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Neptune mission not impossible for Lieutenant Colonel

Irish trainer Dessie Hughes has confirmed that Lieutenant Colonel will run in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, and he looks a lively outsider at the 14/1 on offer with Coral.

The County Kildare handler believes the step up in trip to 2m 5f will suit the five-year-old, and certainly knows what is required to win the race.

He sent out subsequent dual Champion Hurdle hero Hardy Eustace to score in 2003, and rode Davy Lad and Parkhill to victory in 1975 and 1976 respectively.

Lieutenant Colonel’s also sports the famous Gigginstown Stud colours, and they were carried to success in the 2011 running of the Neptune by First Lieutenant.

There are also some positives as far as his profile is concerned, as five out of the last 10 winners of the Neptune have been aged five and of the last 30 winners all had finished first or second on their last outing.

The Irish also have a good record in the race having won four of the last seven runnings, and 16 in total since 1971.

His form also stands up to close scrutiny, as he was beaten just 5 1/2 lengths by Faugheen on his hurdling debut in a 30-runner contest over 2m at Navan back in December, where he stayed on without being knocked about.

He then justified favouritism in style at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day, scoring easily by 14 lengths, before going down by 4 1/4 lengths to Wicklow Brave in the Listed Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle over the same trip at Punchestown last time out.

On all those occasions he has shaped as if crying out for a step up in trip, and he is now set to get that in the Neptune.

Given that the Willie Mullins’ trained Faugheen heads the market at 11/4 for the contest, he could be a live outsider judged on their run at Navan, now that his stamina is being brought into play.

He has certainly pleased his handler since his last run, who reports his preparation to have gone “first class”.

Hughes said: “Lieutenant Colonel will run in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. He’s fine at the moment and his preparation has been first class.

“I was pleased with his run in Punchestown. I think the winner (Wicklow Brave) is a very good horse and the form of that race looks strong with the third horse (Real Steel) coming out and winning at Naas.

“Two miles looked too sharp for him in Punchestown, so we hope there will be improvement going up in trip. The ground isn’t a concern – he goes on any ground.”