The Winter Novices’ Hurdle has a history for throwing up Cheltenham Festival winners and another two success stories could be unveiled this March.
Former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner See More Business, three-time Ladbrokes World Hurdle victor Inglis Drever and last year’s Kim Muir champion Junior all had previous successes in the Winter Novices’ Hurdle on their resume.
The first two home at Sandown last month were Fingal Bay and Simonsig and the duo are both fancied to enter the winners’ enclosure at Cheltenham.
Fingal Bay is unbeaten on all of his five racecourse starts and has the right attitude to suggest that he will be suited to Cheltenham, particularly the taxing hill after the final hurdle.
Philip Hobbs has even suggested that the horse may be the best he has ever trained, which is a bold statement given that former Champion Hurdle winner Rooster Booster and Champion Chase victor Flagship Uberalles have previously starred for the yard.
Fingal Bay is more of a galloper than a speed horse, meaning that his future is almost certain to be over 3m.
However, with this distance currently never having been attempted, Hobbs is reluctant to try this at Cheltenham, ruling out a run in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
Therefore, he looks a banker to take his chance in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle and 5/1 seems great value that he triumphs.
While Fingal Bay’s future seems over further than the 2m4f encountered at Sandown, a drop in trip may best suit runner-up Simonsig.
Nicky Henderson’s rates his grey as one of the best rookies over 2m this season and the way he travelled until the closing stages at Sandown suggests that this may be a preferred trip.
Simonsig is 14/1 in the Supreme Novices Hurdle odds to become the first festival winner of 2012, which looks one of the best ante-post bets on offer this far in advance.