Simple for Simonsig in Neptune Novices' Hurdle
1 Simonsig 2/1 Fav
Favourite Simonsig cruised to a seven-length victory in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle to give jockey Barry Geraghty his second exciting win of the week following yesterday’s Racing Post Arkle Chase victory on Sprinter Sacre.
Geraghty said: “What happened at the second last didn’t matter [to him]. Company would have been nice but he jumped the second last well and then went down and popped the last.
“I rode him work last Saturday week and he’s top class. He made a bit of a meal of one down the back but he’s just a bit of a baby. He’s very raw but is a lovely horse and travels so well.
Asked how he compared to yesterday’s winner, he added: “You can’t compare many to Sprinter Sacre because he’s so onward and this fella is more laidback. He has the engine though as soon as you want him. I didn’t mind whether he went for the two miles or two and a half. He’s just a high-class horse and when you have a horse like that you can go where you want.
“We haven’t discussed it but he’s a former point-to-pointer and he’s a chaser in the making. I imagine jumping fences will be his thing.”
The victory of 2/1 favourite Simonsig in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle enabled Nicky Henderson to set a record of 41 victories at the Cheltenham Festival, passing Fulke Walwyn’s total of 40, which he equalled on Tuesday.
“It’s lovely to set a new mark,” said Henderson, “but in truth I’m rather overawed, as with Fulke you’re talking about a legend. I used to be assistant trainer and amateur rider at Fred Winter’s yard next door to Fulke’s and it did in those days seem very unlikely that I’d be here doing this.
“You can’t do it without the horses and the staff and I’ve been very lucky with both over the years. The team of owners have sent me some wonderful horses and my staff, with Corky at the helm for so many years, have looked after them wonderfully well.”
The choice of race for Simonsig at the Festival was between Tuesday’s two-mile William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or the two-mile, five-furlong contest he won.
“In hindsight the choice we made seems a sensible one,” added Henderson. “We thought the longer race would give him time to get himself organised at his hurdles. He was still a bit untidy at some, but he’ll learn. He has so much natural talent, and certainly would have the speed for two miles.
“We weren’t helped when the leader [Cotton Mill] went two out as the plan was to wait and wait and wait. But he was jumping himself to the front anyway.”
Simonsig is to go over fences next season and is already 4/1 [with Paddy Power] for the Racing Post Arkle Trophy, won in devastating style by stablemate Sprinter Sacre on Tuesday.
“The bigger the obstacle, the better I think he’ll jump it,” said Henderson. “I said we had a big dark aeroplane in Sprinter Sacre. Maybe we’ve got a big grey one as well.”
CONNECTIONS DELIGHTED WITH FELIX’S SECOND
Trainer Willie Mullins and owner Graham Wylie are looking forward to next season after Felix Yonger finished second to the impressive Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle winner Simonsig.
“We brought him here to see how good he was and I’m delighted with that,” said Mullins. “He’s a fine, big scopey horse and hopefully he’ll go to Punchestown now. We’ll see what is available but he could run over two and a half or three miles and then go chasing next season. I think he’s going to keep improving all the time.
“We had a faller in the first, who brought down my other runner so that’s the type of week it has been for us.”
Wylie added: “Inglis Drever came second in this race for us in 2004 and I’m a happy man now. We came here not expecting too much, I was relaxed beforehand so I’m over the moon that he ran so well.”
Noel Meade, trainer of third-placed Monksland, added: “He jumped great and just got a bit flat-footed coming down the hill. He stayed on but I was a bit disappointed he couldn’t quicken better. He’ll go chasing next season and we’ll get him home and then think about Punchestown.”
O’REGAN PUT THROUGH THE MILL WHEN COTTON DUCKED
Jockey Denis O’Regan and trainer John Ferguson were out of luck in this race when Cotton Mill jinked and shed his rider.
The five-year-old, who had a three wins from three starts over jumps, was upsides eventual winner Simonsig at the second-last when two strides from take-off he dropped his shoulder, spat O’Regan off then jumped the flight riderless.
O’Regan said: “He went to duck out, then saw the rail and ducked back in. He rubbed the rail and going at that speed unfortunately I couldn’t stay on.
“I’ll never know whether I was going as well as Simonsig at the time, but at least the horse is okay. He’s obviously a right one.
“It’s been a while since I’ve ridden anything that was travelling that well at that stage of a race round here so it’s a bit unfortunate. I’m grateful for the ride.
“I’ve had some marvellous days here in the past and it was just bad luck today. I hope John gets a winner later today [he runs Cape Dutch in the Coral Cup, 4.00].
