Spa Novices’ Hurdle Race Card

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices' Hurdle) (GBB Race)

1st
Sean O'Keeffe

The Nice Guy

Age: 7
Weight: 11.6
OR: N/A
J:
 
Sean O'Keeffe
T:
 
W P Mullins
held up in midfield, not fluent 1st, not fluent 7th, steady headway and prominent 2 out, went second when carried right on turn before last, soon switched left and clear with one other, led last, ridden clear final 110yds, readily
2nd
Paul Townend

Minella Cocooner

Age: 6
Weight: 11.6
OR: 146
J:
 
Paul Townend
T:
 
W P Mullins
raced wide, took keen hold, tracked leaders, went second 5th, led before 7th, not fluent and stumbled 8th, switched to near side on turn before last, soon joined but went clear with winner, ridden and headed last, kept on, no match for winner
3rd
Sean Bowen

Bardenstown Lad

Age: 7
Weight: 11.6
OR: 140
J:
 
Sean Bowen
T:
 
John C McConnell
held up in rear, shaken up when not fluent and outpaced 2 out, ridden and rallied up the centre before last, went third last, kept on, no match for first two
4th
Harry Skelton

Ballygrifincottage

Age: 7
Weight: 11.6
OR: 136
J:
 
Harry Skelton
T:
 
Dan Skelton
held up in rear, ridden after 2 out, headway and switched to near side before last, went fourth but no extra run-in

Third race of Gold Cup Day

The Spa Novices’ hurdle, usually known as the Albert Bartlett, is the third race on the final day of the Cheltenham festival.

The race is run over three miles, with 12 hurdles to jump over the new course at Cheltenham. It is for novice hurdlers aged four and older and is usually regarded as the most difficult novice hurdle of the national hunt season.

There is prize money of £73,500 on offer to the winner of the Grade One prize.

History of the Spa Novices’ Hurdle

The race is part of the new Cheltenham festival programme revamp in 2005 when the Festival was changed from three days to four.

Initially, the race was entered into the festival as a Grade two contest and was titled the Brit Insurance hurdle. This changed in 2008 when it was promoted to Grade one status and in turn the sponsorship was taken over by Albert Bartlett, who are a vegetable growing company. The Albert Bartlett sponsorship has meant the race has earned a nickname of the ‘potato race’.

Recent years

At massive odds of 50/1, Rachael Blackmore became the second women to ride a Grade one winner at the festival when she steered Minella Indo to success in 2019 for Henry De Bromhead.

Since it’s addition to the festival in 2005, the race has been fairly shared around amongst the trainers, with the only trainer to win the race more than once being Jonjo O’Neill, who has trained two winners, both coming in the first three years, back to back, in 2006 and 2007, which can be seen below:

Jonjo O’Neill:

Black Jack Ketchum (2006)

Wichita Lineman (2007)

In O’Neill’s two victories in 2006 and 2007, both horses were ridden by AP McCoy, who has won the race three times, more than other jockey. He also won the race in 2013 abroad A Fishers Cross for Rebecca Curtis.

No jockey currently riding has ever won the race more than once, with the now retired Andrew Thornton the only other jockey alongside McCoy to win the race more than once with victories in 2005, the first running of the race and then in 2008.

A full list of McCoy’s successes in the race can be seen below:

AP McCoy:

Black Jack Ketchum (2006)

Wichita Lineman (2007)

At Fishers Cross (2013)

There is no McCoy or Thornton in 2020. Jonjo O’Neill may have won his two way back at the beginnings of the race but he certainly knows how to prepare his novices for the extreme test so his runners may be worth keeping an eye on.

The race is often seen as a starting point for future staying hurdlers, more than anything. Penhill won the 2017 race before going onto win the 2018 Stayers hurdle whilst UnowwhatImeanharry won the race 2016 and placed in the 2017 stayers hurdle.

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