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, giving it it’s full name: the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.
The smallest field for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle came in 2013, when eight runners lined up. The most runners was 29, achieved in 1979, 1984 and 1991. The current safety limit is 22.
MOST SUCCESSFUL OWNER
The most successful owners are Anne-Marie McGowan, Maggie Heath, JP McManus and Susannah Ricci, with two wins each.
MOST SUCCESSFUL TRAINER
The most successful trainers are Nigel Twiston-Davies and Willie Mullins, with three wins apiece. Twiston-Davies has scored with Gaelstrom (1993), Fundamentalist (2004) and The New One (2013), while Mullins has been successful with Fiveforthree (2008), Mikael D’Haguenet (2009) and Faugheen (2014).
MOST SUCCESSFUL JOCKEY
Ruby Walsh is the most successful current jockey with three wins – Fiveforthree (2008), Mikael D’Haguenet (2009) and Faugheen (2014). Retired jockey Charlie Swan also won the race three times on Danoli (1994), Urubande (1996) and Istabraq (1997).
The Irish-trained 1994 winner, Danoli, subject of a massive gamble, 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 15 of the 44 runnings (34 per cent). The longest-priced winner was 40/1 chance Even Dawn in the second running in 1972.
The oldest winner was Brown Lad, an eight-year-old when scoring in 1974. Four-year-olds Sabin de Loir (1983), Fealty (1984) and Crystal Spirit (1991) were the youngest winners.
The overall breakdown by age is as follows:
- 4yo – 3 winners
- 5yo – 16 winners
- 6yo – 23 winners
- 7yo – 1 winner
- 8yo – 1 winner
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.
The Irish have an excellent record in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle with 18 wins, including six consecutive victories from 1973–78. The latest success came from the Dermot Weld-trained Windsor Park in 2015.
DID YOU KNOW?
Oliver Sherwood and the late Dessie Hughes won the race as trainers and jockeys. Sherwood was aboard Venture To Cognac in 1979, while his training wins have been with The West Awake (1987) and Rebel Song (1988). Dessie Hughes was twice successful as a jockey on Davy Lad (1975) and Parkhill (1976) and sent out Hardy Eustace (2003) to victory as a trainer.
Istabraq (1997), Hardy Eustace (2003) and Faugheen (2014) all won en route to victory in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, while Davy Lad (1975) went on to take the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
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.