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Newcastle reverse no disaster for exciting prospect Oscar Rock

Oscar Rock was an 8/1 chance for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle before his defeat at Newcastle on Saturday; he is now 12/1.

There had been plenty of hype about the horse prior to his hurdling debut at Wetherby and he justified the talk with an impressive performance on his first run for Malcolm Jefferson.

However the bubble was deflated slightly at the weekend as the former Harry Fry-trained horse was beaten at odds of 4/9.

Everything seemed to be going to plan as the five-year-old moved smoothly into the lead with three hurdles to jump.

But Ian Williams’ Ballyalton soon challenged and, despite battling hard in the final quarter of a mile, Oscar Rock went down by half a length.

Bet on Oscar Rock to win the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at 12/1

The winner is owned by John Westwood – bought for him by his golfing son Lee – and has won four of his five starts to date.

An exciting prospect in his own right, the form looks strong with the pair well clear of the rest.

Interestingly, Oscars Rock received the following report from his owner Graham Calder.

He said: “Brian [Hughes, jockey] said the ground was just a bit quick for him as he was changing his legs in the straight. If he’d jumped the second-last quicker you never know what might have happened.

“We might look at the Challow [Hurdle] next, it’s likely to be softer.”

Two of Oscar Rock’s three wins have come at Newbury

Oscar Rock’s jumping has not been foot perfect in his two runs over obstacles, as he made a fairly serious error at the final flight at Wetherby.

As alluded to by Calder, his jump at the second-last hurdle on Saturday was not as fluent as that of the winner.

But both mistakes appeared to be those typical of novice hurdlers and with more practice that can only improve.

Softer ground could also help his hurdling – the horses won’t be going as fast – and it’s worth pointing out that his best performances as a bumper horse came on testing going.

Bet on Ballyalton to win the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at 12/1

Whilst Oscar Rock eased for Cheltenham, Ballyalton shortened into 12/1.

However his trainer Ian Williams has reservations about heading to Prestbury Park this season.

After the Newcastle race, Williams said: “That was lovely. He’s done the job well and he’s taken a big scalp there.

“I’m not sure if he’s a Cheltenham horse over hurdles but he certainly will be over fences.”

The in-form trainer suggested that his horse will also head to Newbury for the Challow Hurdle which is held on December 28th.

No horse has won both the Challow Hurdle and the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle

The Grade One event is run over two miles five furlongs and has been won by some good horses over the years.

Diamond Harry and Reve De Sivola won it for Nick Williams, whilst subsequent renewals have been landed by Backspin, Fingal Bay and Taquin De Seuil.

However the most famous name on its rollcall is Denman who won the race in the 2005/6 season.

But it’s worth noting that the Newbury race has never produced the winner of the Neptune and indeed it has been a better trial for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

The 2007 winner Wichita Lineman landed the Challow Hurdle earlier that season.