The real stamina test for the staying novice hurdlers is the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle 2017, run over three miles on the new course where there are twelve hurdles to be jumped in total.
This race has provided a future Gold Cup winner in Bobs Worth who won this race in 2011 prior to Gold Cup success in 2013, and will also have the favourite in the Stayers Hurdle 2017 as Unowhatimeanharry looks to follow up his 2016 success in this race.
Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle 2017
Shantou x Midnight Gift (Presenting)
Notes: A horse which has so many similarities with the ill-fated No More Heroes who was strongly fancied to win this race when beaten by Martello Tower in 2015. He will make into a lovely chaser next season but deserves his place at the head of the market, and is getting better with experience. Rising through the grades over hurdles taking a Grade 3, Grade 2 and a Grade 1 on his last three starts he should also improve for stepping up an extra half-mile in trip also.
Craigsteel x Last Theatre (King’s Theatre)
Notes: Has always been held in high regard by Nigel Twiston-Davies, and has won 4 from 7 over hurdles so far. He beat Ami Desbois over this C&D when encountering soft ground, and his trainer is adamant he will be even more effective on better ground. Of what I’ve seen so far he comes up marginally just short against some of these.
Yeats x Feathard Lady (Accordion)
Notes: She was always backed like defeat was out of the question in the bumper sphere, and was heavily punted when finishing seventh in the Champion Bumper twelve months ago. She made a pleasing start to her hurdling career when winning on her debut, and was coming to challenge Death Duty in a Grade 1 at Naas when falling at the last. Death Duty would have held her on the day was my first impression, and I can’t see how she turns the form around – she’s a high-class mare but needs to improve.
Milan x Tempest Belle (Glacial Storm)
Notes: The one horse which Gordon Elliott fears most if you listen to his preview evening discussions. This horse beat The Storyteller of his which they thought was a certainty prior to injury for the Martin Pipe Conditionals off 142. Monalee was beaten behind Death Duty receiving 3lbs at Navan in December, but looked improved again back up in trip when beating Battleford at Clonmel. Will need to improve again and on the basic form he isn’t good enough to beat an on-song Death Duty, but the trainers’ fears are an interesting angle if looking for an alternative.
The Worlds End
Stowaway x Bright Sprite (Beneficial)
Notes: Hailing from the Tom George yard who have had a real resurgence of late since linking up with Adrian Heskin, who rides so well over here. He was beaten on his debut at Ffos Las in November but was said to have needed the run, before beating Full Irish by 11 lengths at Chepstow on Welsh National day. He then won again at Chepstow before taking the Albert Bartlett Novices (Grade 2) at Haydock by 9 lengths giving 7lbs to No Hassle Hoff, winning in a good time and with a great degree of ease.
Kayf Tara x Alina Rheinberg (Waky Nao)
Notes: A low-key introduction over hurdles with a win at Haydock in monsoon like conditions, he came from the point-to-point sphere with a lofty reputation. He beat Prime Venture by 6 lengths on his second outing for Nicky Henderson, who went on to run a gallant second in yesterday’s EBF Final at Sandown off a mark of 126. He scrambled home at Doncaster in a hard-fought River Don Novices (Grade 2) to beat No Hassle Hoff (giving 7lb) and improved on that earlier form. Learning on the job is clearly above average and has to be highly respected hailing from the Nicky Henderson camp, who won this with Bobs Worth in 2011.
Bacardys almost certainly looks to be heading to the Neptune Novices Hurdle instead of taking in this race.
West Approach has been said to be going for the Stayers Hurdle 2017 as opposed to this, with connections favouring taking on the best stayers in the country with their experienced novice.
Ami Desbois has run with credit in a series of staying novice events this season, winning a handicap at Wetherby off a mark of 137 on his most recent start. Will keep going when others have cried enough, would love any additional rain we could get during the week and could run well at a big price.
Any Drama has improved well after disappointing on his hurdling debut in November, victories at Market Rasen and Exeter will put him spot on for this and everything about his pedigree suggests the extra yardage will bring out further improvement.
Peregrine Run looks Coral Cup bound.
Penhill was impressive when stepping up to this distance for the first time. A high-class handicapper on the flat, he’d won a Grade 3 over the minimum distance over hurdles before tasting defeat in the Grade 1 Royal Bond. He took the Grade 2 Guinness Novices Hurdle at Limerick without coming off the snaff, and the true pace and nature of this race will certainly bring out that stamina in him, a very live player at double figure odds.
Gordon Elliott clearly has a strong hand in this race with Death Duty who has done nothing but improve over hurdles this winter. The better ground shouldn’t cause too many problems for him and he seems a fairly solid conveyance at the head of the market.
However his fears of Monalee are interesting given he had a line into The Storyteller on their running at Punchestown, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Henry De Bromhead son of Milan raise his profile again here on the big stage.
That drum has been banged plenty in recent preview evenings and pressers and as such the juice has been squeezed out of his price.
Ami Desbois and Penhill are two which will outrun their current prices, as is Constantine Bay who is learning on the job and created a really good impression last time at Doncaster.
Augusta Kate is an intriguing project but often fails to deliver when the money is down so not overly concerned about her at this point, but the one I really like for this contest is the Tom George trained THE WORLDS END who looked really classy at Haydock.
The Worlds End won the same race that Brindisi Breeze won in a similar fashion before that horse’s victory in the 2012 renewal of the race, and generally his form stacks up really well.
His 11-length beating of Full Irish who was really strongly fancied, and ultimately disappointing off a mark of 130 in the EBF Final yesterday, but he did trade as low as 1.8 in running suggesting connections confidence wasn’t totally misplaced during the race. He beat No Hassle Hoff in a lot further and easier style than Constantine Bay did at Doncaster and looks a solid alternative to the favourite at the prices.