Cheltenham Festival 2012 

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Monksland Bang On Course for Neptune Assault

Despite the prospect of encountering much quicker underfoot conditions than he has so far enjoyed, Noel Meade's unbeaten Monksland is still strongly fancied by connections to put up a very bold show in the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 14, writes Elliot Slater.

© Caroline Norris


The five-year-old has done everything asked of him so far in his career and Meade has great faith in the son of Beneficial who has gathered a growing band of admirers back home in Ireland. With Fingal Bay no longer an issue in the race having been scratched from the contest as the result of failing to recover in time from a hamstring injury, Monksland has advanced to figure as the current 8/1 third-favourite in the ante-post Cheltenham Festival odds for the two-mile-five-furlong contest behind 7/2 joint-favourites Simonsig and Boston Bob, on the strength of significantly progressive performances in each of his three outings so far under rules.

The word was out prior to his racecourse bow at Down Royal in November when Monsksland was sent of the odds-on 4/5 favourite to win under Nina Carberry and duly obliged in impressive fashion by 11-lengths from Big Generator, and he was again sent off at odds-on on his hurdles bow when scoring by a length from Bombadero in a two-mile contest at Navan, a race in which he need every yard of the rip before eventually getting the upper hand.

Stepped up a half-mile for his most recent outing in the Grade 2 Slaney Novices Hurdle at Naas in January, Meade's rising star came from last to first and stayed on strongly to beat the useful Lyreen Legend by four-and-a-half-lengths, again in testing ground. As long as there is no sting in the ground at Cheltenham, connections are confident that Monksland will go well and he looks set to carry plenty of Irish euros as he bids to maintain his unbeaten record.

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