The role of honour for this race includes some of brightest young stars of recent times. Not only has the event been won by, what looked at the time, to be future Gold Cup winners such as French Holly, Barton and Monsignor, but also horses that have gone on to win the Champion Hurdle, including the great Istabraq.
So, unlike the Supreme Novices Hurdle, this race suits both top class stayers from the flat and the more old fashioned, chasing type.
2017 Willoughby Court
2015 Windsor Park
2013 The New One
2011 First Lieutenant
2010 Peddlers Cross
2009 Mikael D'Haguenet
2007 Massini's Maguire
2005 No Refuge
2003 Hardy Eustace
1998 French Holly
1995 Putty Road
1992 Thetford Forest
1991 Crystal Spirit
1990 Regal Ambition
1989 Sayfar’s Lad
(prior winners detailed at bottom of page)
1. The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle was introduced to The Festival in 1971 as the Aldsworth Hurdle. Sun Alliance, who merged with Royal Insurance in 1996, took it on in 1974, together with the Sun Alliance Chase, having previously sponsored the Foxhunter Chase. Ballymore Properties sponsored the contest between 2007 and 2009, while Neptune Investment Management backed the race for the first time in 2010.
2. The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, along with the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the RSA Chase, are acknowledged as championship races for the staying novice hurdler and chaser.
3. Only one horse has won both the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and the RSA Chase. The West Awake took the hurdle race in 1987 and the chase event a year later.
4. The smallest field for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle was 14 in both 2009 and 2000. There have been 15 runners on four occasions - 1973, 2004, 2007 and 2008. The largest field was 29, achieved in 1979, 1984 and 1991. The current safety limit is 24.
5. The Irish-trained 1994 winner, Danoli, was the subject of a massive gamble and was sent off the 7/4 favourite. The shortest-priced winner was another Irish victor, Mr Kildare, at 8/11 in 1978. Favourites have been successful in 13 of the 38 runnings. The longest-priced winner was 40/1 chance Even Dawn in the second running in 1972.
6. The Irish have an excellent record in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle with 15 wins, including six consecutive victories from 1973-78.
7. Having sent out the winner in 2008 and 2009, Willie Mullins became the seventh trainer to win two Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdles, joining Aidan O’Brien, Martin Pipe, Oliver Sherwood, Mick O'Toole, Edward O'Grady and Nigel Twiston-Davies. Oliver Sherwood and Dessie Hughes are the two trainers to have also won the race as jockeys. Sherwood was in the saddle on Venture To Cognac in 1979, while his training wins were with The West Awake (1987) and Rebel Song (1988). Dessie Hughes was twice successful as a jockey with Davy Lad (1975) and Parkhill (1976) and sent out Hardy Eustace (2003) to victory as a trainer.
8. The fastest time for the winning horse was 4m 52.0s set by Monsignor in 2000, beating the 4m 56.2s of Regal Ambition in 1990.
9. Istabraq (1997) and Hardy Eustace (2003) both won this race en route to victory in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, while Davy Lad (1975) went on to take the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
2012 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle Review
Nicky Henderson's SIMONSIG (2/1) was well backed beforehand and his backers had few anxious moments, with the brilliant grey coming home seven lengths clear of the second Felix Younger.
There was drama in the race two flights from home with Cotton Mill, who was still going OK at the time, veering to his left and crashing out, but it's doubtful the result was affected as the winner absolutely hacked up.
It was an Irish 1-2 with Monksland staying on nicely into third and Noel Meade's gelding might well have finished closer had he not been hampered by the riderless Cotton Mill after jumping two out.
2011 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle Review
First Lieutenant (7-1) got up in the final strides to win the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival.
A bad mistake from Irish raider Oscars Well at the last looked to have handed the spoils to Paul Nicholls' Rock On Ruby (13-2), but leading jockey Davy Russell managed to get First Lieutenant up the hill and the pair got their noses in front on the line.
The well-backed 2-1 favourite So Young finished third under Ruby Walsh.
