Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Preview
The stayers of the novice division get their chance to shine in the 3-mile, Grade 1, Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. This race has thrown up a few huge shocks over the years and in all honesty has been a bit of a head scratcher. Last year’s renewal produced arguably the race of the week and Cheltenham favourites such as Bob’s Worth and Wichita Lineman have won the race in recent times, so fingers crossed this year’s renewal throws up a good one.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Current Odds: 5/1
In a wide-open renewal of the Albert Bartlett, Stattler heads the betting at 5/1. Form figures of 313 this season wouldn’t give you the typical profile of a Willie Mullins favourite, but these runs came over the intermediate trip and Stattler looks sure to relish the step up to three miles. Turned over at a short price on hurdles debut, Stattler improved massively for the run and ran out a commanding winner on his next start from stablemate, Glens Of Antrim. Thrown into Grade 1 company on his next start at the Dublin Racing Festival, Stattler ran another solid race from the front and kept on nicely behind Gaillard Du Mesnil. He didn’t appear to have the gears required to kick on with Gaillard that day and again hinted he needs three miles to be seen at his best. Unexposed at the trip, there could be bundles of improvement to come, and in a field lacking proven Grade 1 form he at least brings that to the table.
Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Current Odds: 6/1
Having already had 3 starts in Bumpers last season, I was surprised to see Torygraph reappear in another back in October. He shaped like a strong stayer that day and was duly sent over hurdles on his next start. Making his hurdles debut over two and a half miles on heavy ground, Torygraph stayed on nicely into second without ever really challenging the now 136 rated Power Of Pause. This represented a solid start over hurdles, and he was duly stepped up to just shy of three miles for his next two starts. On both occasions he shaped like a horse who relished every inch of the three miles and visually you’d have to think the staying nature of an Albert Bartlett will really suit. Torygraph beat Velvet Elvis by 13 lengths on his penultimate start and that horse has come out and won twice since so his form would look solid too. He’s attracted plenty of support in the market in recent weeks and comes into this relatively unexposed.
Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Current Odds: 13/2
Stable mate of Torygraph, Fakiera, has been another who has been crying out for a step up to three miles. With this in mind, it is testament to Fakiera’s ability that he was able to win his first start of the season over 2 miles from the well regarded Gabynako. Stepped up to two and a half miles on his next start, Fakiera stormed home to chin Fire Attack late on and ran in a similar fashion when flying home for second behind Ashdale Bob, a month later, over the same course and distance. Thrown into Grade 1 company on his last start at The Dublin Racing Festival, Fakiera once again shaped like a thorough stayer and stayed on strongly from an uncompromising position to finish fourth, just two lengths behind Stattler. He has the right profile for the Bartlett, coming into this with plenty of experience under his belt. I’d expect the nature of the race to suit and he looks sure to give his running.
Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Current Odds: 8/1
Barbados Buck’s ran to an RPR of just 112 when beaten on hurdles debut in October but has since gone on to record three wins, all at three miles. His form is tricky to assess but one thing this fella should love is three miles around Cheltenham. He looks a galloping machine who may prove a National sort over fences one day. On Official Ratings he is bang there with the likes of Stattler and Fakiera but I do worry how much more improvement there is to come over hurdles. He will no doubt go chasing next season and for all Paul Nicholls is a wonderful trainer, he doesn’t have the greatest record in the Novice Hurdles at Cheltenham.
Trainer: Fergal O’Brien
Current Odds: 10/1
Fergal O’Brien’s Alaphilippe has gone from strength to strength so far this season, recording form figures 11121. Stepped up to three miles on his last start for the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett trial at Haydock, Alaphilippe put in a career best performance, eased down to win by 14 lengths from Mr Harp. Young Buck did unseat at the third last to make his task a little easier but using Mr Harp as a yardstick, Alaphilippe compares well to market rival, Barbados Buck. Barbados Buck’s had beaten Mr Harp by a similar distance earlier in the season, so I would say this performance represents a fair level of form. With experience on his side, and the race set to suit, Fergal O’Brien may have a live contender to break his Cheltenham Festival duck.
This year’s Albert Bartlett looks a wide-open renewal and over the years has been a race to throw up plenty of shocks. Streets Of Doyen at 25/1 looks a big price to me given he has a lovely profile for the race. As a second season novice he has plenty of experience under his belt and will come into this battle hardened. A course and distance winner in October he was given a 127-day break before reappearing over 2 miles for what looked a classic pipe opener. He’ll love the anticipated good Spring ground and being a course winner at the trip gives him an edge here. Nicky Henderson may send Bothwell Bridge who appeared to love the step up to three miles last time out. Formerly placed behind the smart Bravemansgame he has some good form in the book and could look overpriced at 20/1. Adrimel, Ashdale Bob and Make Me A Believer all bring good form over the intermediate trip and I’d argue all three will improve for three miles. Pats Fancy ran a big race over course and distance in November but needs to bounce back after a poor run last time out.
Crunching the Numbers
- 13 of the 16 winners were aged 6 or 7
- 11 of the 16 runners were priced 8/1 or bigger
- 15 of the 16 winners had 6 or more lifetime starts
- 14 of the 16 winners had run an RPR of 143 plus
- 15 of the 16 winners had won a race that season
- 15 of the 16 winners had 3 or more starts that season, Minella Indo in 2019 the only exception
This wouldn’t appear to be a vintage renewal of The Albert Bartlett but many of these are unexposed at the trip and could improve plenty. I would be amazed if Torygraph doesn’t enjoy the nature of the race and thrive at 3 miles around Cheltenham. Off the market credentials, I believe he has the most scope for improvement and has had to battle a few times this season which always helps. Stattler just doesn’t strike me as a real top-notcher, and I’d be looking to lay him at the prices. He may be seen to better effect over a fence. Class would be my main worry for both Barbados Buck’s and Allaphilippe having demonstrated a fair level of form of this season but nothing to write home about. Fakiera looks a place banker to me and will surely be hitting the frame. He seems to find a couple too good though and as a big, raw horse it may be a similar story. I quite like Streets of Doyen to outrun his odds of 25/1 given his course form, love for good ground and battle-hardened profile. From a win perspective I would probably side with Torygraph but believe both Fakiera and Streets of Doyen to be solid each way players. Another Grade 1 to the Irish by my reckoning!
My Idea of the Winner
- Torygraph 6/1
Each Way Play
- Streets of Doyen 25/1
- Streets of Doyen
By Sam Rideout
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