Alexandre new Neptune favourite after easy win
Report: Leopardstown, Sunday
Synergy Security Solutions Novice Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m4f, 5yo+
PONT ALEXANDRE confirmed the strong impression he made at Navan on his Irish debut when adding a wide-margin Grade 2 victory to that effortless Grade 1 success, coming well clear in the home straight under urgings from Ruby Walsh.
In doing so he has assumed favouritism with most firms for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, after defeat for The New One at Cheltenham on Saturday, and Paddy Power go 3-1 (from 6) while William Hill go 4-1 (from 7).
"I thought it was a huge performance for him to make all in that weather and on that ground, facing into that wind twice coming up the straight," said trainer Willie Mullins. "He must be a very brave horse to have done that. We'll just put him away now for Cheltenham.
"He'll get an entry in the Albert Bartlett but I imagine he'll go for the Neptune with Ballycasey going for the Albert Bartlett. We always thought he was a good ground horse. He looks to be one of the best novice hurdlers we've had, apart maybe from Hurricane Fly."
That is high praise indeed and Mullins continued: "The Neptune looks to be his race - he showed plenty of pace today. I'm looking forward to going to Cheltenham with him and particularly looking forward to novice chasing with him next year. He is a gorgeous horse with a great temperament."
Walsh added: "If you saw him at home, you'd think he wants five miles. He is a different horse at the track and showed today he has the pace for the Neptune."
Pont Alexandre's connections Rich Ricci, Ruby Walsh and Willie MullinsPICTURE: Patrick McCann
Settled in front, Pont Alexandre travelled strongly and jumped superbly. For a horse having just his third start over hurdles he put all his rivals under pressure with his jumping, taking at least half-a-length out the field at almost every hurdle.
Indeed, so strong was his jumping that the slightest of errors four out came as a real surprise. The gallop set was not particularly strong, but with the pressure put on his rivals at every hurdle, Walsh had the entire field at it before turning for home.
Despite having the race put to bed with Pont Alexandre still on the bridle, Walsh decided to both educate his mount and find out how much was left, kicking on and pushing his mount out strongly as they entered the home straight.
The response was impressive and the pair put daylight between themselves and the chasing pair of Our Vinnie and Sizing Gold in a matter of strides. Walsh never picked up his whip, but under hands and heels he urged his mount clear and despite bunny hopping the last they continued to pull away all the way to the line, finishing 11 lengths clear.
After Walsh was turned over on the first two favourites, at odds of 1-2 and 2-5, it was something of a relief to see the 4-7 favourite come home in front of 7-1 shot Sizing Gold, with 9-2 shot Our Vinnie third.