13.30 Cheltenham: Red Sherlock fancied to sail home in Neptune
Red Sherlock looks to have outstanding credentials of turning over the favourite Faugheen and landing the spoils for the David Pipe team in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle.
The gelding won his first three bumpers in good style, and they included a listed contest over 2m 1f at this track.
He has since made a seemless transition to the obstacles, winning two minor events at Southwell and Wetherby before stepping up into Grade 2 company and scoring over 2m 5f here last time out.
The six-year-old traveled well throughout that contest and found plenty for jockey Tom Scudamore to see off the Willie Mullins-trained Rathvinden by a cosy 2 1/2 lengths.
He also has course and distance winning form to his name, so there are absolutely no doubts whatsoever regarding the track or ability to get home up the famous Cheltenham hill.
Red Sherlock looks to have the perfect profile for the race, remains open to further improvement, and also has the strongest form in the book.
He should arguably be favourite given what he has achieved, but that position is occupied by Mullins’ Faugheen.
All talk in Ireland ahead of the Cheltenham Festival has been about him being a “good thing” for this race, but the gelding still has a lot to prove.
The six-year-old is unbeaten in five runs, two in bumpers and three over hurdles, and hasn’t yet had to be asked a serious question in all of those successes.
However, his first two wins over hurdles came in very weak races and although he took the step into Grade 3 company in his stride when beating The Job Is Right by five lengths at Limerick last time out, he is still far from fluent at the obstacles.
He is also yet to be put under pressure, and another concern is that his handler has had several hot pots turned over in the race, including what was thought to be the Irish banker in last year’s renewal in the shape of Pont Alexandre.
That one had far stronger form in the book than Faugheen, having won a Grade 1 and Grade 2, but could finish only third to The New One after being backed off the boards into 6/4 favourite.
Faugheen heads the market courtesy of his huge reputation, and Red Sherlock looks a safer betting proposition.
An interesting outsider in the race could be Dessie Hughes’ Lieutenant Colonel.
The gelding sports the famous Gigginstown Stud colours, and they were carried to success in the 2011 running of the Neptune by First Lieutenant.
He was beaten just 5 1/2 lengths by Faugheen on his hurdling debut in a 30-runner contest over 2m at Navan back in December and then justified favouritism in style at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day.
The five-year-old then got beat 4 1/4 lengths by Wicklow Brave in the Listed Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle over the same trip at Punchestown last time out, and those runs suggest he has been crying out for the step up in trip which he now gets.