Previous results - NEPTUNE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT NOVICES’ HURDLE
2011-WINNER-FIRST LIEUTENANT 6-11-07 Owner-Gigginstown House Stud; Trainer-Mouse Morris IRE; Jockey-Davy Russell; SP- 7/1
2010-WINNER-PEDDLERS CROSS 5-11-07 Owner-Tim Leslie; Trainer-Donald McCain; Jockey-Jason Maguire; SP-7/1
2009-WINNER-MIKAEL D'HAGUENET 5-11-07 Owner-Susannah Ricci; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-5/2 Fav
2008-WINNER-FIVEFORTHREE 6-11-07 Owner-Olde Crowbars Syndicate; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-7/1
2007-WINNER-MASSINI’S MAGUIRE 6-11-07 Owner-Alan
Peterson; Trainer-Philip Hobbs; Jockey-Richard Johnson; SP-20/1
2006-WINNER-NICANOR 5-11-07 Owner-Des Sharkey; Trainer-Noel Meade IRE;
Jockey-Paul Carberry; SP-17/2
REFUGE 5-11-07 Owner-Andrea & Graham
Wylie; Trainer-Howard Johnson; Jockey-Graham Lee; SP-17/2
2004-WINNER-FUNDAMENTALIST 6-11-07 Owner-Gripen; Trainer-Nigel Twiston-Davies;
Jockey-Carl Llewellyn; SP-12/1
2003-WINNER-HARDY EUSTACE 5-11-07 Owner-Laurence Byrne; Trainer-Dessie
Hughes IRE; Jockey-Kieran Kelly; SP-6/1
2002-WINNER-GALILEO 6-11-07 Owner-Sharon Nelson, Allan Stennett, Terry
Warner; Trainer-Tom George; Jockey-Jason Maguire; SP-12/1
2001-Cancelled (Foot and Mouth Disease)
2000-WINNER-MONSIGNOR 6-11-07 Owner-Malcolm Denmark; Trainer-Mark Pitman;
Jockey-Norman Williamson; SP-5/4 Fav
1999-WINNER-BARTON 6-11-07 Owner-Stan Clarke; Trainer-Tim Easterby;
Jockey-Lorcan Wyer, SP-2/1 Fav
1998-WINNER-FRENCH HOLLY 7-11-07 Owner-Kieran Flood; Trainer-Ferdy Murphy;
Jockey-Andrew Thornton; SP-2/1 Fav
1997-WINNER-ISTABRAQ 5-11-07 Owner-J P McManus;
IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-6/5 Fav
NEPTUNE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT NOVICES’ HURDLE ROLL OF HONOUR
Year Winner Age/Wt Jockey Trainer Owner SP Ran
2011 First Lieutenant 6-11-07 Davy Russell Mouse Morris IRE Gigginstown House Stud 7/1 12
NEPTUNE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT NOVICES’ HURDLE FACTS AND FIGURES
1. The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle was introduced to The Festival in 1971 as the Aldsworth Hurdle. Sun Alliance, who merged with Royal Insurance in 1996, took it on in 1974, together with the Sun Alliance Chase, having previously sponsored the Foxhunter Chase. Ballymore Properties sponsored the contest between 2007 and 2009, while Neptune Investment Management backed the race for the first time in 2010.
2. The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, along with the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the RSA Chase, are acknowledged as championship races for the staying novice hurdler and chaser.
3. Only one horse has won both the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and the RSA Chase. The West Awake took the hurdle race in 1987 and the chase event a year later.
4. The smallest field for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle was in 2011, when 12 runners lined up. There have been 15 runners on four occasions - 1973, 2004, 2007 and 2008 while 14 went to post in 2000 and 2009. The largest field was 29, achieved in 1979, 1984 and 1991. The current safety limit is 24.
5. The Irish-trained 1994 winner, Danoli, subject of a massive gamble, was sent off the 7/4 favourite. The shortest-priced winner was another Irish victor, Mr Kildare, at 8/11 in 1978. Favourites have been successful in 13 of the 40 runnings. The longest-priced winner was 40/1 chance Even Dawn in the second running in 1972.
6. The Irish have an excellent record in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle with 16 wins, including six consecutive victories from 1973-78. The latest success came from the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant in 2011.
7. Having sent out the winner in 2008 and 2009, Willie Mullins became the seventh trainer to win two Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdles, joining Aidan O’Brien, Martin Pipe, Oliver Sherwood, Mick O'Toole, Edward O'Grady and Nigel Twiston-Davies. Oliver Sherwood and Dessie Hughes are the two trainers to have also won the race as jockeys. Sherwood was in the saddle on Venture To Cognac in 1979, while his training wins were with The West Awake (1987) and Rebel Song (1988). Dessie Hughes was twice successful as a jockey with Davy Lad (1975) and Parkhill (1976) and sent out Hardy Eustace (2003) to victory as a trainer.
8. The fastest time for the winning horse was 4m 52.0s set by Monsignor in 2000, beating the 4m 56.2s of Regal Ambition in 1990.
9. Istabraq (1997) and Hardy Eustace (2003) both won this race en route to victory in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, while Davy Lad (1975) went on to take the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
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