Punters place their faith in Quel Esprit for Cheltenham
PROMISING grey Quel Esprit has been the subject of a gamble that has seen him leap to the head of the betting for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Coral have reported strong support for the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old, who was denied a run in the Grade Two Slaney Hurdle yesterday by the abandonment of the meeting at Naas. Winner of both his two starts over timber, Quel Esprit has been cut to 8/1 clear favourite, from 10/1.
Another Irish-trained challenger to be nibbled at is Captain Cee Bee, whose Festival target is the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.
Eddie Harty's charge, owned by legendary gambler JP McManus, is 6/1 second-favourite with Coral, behind Henry De Bromhead's 5/1 shot, Sizing Europe.
Captain Cee Bee looked an unlucky loser when he came down at the final fence when challenging that horse in the Bord Na Mona Chase at Leopardstown.
At this stage, Dunguib is likely to be the Irish banker at the Festival but trainer Philip Fenton is taking nothing for granted as he prepares his exceptional novice for Cheltenham.
"He's in brilliant form and he has had a little time off since he last ran, but he's been back riding out properly in the last fortnight and he is extremely fresh and well," said the Tipperary trainer.
Last season's Weatherbys Champion Bumper hero is hot favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle after winning all his three races over timber so far in impressive fashion.
Fenton said: "We didn't run him over Christmas as the important ones are in February and March, so he won't appear until February 7 at Leopardstown and the Supreme Novices' at Cheltenham is his main aim.
"We'll be taking nothing for granted. First of all he has to get there and secondly I'm sure there will be plenty of opposition.
"Our horse has to go there and prove it, but we are looking forward to it."
Dunguib is a general 6/4 shot for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Meanwhile, Oliver McKiernan's exciting novice Whodoyouthink could be on course for a clash with Dunguib following his stylish victory at Leopardstown on St Stephen's Day.
And connections now feel he has earned the right to be considered for next month's Deloitte Hurdle at Leopardstown.
"We are contemplating the Deloitte Hurdle and he is a course and distance winner, but if the ground was very heavy he might not run.
"He did a fair time and he deserves to take his chance in a race like that," said McKiernan's assistant, Adrian Keatley.