Take Taquin to shine in Neptune
Ian Ogg provides his ante-post preview of the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle following the entries.
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A Venn diagram would ably demonstrate the problems facing ante-post punters in Cheltenham's novice hurdle contests with a number of horses holding entries in any two of the William Hill Supreme, Neptune Investment Management and Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival.
Investing before the firms go non-runner-no-bet is obviously fraught with danger but the lure of taking advantage of significantly longer odds about your fancy than will be the case a week before the tapes go up for the Supreme is hard to resist.
At this point, I have to hold my hands up.
Last season I managed to convince myself that not only was Boston Bob a good thing for the Festival race of his choice, but that he would dot up in the Neptune.
Wrong on both counts... and I was wrong again to attempt to take some bitter pleasure in the late Brindisi Breeze's victory in the three-miler but it did make it a little easier to take!
I'm back for more and, although I'm not as convinced that Taquin Du Seuil will line up on Wednesday, I do believe there's sufficient reason to think that he will take his chance in the Neptune.
His trainer Jonjo O'Neill does have some history here as the poisoned pens were quick to criticise him for taking the perceived 'easier' option with Black Jack Ketchum in 2006.
The Albert Bartlett (or Brit Insurance as it was then) was only in its second year and a Grade Two contest to boot.
It's now firmly established as a Grade One race and is every bit as competitive and difficult to win as the Neptune.
O'Neill also has more options for the three-miler with impressive Kempton winner Cloudy Copper, owned like Black Jack Ketchum by Gay Smith, chief among them.
The stoutly-bred Shutthefrontdoor is a potential improver once granted a test although it's eyecatching that the smart bumper performer has entries in not one but two Pertemps qualifiers in coming days suggesting that he could head down the handicap route instead.
That wouldn't be a huge surprise with the current Albert Bartlett favourite, At Fishers Cross, representing the same owner, JP McManus.
Indications are that the Trials Day winner will contest the longer race but should he take the Neptune option, McCoy could find himself in a difficult position having ridden Taquin Du Seuil in three of his four starts to date.
Described as "the best novice I've got" by his trainer after impressively winning the Neptune sponsored Winter Hurdle at Sandown, Taquin Du Seuil went some way to justifying that tag when following up in the Challow Hurdle.
O'Neill has sent out three other winners of the Newbury contest and the subsequent records of those horses is eyecatching.
Backspin ran only once more but Coolnagorna beat all bar the top-class Hardy Eustace in the two-mile-five contest (later disqualified) and Wichita Lineman won the three-miler in a canter.
The performance of those two horses strongly suggests that O'Neill runs his best Festival candidates in the Challow and Taquin Du Seuil can be backed at double figure prices for both the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett.
I don't think the conditions at Newbury showed him in his best light as he simply wasn't as visually impressive as at Sandown, while connections expect him to benefit from encountering better ground.
He may have been something of a stayer on the level, but he hasn't looked short of speed over hurdles - indeed he was fast enough to make My Tent Or Yours work hard over the minimum at Ascot. All in all he looks tailormade for the Neptune. Take the 10/1.