Pont Team Undaunted By Quickening Cheltenham Ground

Champion Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, has moved to allay the fears of some punters who are anxious to know whether the unbeaten Pont Alexandre – currently the 9/4 favourite for the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle in the Betfair 2013 Cheltenham odds – will prove effective on a sound surface, writes Elliot Slater.

The five-year-old has looked a seriously exciting prospect in recent Cheltenham previews, but after winning in his native France on his only start there – a three-runner hurdle – on good to soft ground, he has so far only proved his ability over hurdles in Ireland when the mud has been flying.

Mullins actually expects his rising star to prove even more effective on a better surface and suggests he has been winning on a heavy surface despite of the ground, not because of it.

Those sentiments should be music to the ears of the many Irish punters who have continued to support Pont Alexandre and have made him one of the Irish bankers of the four-day festival after the hot prospect looked tremendously impressive on his two Irish hurdles starts to date.

It is reflective of the high opinion in which Pont Alexandre is held by his handler that the son of Dai Jin had his first outing for Mullins just three weeks after arriving from France when he was thrown in directly at the highest level when asked to tackle the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle in December.

He proved up to the task, winning by 13 lengths from Busty Brown, before proving that victory no flash in the pan when following up at Leopardstown in late-January under a Grade 1 penalty, slamming Sizing Gold by 11 lengths in the Grade 2 Synergy Security Solutions Novices Hurdle.

“I’d rate his chances in the Neptune very strongly”, a confident Mullins said earlier this week.