The final Grade 1 Novice Hurdle of the Cheltenham Festival is the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle, which is run over a gruelling distance of 3 miles on the new course. Run on the final day of the festival, the race is always a tough ask for a horse at a young age to compete in, with it being such a stamina sapping race. There are no hiding places when running in such a race, with an end to end gallop, thwarting any horse with stamina issues.
Last years renewal was a perfect example of such a test, with miserable conditions and last years runner-up Milsean creating a real slugfest with a relentless gallop. The race was like slow motion in the end with Martello Tower just getting up in the final yards denying what would have been a courageous victory for Milsean if he was able to lead from pillar to post.
The race has attracted a total of 73 horses for the most recent declaration stage for this years renewal, with Willie Mullins dominating proceedings with a staggering 20 runners entered. However what may come as more of a surprise is the fact the Irish based trainer is yet to taste success in the race, although there has only been 11 runnings of the Grade 1 so far.
Cheltenham 2016 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Contenders
Kalanisi (IRE) — Circle The Wagons (IRE) (Commanche Run)
Notes: This son of Kalanisi was purchased for a small fee of £16,000 as a three-year old, which has already turned out to be a bargain. He is unbeaten in 7 starts under rules, with his last three victories coming over timber. He began the season being sent off 8/13 favourite for a novice hurdle at Huntingdon over 19.5f, where he met good opposition in North Hill Harvey. Despite showing inexperience over hurdles he was able to make all and win comftably by 14 lengths. His next destination was Newbury for the Grade 1 Challow hurdle, where he faced only 2 rivals in Politologue & Label Des Obeaux. He made light work of them, showing too much class for his rivals. His most recent outing was perhaps his hardest assignment and the eagerly anticipated clash between the first two in the market of the Albert Bartlett, with Up for Review making the trip over the sea to Doncaster. However it wasn’t to be with Up For Review weakening tamely after the last, leaving Barters Hill to battle on gamely to deny Ballydine by 3/4l. He’s laid back and often runs lazily, but you can’t fault his attitude to win a race, he just keeps finding. With rock solid form he’s the one they all have to beat.
Shantou (USA) — Village Queen (IRE) (King´s Theatre (IRE))
Notes: This Neil Mulholland trained gelding made a massive impression on his second start over hurdles when giving the highly regarded Champers on Ice a thumping at Cheltenham back in November, where he tanked through race and drew readily clear turning in, outclassing his rivals. This P2P winner was not seen again until trials day at the end of January where he went off second favourite behind the highly thought of Yanworth in the Neptune Novices Hurdle trial. He was totally outclassed by the Alan King trained gelding, tasting defeat for the first time in 5 starts, however excuses can be made, with conditions not in his favour and more of a stamina test required I feel he is much better than the bare result. One of the traits that has been most impressive is his jumping, he has shown a quick & slick technique, which may be crucial if locked together with a rival coming down to the last. With only 5 career starts to his name it is highly likely more improvement is to come from this son of Shantou, which only but increases his chances. Everything looks to point towards him running a big race for his connections.
Green Tune (USA) — Dahlia´s Krissy (USA) (Kris S (USA))
Notes: The first of the Willie Mullins string is the Gigginstown house stud owned gelding Gangster. Like Shantou Village he is still lightly raced having only ran 6 times under rules and only 4 for his new connections. Since joining the Closutton team he has won 3 out of his 4 starts, tasting defeat at the Galway festival on ground quicker than ideal. Since his defeat he has gone from strength to strength in wining his next 2 starts, with his most recent coming in a Grade 3 contest winning easily by 10 lengths. This half-brother to Rite of Passage, has high-class bloodlines and looks to have every chance to make his presence felt in this contest, however the fact he’s not ran since middle of December would worry me and I fear that softer ground is crucial to see him at his best.
Up For Review
Presenting — Coolsilver (IRE) (Good Thyne (USA))
Notes: Next in the market is another Willie Mullins trained gelding Up For Review, who is owned by Andrea & Graham Wylie. This son of Presenting has shown a good level of form over timber, winning a Grade 2 on his penultimate start when thumping a good yardstick in Jetstream Jack by 13l. His latest start was bitterly disappointing by his standards, where everything was in place for him to put up a good fight to Barters Hill, however it was never to materialise, as he was brushed aside by the Ben Pauling trained gelding. Connections suggest it wasn’t the true running of this 7-year-old gelding, but for me I feel the ground was the issue, as I feel he’s very dependant on soft ground. If conditions were like last years renewal then he would have a big chance as stamina looks his main asset, but any quicker than this then I would feel he would struggle.
Stowaway — Bealaha Essie (IRE) (Denel (FR))
Notes: Having only been beaten 3/4l by Barters Hill it may come as surprise the difference in price of the two horses, currently being priced up as 14/1. However I feel the margin he was beaten by is very misleading, because they could have run another half mile but he was never going to pass Barters Hill that day. This P2P runner-up has improved massively since being asked to go up in trip, showing stamina in abundance. The Charlie Longsdon trained gelding fits the bill of a good each way bet, however I can’t see him reversing the form with the favourite, so I feel place claims at best.
O O Seven, A Toi Phil & Long dog look highly likely to contest the Neptune from what connections have said, although all three would have major chances if destination is switched to the 3 miler.
Champers on Ice is a very consistent sort, having featured in the front 3 over hurdles in his 4 starts to date over timber, winning 2 of them in gritty fashion. However he seems easily held by Shantou Village on two previous runs, place claims at best.
Thomas Hobson looks to have a serious engine and looked to have stepped up on form when beating his stable mate Open Eagle last time out at Warwick in a Grade 2 contest where he made all. He would have won by further albeit for 2 terrible mistakes in the home straight. My main concern would be the trip as I feel the Neptune would be more suited for this son of Halling.
Bleu Et Rouge perhaps caused one of the main shocks of the season when beating Bellshill in the Deloitte Novices Hurdle. He went into the race after an encouraging run behind Long dog over 2 mile at Christmas, when finishing fourth in Grade 1 company. He was sent off 11/1 an apparent third string in the Deloitte, however he was far from it as he traveled like he best horse and stayed on strongly to assert in the closing stages. The step up in trip would bring out more improvement I feel, as although it was only over 18f last time out he was doing all his best work at the end.
For me there is a stand out bet in the race and that has to be Shantou Village, this strong traveller looks to have everything going for him. If you take Yanworth out of his last race then he would be probably be favourite for this race, he ticks all the boxes for a race of this calibre and at 6/1 I feel he’s good value. Bleu Et Rouge would be my each way bet of the race if he was take his chance, he looks to have plenty of class and can only improve.
0.5pt each-way Bleu Et Rouge @ 20-1 Boylesports (NRNB)
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