she had looked a most progressive mare earlier in the campaign when she rattled off a hat-trick for Michael Scudamore.
Manwell (3.10) has been given a nice break since disappointing at Uttoxeter last time but he travelled like a dent horse for much of that contest and the first time tongue-tie would suggest he had a breathing issue. He is only 1lb lower this afternoon but he travelled like much the best horse last time and if the application of the tongue-tie works the oracle I think he will be tough to beat.
Witness Time will improve when facing a sound surface having travelled well in an Ayr bumper last time – a market move would be worth noting. Preference in the Novices’ Hurdle is for Midnight Moss (4.10) who makes his hurdling debut for Gillian Boanas having run well enough in a Southwell bumper for Keith Reveley. Boanas has yet to saddle a winner but she has certainly found a decent opportunity for the selection who must learn to settle if he is to fulfil his potential.
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