A Look Ahead To The Albert Bartlett - Two Weeks To Go

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A Look Ahead To The Albert Bartlett - Two Weeks To Go

The Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle - registered As The Spa Novices' Hurdle, is a Grade One contest over three miles where there are twelve hurdles to be jumped.

It was one of several new races introduced at the Festival when a fourth day was added to the prestigious meeting in 2005, and now sits as one of the main attractions on Gold Cup Day.

For it's first three runnings the event was sponsored by Brit Insurance, and it was classed at Grade Two level, before the vegetable growing company Albert Bartlett began supporting the race in 2008, whereby it has held Grade One status since.

There have been fourteen renewals of the Albert Bartlett - eight have been won by British-trained runners, five by Irish and one French. Ireland though, have won five of the past ten.

It is one of the toughest races of the week from a punting perspective, as this race is a brutal and punishing test of stamina and longevity for novice hurdlers, which will catch many out in the running of it.

Run on the new course at Cheltenham - known to have an even longer run-in than usual, this contest is for those seeking to showcase their ability to stay the distance up the iconic Cheltenham hill, with possible plans to go chasing over the long-winded stretch next season - possibilities in the RSA (Gold Cup route) or the National Hunt Chase over four miles (National stepping stone).

With stamina usually at a premium, previous winner Bobs Worth who landed this in 2011, returned to the Festival later on in his career to win the RSA, before achieving glory in the Gold Cup for Nicky Henderson.

There is also the potential to remain over hurdles, to play a part in the Stayers Hurdle Championship the following season; the same route the Willie Mullins-trained Penhill took in 2018, when he landed the Stayers Hurdle twelve months after winning the Albert Bartlett.

penhill paul townend willie mullins stayers hurdle cheltenham festival
Penhill after winning the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham

Kilbricken Storm won this race last year for Gold Cup winning trainer Colin Tizzard - who is Stayers bound this term it would seem after a series of failed attempts over fences.

Storm managed to win though at odds of 33-1, achieving a first ever success at the Festival for 19-year-old jockey Harry Cobden, having headed long-time leader Fabulous Saga at the final flight.

Meanwhile, Nicky Henderson duo Ok Corral - the second and Santini - the third, have faired much better over the larger obstacles.Corral is in fact a leading contender for the four-miler on the opening day, whereas Santini is the current favourite for the RSA Novices Chase on the Tuesday.

This year, the market is still totally undecided with several horses keep their options open with cards to play in the other novice hurdle contests - the Ballymore and in fact in the Supreme over a much reduced distance.

Gigginstown though will be well represented wherever they go, and look to have a good one on their hands with Commander Of Fleet, who is the current market leading having produced his best effort to date when upped to 2m6f last time out at Leopardstown.

He beat Rhinestone by just half-a-length who also looks set to stand here for Joseph O'Brien - the two pulling well clear of the rest of the field.

The two are currently 7/1 and 14/1 respectively, but are both expected to be cut in price once the entries for other races have been confirmed.

JP McManus is another owner well illustrated across the week, and he may be forced to split up his Nicky Henderson trio: Champ, Champagne Platinum and Birchdale.

birchdale
Birchdale

Champ and Champagne Platinum look set to fight out the Ballymore over two-and-a-half, resulting in Birchdale being forced to be the one who makes the steep climb to unknown three-mile territory.

The 5yo was last seen going clear in a Ballymore Trial at Prestbury Park on Trials Day in January, despite the fact Olly Murphy's Brewin'Upastorm parted company with his jockey Richard Johnson at the final hurdle.

He sits around the 8/1 mark, alongside Dickie River - in fact another for Henderson sporting the green and gold hoops who we are yet to mention, having been the subject of some good money in the last few days after his recent success at Chepstow in Wales.

It appears as though the Champion Trainer will be doubling up in each novice category, and there are certainly worse problems to be had.

Lisnagar Oscar for Rebecca Curtis could be another card for the Brits, and he sits towards the summit too around the 8/1 mark.

Gordon Elliott - trainer of Commander Of Fleet, could also have the similarly owned Dallas Des Pictons, who won at Leopardstown at the Dublin Irish Festival.

His success nonetheless came in a Grade B Handicap Hurdle rather than a graded affair, but was over the Albert Bartlett distance - where his running notes stated: 'kept on well under pressure on the run-in where strongly pressed'. The 6yo still managed to prevail by a neck.

The Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins could unleash the likes of Allaho - who won in the colours of Cheveley Park Stud at Clonmel two weeks ago in a Grade Three and could be anything, along with last year's Champion Bumper winner Relegate - both of whom are no shorter than 10/1.

The Albert Bartlett is known for big price un-fancied winners, so Press Conference, Kapcorse and Easy Game could be others to keep an eye on.

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