A delighted Russell said: "He's a horse that's matured an awful lot through the year and he has again.
"I knew with a quarter of the straight to go I was getting there, but it was the last stride.
"My horse was a fraction slow at the last, but he's a very good horse."
2010 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle Review
Another really high quality renewal of a race that never fails to produce champions of the future and the unbeaten winner, Peddlers Cross, looks all set to continue that trend.
This was his first try at this trip, and his first effort on better ground, but neither seemed to inconvenience him in the slightest and, having travelled strongly throughout, he really quickened up in the style of a decent sort to put the race to bed after jumping the last.
He is still very inexperienced, having had only one run in a point to point and a bumper, and only two efforts over hurdles, prior to the race. He should be open to bags of improvement, therefore, and looks very much like one to keep on the right side of. Hell undoubtedly have a future over fences, but connections are first likely to want to see just how far he can go over hurdles.
Reve De Sivola, sixth in last seasons Triumph Hurdle, has improved for stepping up in trip this year and looked like he might win turning for home. However, he had no answer to the winners turn of foot, but held on well for a clear second. By contrast to Peddlers Cross, he looks sure to go straight over fences next season and he should be a major player in the RSA Chase if he stays fit and healthy.
Unlike the first two home, Rite Of Passage has a real flat pedigree and as a result will no doubt be kept busy on the level over the summer months. He was outstayed here but he was far from disgraced in third. As and when he next runs over hurdles, a drop back in trip seems likely to be on the cards.
Another Irish challenger, Summit Meeting, was a never nearer fourth. He was hampered by the fall of the well fancied, Quel Esprit, at the second, and could never quite get back into contention after that.
Finians Rainbow was also slightly impeded by the faller, but quickly got back into contention and travelled best of all for much of the contest. He found little after the second last, though, and appeared not to stay. He is a chaser in the making and could be back here next season for the Arkle.
The Giant Bolster ran a blinder to finish sixth and he should also have a bright future over fences stamina is his forte.
For all that the fourth and fifth were hampered by Quel Esprits fall, neithers race was ruined to quite the same extent as Manyriverstocross whose jockey, Robert Thornton, performed miracles to keep the partnership intact. In the circumstances, he did well to finish as close as he did in seventh and he can surely land a major handicap next season.
2009 Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle Review
The second day of the Festival, which was run on drying ground officially declared as good to soft, turned out to be one of the best days seen at the Festival for many years with a host of high class performances.
MIKAEL D’HAGUENET led the way, with an effort right out of the top drawer to beat an excellent field in a fine renewal of this race. He took a keen hold throughout, and was still on the bridle when Ruby Walsh asked him to go and win his race turning for home. He was five or six lengths up shortly after the last, but his early keenness probably took its toll as the runner up, Karabak, closed to within a couple of lengths at the line.
However, victory here confirmed him as just about the most exciting young horse around and he could prove even better when switched to the larger obstacles. Given how well he travelled here, connections may look at the Arkle rather than the Sun Alliance.
Karabak, by contrast, is likely to stick to hurdling as he lacks the size and scope of some of his rivals here. However, he finished off his race best of all and may be more effective over even further. In addition, he probably wasn’t suited by a relatively slow early gallop. Connections should take heart from the fact that other recent runners up in this contest include Denman, Tidal Bay and Inglis Drever.
Diamond Harry is another who looks sure to go to the very top when switched to fences next season. He travelled ominously well behind the leaders for Timmy Murphy, as he has done in all his races to date, but seemed tired when he made a hash of the last. He probably still needs more time to grow into his massive frame.
It will be amazing if this race doesn’t throw up a chasing star in the future as China Rock (fourth), Knockara Beau (fifth) and Mad Max (eighth) all also look like embryo chasers.
This was a career best effort from China Rock who paid a compliment to the winner of yesterday’s Supreme Novice Hurdle with his effort here (Go Native had beaten him two starts ago).
