Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cheltenham hopes set to meet in Navan Novice Hurdle

Gordon Elliott is expecting a good performance from his Mount Benbullen who will face a maximum of three rivals, including the very promising Boston Bob, in the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle on Sunday, writes Elliot Slater.

The former winning point-to-pointer established himself as a smart bumper performer last season scoring at Thurles in February before following up in fine style in beating the highly regarded but ultimately ill-fated Lovethehigherlaw at Limerick in March. After an unfortunate start to his hurdles career when slipping up at Galway in October Elliott’s six-year-old won nicely at Thurles at the start of November before stepping up in class to land a Navan Grade 2 contest over two-and-a-half miles, beating Rebel Fitz under a fine ride from Davy Condon. Even those looking at the online Cheltenham Gold Cup odds should bear this in mind.

Mount Benbullen is under serious consideration for the Neptune Novices Hurdle (for which he is currently available at up to 20/1), whilst bookies rate him just an 11/1 chance for the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle over three miles at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Elliott’s charge should find Boston Bob his biggest rival on Sunday, the Willie Mullins-trained gelding having joined the champion Irish trainer this autumn upon the disqualification Howard Johnson, for whom he won a Hexham bumper in March in impressive fashion.

After having reportedly schooled well ahead of his hurdling bow the Graham Wylie-owned son of Bob Back was sent off a hot favourite to win at Navan in November, duly obliging with the minimum of fuss in defeating Six Senses by three-and-a-quarter lengths and is expected to take high rank amongst the leading Irish novice hurdlers this term. Like Mount Benbullen, Bob Back is a 20/1 shot for the Neptune Novices Hurdle ahead of the Navan contest and can still be backed at 14/1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in three months time, prices which would certainly tumble should he keep his unbeaten record over timber intact.

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