Cheltenham Festival 2015: Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle preview (13:30)
Parlour Games is a progressive sort who has some strong form to his name, and can fend off a typically strong Irish challenge to land the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (13:30).
The gelding has won four of his seven starts over hurdles and the last of those successes came in a a strong renewal Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
This seven-year-old travelled powerfully off the pace and after being produced to lead at the last dug deep to get the better of dual Grade 2 winner Vyta Du Roc by a 1/4 of a length.
The pair finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of the highly regarded Blaklion, and the victory earned Parlour Games an official rating of 148.
That is just 4lb lower than that of Faugheen when winning the race last year, and sets a decent standard for others to aim at.
Parlour Games, who is trained by John Ferguson, will also appreciate the better ground and everything looks in place for a huge run.
Irish trainer Willie Mullins has won three of the last seven runnings of this Festival race, and Nichols Canyon and Outlander are both serious players for the County Carlow handler.
Nichols Canyon has won three of his four starts over the obstacles, and made amends for unseating his rider at Leopardstown over Christmas with a convincing all-the-way win in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle at the same venue last month.
The five-year-old hardly put a foot wrong and kept finding plenty under Ruby Walsh to go clear in the straight and beat the useful Windsor Park by 3 1/2 lengths.
This pair pulled 8 1/2 lengths clear of the third home and highly touted Alvisio Ville and the race has proved a key Festival trial in recent years.
Outlander is an unexposed sort who has has won two of his three starts over hurdles and seems to be peaking at the right time.
The seven-year-old’s last win last came in a strong Grade 2 contest at Leopardstown, where Outlander travelled strongly throughout and was still on the bridle at the final flight before quickening clear to beat Martello Road by 3 1/4 lengths.
Judged on the manner of that success he should have plenty more to offer, and Outlander sports the famous Gigginstown House Stud colours which were carried to victory in this by First Lieutenant in 2011.