Knockara Beau hails from an unfashionable yard, but that shouldn’t put punters off following him in the future, as he has some engine.
Mad Max, who is even bigger than Diamond Harry, weakened quickly after tracking the leaders for a long way. A step back in trip looks sure to suit, with the Arkle likely to be on connections’ agenda next season.
Quwetwo (twelfth) was beaten a long way, but his inexperience showed and he shouldn’t be written off just yet.
2008 Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle Review
A strong field, full of plenty of scopey individuals, made this a fascinating renewal of the premier staying novice hurdle of the season, not just because of the prize on offer but also because of what a number of the runners may end of achieving when switched to fences in the future.
On the day, honours most definitely belonged to the Irish, as their raiders filled the first four places.
Eventual winner, FIVEFORTHREE, had been well fancied for the Supreme Novices Hurdle on day one of the Festival, but his victory here was a ringing endorsement of connections’ decision to up him in trip here. The extra distance certainly seemed to suit him as, having touched down marginally in front over the final flight, he stayed on grimly in the dying strides to see off the sustained challenge of runner up, Venalmar. This was a fine effort from the winner, given that it was only his second start over hurdles due to an interrupted campaign.
The runner up will also have gone into plenty of notebooks on the back of his effort, as he is crying out for fences and anything he achieved over the smaller obstacles was always going to be a bonus.
Trafford Lad (third) and the well supported, Forpadydeplasterer (fourth) look every bit as much chasers in the making as the first two. Neither lost anything in defeat here and both should be worth following next season.
Group Captain, in fifth, did best of the horses graduating from the Flat. He was also the best of the home trained runners, but he did little here to dispel the lingering suspicion that he isn’t the most straightforward of characters as he received a very early reminder from his pilot, and was never really traveling or jumping with any enthusiasm. He may prove to be hard to win with in the future.
On the face of it, two of the biggest hopes of a home trained success, Breedsbreeze (tenth) and Aigle D’Or (13th), were disappointing. However, both are worth another chance in view of the form they showed earlier in the season, and the former, in particular, has the size and scope to make into a really smart chaser.
Of the rest, Razor Royale (seventh) ran well for a long way, whilst Raven’s Run, who was always going to struggle in a field of this quality, is another one to look out for when switched to fences.
2007 Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle Review
A drying night and another sunny morning further improved the ground so that conditions were almost perfect by the time the runners went to post for the opening race on day two of the Festival.
This is a race that invariably throws up future stars, but this year’s renewal went to one of the outsiders in MASSINI’S MAGUIRE.
The Phillip Hobbs trained gelding had had a mixed season before today – impressing when beating Wichita Lineman here in November, but disappointing slightly when behind that rival on two subsequent occasions. Nobody could question his stomach for the fight, though, as he set off in front here and repelled all comers to hang on to that lead throughout the race – no easy feat given the quality of the opposition. He is a lovely, big chasing type and that is surely where his future lies.
The winner was challenged first by Catch Me turning for home and then by the runner up,Tidal Bay, on the run in but he outstayed and out battled both. Tidal Bay beat Massini’s Maguire here in January, but the ground was softer that day and that may have made the difference. Howard Johnson and Graham Wylie already have a strong hand with staying hurdlers and this horse will add further to that strength in depth.
Catch Me’s connections had been in two minds as to whether to run here or in the shorter Supreme Novices Hurdle. He was the only horse to head the winner during the race and he led after jumping the second last. He kept on well all the way to the line to suggest stamina wasn’t an issue. However, given the history this race has for throwing up Champion Hurdle winners in recent times it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Catch Me returned to the minimum trip at some point in the future.
By contrast, the trip looked on the short side for Silverburn who stayed on strongly to finish fourth. His future has always looked to be over fences with anything he did over hurdles being a bonus. With that in mind, this was a good effort, especially given that he prefers slightly softer ground
Aran Concerto was sent off the well supported favourite, with the weight of Irish money behind him, but he could only finish fifth after travelling strongly for much of the race. He found little when asked for an effort as a series of jumping errors seemed to take their toll. He is probably better than he showed here and, given his lofty reputation, should still be a horse to follow next year.
