Banker – Monks to Land Neptune

Once again I’m looking to the Neptune for the banker and an Irish contender to deliver. After Oscar Wells’ last flight stumble in the 2011 race let’s hope for better luck this year.

Monksland is a high class novice Irish novice hurdler that has yet to be beaten in three starts under Rules – he ran out in his only point to point! He has all the attributes needed to win the Neptune over 2m 5f. He jumps and travels well, has stamina but also speed. Despite the soft ground and mistake at the last he sprinted away from the opposition in his last race; the Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas. This race is a good trial for the Neptune with Mikael D’Haguenet completing the double in 2009 and Venalmar only losing by a neck the year before.

He’s also improving with each run and he recorded a smooth victory in the Slaney despite starting the 6/1 third favourite. There’s more improvement to come as like the unlucky Oscar’s Well last year his action and indeed his trainer suggests that better ground will suit.

Noel Mead is not normally a trainer I follow at Cheltenham given his overall record but he did train Nicanor who beat the mighty Denman in this very race so he knows what’s required. Paul Carberry is just the man for the job and can keep Monksland handy until taking it up just before the last and driving him up the hill.

It looks like Fingal Bay is out which makes his task a little easier but Boston Bob – with whom he’s closely matched on form through Lyreen Legend – and Simonsig are running in this so it’s not going to be a walkover. We’ve just missed his 10/1 Cheltenham odds but the freely available 9/1 is very fair and he’ll be shorter on the day.

1pt ew Monksland in the Neptune Novices Hurdle – 9/1 generally