Big guns in Neptune frame
Pont Alexandre and The New One are the star names among a huge list of 119 entries for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Willie Mullins-trained Pont Alexandre leapt to the head of the ante-post betting with a brilliant front-running display at Leopardstown last weekend, supplementing his impressive Irish debut in the Navan Novice Hurdle.
The five-year-old is one of 35 Irish-trained entries, with Mullins unsurprisingly strong-armed with the likes of Champagne Fever, Ballycasey, Pique Sous and Un Atout all engaged, although the majority have alternative entries in the other novice hurdles at the Festival.
Mouse Morris' runaway Naas scorer Rule The World is another huge hope for the Emerald Isle.
The Margaret Mullins-trained Anonis was still going well when falling behind Pont Alexandre at Leopardstown on Sunday and the Cheltenham bumper winner is entered in the Neptune, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett.
Mullins said: "I'm not sure which race will be his target yet - I will leave that to Barry (Connell, owner) - but he is just a little bit sore at the moment and we will just have to see how he is over the next few days.
"He looked as if he might have given the winner a race on Sunday and it was disappointing to fall as it does take its toll. I don't know if I will be able to get another run into him before Cheltenham as it's getting a bit close now.
"He is definitely good enough to go to Cheltenham - I think he is very good - and if I have him right, we will definitely be going to The Festival. Barry was talking about the Neptune or the Albert Bartlett, but he looked good when he won his bumper at Cheltenham over two miles."
Despite his Cheltenham defeat at the weekend Nigel Twiston-Davies' The New One remains a major Neptune contender, while other challengers for the home team include Melodic Rendezvous, Puffin Billy and Jonjo O'Neill's Challow Novices' Hurdle winner Taquin Du Seuil.