My Turn Now, Imperial Commander, Scotsirish all ran with credit and are also worth noting for the future. Scotsirish, in particular, could turn into a top class chaser in time.
2006 Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle Review
A real Festival highlight in recent times, the Sun Alliance Hurdle has a habit of producing great winners and this year was certainly no exception. However, unlike previous victors such as Istabraq and Hardy Eustace, the main protagonists here look destined to shine over fences, rather than making top class hurdlers.
Trainer Noel Meade looked to have a strong hand coming into the race and he will have been delighted not only with NICANOR’S win but also Mr Noise’s effort back in fourth.
The ground had definitely dried out over night and the faster surface not only brought about an improvement in the winner, it probably also inconvenienced the red hot favourite, Denman, who was slightly one paced back in second. Nicanor certainly showed the better turn of foot, having travelled supremely well throughout the race. The first two were nicely clear.
There could be some fascinating clashes to come over fences between the front two, and there is little doubt that Denman will probably appreciate further in good time. He has some engine and over this sort of trip may need slightly softer ground to be at his best.
The mare, Refinement, was staying on well at the end having been ridden well off the pace. Third place was probably a fair reflection of her ability, but she lacks the scope of the horses who finished in front of her.
Mr Noise, on the other hand, will relish the switch to fences and could close the gap on Nicanor and Denman next year, although he may prove best over a slightly shorter trip.
The right horses filled the frame, giving the form a very solid look, but there were also career best efforts from outsiders Mr Pinpoint and Rimsky, although the latter looks a tricky ride.
After the race, Nicanor received a quote of 10-1 for next year’s Sun Alliance Chase, whilst Denman was 14-1 for the same event. The West Awake, in 1988, was the last horse to do the double. Both horses are sure to have the Gold Cup as their long term aim.
Roll of Honour (1971-1988)
(recent winners detailed towards top of page)
Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle 1998- 2006, Royal Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle 1997, Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle 1974-96, Aldsworth Hurdle 1971-73
Year Winner Age/Wt Jockey Trainer SP Ran
1988 Rebel Song 6-11-07 Simon Sherwood Oliver Sherwood 14/1
1987 The West Awake 6-11-07 Simon Sherwood Oliver Sherwood 16/1
1986 Ten Plus 6-11-07 Kevin Mooney Fulke Walwyn 5/2F
1985 Asir 5-11-07 Mr Ronnie Beggan Paul Kelleway 9/1
1984 Fealty 4-10-12 Seamus O’Neill Peter Brookshaw 33/1
1983 Sabin Du Loir 4-10-08 Graham Bradley Michael Dickinson 16/1
1982 Mister Donovan 6-11-08 Tommy Ryan Edward O’Grady IRE 9/2
1981 Gaye Chance 6-11-08 Sam Morshead Fred Rimell 7/1
1980 Drumlargan 6-11-08 Tommy Ryan Edward O’Grady IRE 5/2F
1979 Venture To Cognac 6-11-08 Mr Oliver Sherwood Fred Winter 4/1
1978 Mr Kildare 5-11-07 Tommy Carmody Liam Browne IRE 8/11F
1977 Counsel Cottage 6-11-08 Sean Treacy Paddy Mullins IRE 6/1
1976 Parkhill 5-11-07 Dessie Hughes Mick O’Toole IRE 4/1
1975 Davy Lad 5-11-07 Dessie Hughes Mick O’Toole IRE 5/2F
1974 Brown Lad 8-11-08 Ron Barry Paddy Osborne IRE 2/1F
1973 Willie Wumpkins 5-11-06 Pat Colville Adrian Maxwell IRE 11/1
1972 Even Dawn 5-11-06 Ron Hyett Katie Gaze 40/1
1971 Midsprite 5-11-12 Macer Gifford Tom Jones 7/1