Cheltenham Festival Trial
First held in 2003, the 2m Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle is a Grade 2 run at Punchestown and worth €44,500. Champion trainer Willie Mullins has landed seven of the past ten renewals, two of them going on to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on their next start, and a third finishing second to Altior.
In addition Charles Byrnes, saddled Trifolium to victory in 2012, the five-year-old then finishing third in the Supreme, and last year's Mullins-trained winner Getabird was sent off favourite for the same Festival race.
Further marking this race as a Cheltenham Festival trial is 2003 winner Kicking King, who was second in the Supreme, and the Arkle Novices' Chase, before winning the Gold Cup, and Mikael D'Haguenet, who was Mullins's only winner to then land the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Festival.
Who Will Win?
Dual bumper winner Buildmeupbuttercup (5/2 Paddy Power) is Willie Mullins's leading challenger this year, but she's only run once over hurdles, winning a maiden hurdle at Navan in December. She lacks the experience of some of her rivals and it can prove profitable to look elsewhere for the winner.
This looks an opportunity for the Jessica Harrington-trained Jetez (9/2 SportNation.Bet). In contrast to Mullins's favourite, he's run 10 times over hurdles, winning a Limerick maiden hurdle in May and following up in a valuable handicap hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.
The six-year-old does have a bit to find with a few of his rivals here, but he looked good value for his three-length victory last month and shaped like an improved performer on his return to this 2m trip.
Jetez is clearly held in some regard by Harrington with the half-brother to Grade 1-placed chaser Jetz also holding an engagement in next month's £155,000 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
Trainer Gordon Elliott stable holds a strong hand in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle and the value pick looks to be the six-year-old Defi Bleu (12/1 SportNation.Bet).
The six-year-old was pitched in at the deep end on his hurdling debut 13 months ago when contesting a Grade 2 at Naas so it was no surprise to see him finish well beaten, but he bounced back to be second at Down Royal the following November and then won at Navan over 2m4f.
The form of that Navan contest is working out, with the second and third continuing to show up well in maiden hurdle company, while the fourth has scored at Tramore since.
Of more significance is Defi Bleu’s two subsequent Graded novice hurdle places with the first coming when third in a Grade 2, second-placed Getareason going on to be third in Grade 1.
Of concern is the move to step the son of Saddler Maker up to 3m at Limerick at the end of last month. He finished a good second, but there wasn’t a lot between that effort and the Navan third on ratings so it’s reasonable to assume that he can be just as effective dropping back in distance.
Quotes saying 'we are already looking forward to him going over fences next season. He did that well' from connections following the Navan maiden hurdle success suggest that Defi Bleu's best is yet to come, but with a strong chance that this race will cut up, he looks worth an each-way bet at a best price of 12/1 with SportNation.Bet.