Serious contenders for the staying novice hurdlers are few and far between at this stage of the season, but Pont Alexandre and Coneygree have emerged as fine prospects after impressive weekend victories.
Based on the betting, Pont Alexandre was the most impressive of the two in Ireland, waltzing away with the Grade One Navan Novice Hurdle and putting the highly-regarded Don Cossack in his place in the process.
This race was over 2m4f and given the way he travelled, Pont Alexandre would seemingly be best staying over this trip at Cheltenham for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle.
Meanwhile, Coneygree showed that he has no problems with the added demands of Cheltenham with a course victory in a Grade Two outing against a decent if not spectacular field.
The step up to 3m clearly suited, with heart and stamina looking to be his chief attributes.
This indicates that 3m is the way forward and it would be a massive surprise if he did not line up for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in March.
Both horses are currently in the betting for both Festival contests, but punters should tread carefully given that future plans are largely unclear.
The safest bet for punters wanting to ensure their horse starts the chosen race would be to back Coneygree at 12/1 in the Albert Bartlett, although the opinion is that Pont Alexandre is the slightly more talented of the duo.
Willie Mullins’ horse is 8/1 for both the Albert Bartlett and Neptune and it may be best to wait before getting involved ante-post, as his commitments may become clearer after his next start.
Both Cheltenham contests offer the same winning prize money and so this is unlikely to sway connections and much could come down to the ground.
There is little chance of Pont Alexandre tackling the Albert Bartlett on anything slower than good ground.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date