The Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle is a race for four-year old’s and upwards and is run over a testing three miles.
It is often a fiercely contested affair and it takes a tough horse to win a race of this nature. Last year’s winner, Penhill, came from Willie Mullins stable and was ridden by Paul Townend. Townend gave the horse a lovely ride that day and kept him wide and out of trouble before pouncing to overtake Monalee at the last. Interestingly enough, Penhill was brought in from the flat racing sphere and was a four-time winner for Luca Cumani before joining Mullins in early 2016. He had seven runs over timber for Mullins before the Albert Bartlett and had won five of the seven. In all, the horse had made 25 career starts between both codes and was highly experienced and battle hardened.
Horses aged six or seven have won the last 10 running’s of this race, the exception being Unowhatimeanharry, who won it as an eight-year-old, so it pays to look at the younger horses in the field. Irish trained horses have won five of the past nine renewals. Being a proven stayer is also quite an advantage as 10 horses who have won the race since its initial running had won over three miles previous. And perhaps the key point for punters is not to be put off if the horse you fancy seems to be a massive price. The last four winners of the race have gone off at prices ranging from 11/1 to 33/1.
The first horse I would like to mention here is Gordon Elliott’s Cracking Smart. He is a six-year-old gelding by Great Pretender and is already a winner of a listed race over three miles at Cork. His last two runs have been over inadequate trips and both times he finished a staying-on second to Next Destination, closing the gap between the pair on the last occasion with cheekpiece’s applied for the first time. He looks like the further the trip the better he will become and his only previous from on good ground was a bumper at Fairyhouse last April which he won by 13 lengths. Whilst he is not a double figure price I still think he represents some value at odds of around 7/1, as if Next Destination doesn’t show up, he will go off much shorter. My advice is to get involved now with some of the NRNB firms. Another horse that I think could be interesting if he turns up is Closutton inmate Fabulous Saga. This Willie Mullins trained six-year-old fits the profile previously suggested having won four of his seven starts over obstacles. He didn’t come from the flat scene like his stablemate but has Grade 2 winning form over three miles and although his last run was disappointing at Leopardstown, where something was clearly amiss, if you can forgive him that he would have to be of interest. Mullins record in the race isn’t great by his high standards, having had 28 runners in this race over the years and only winning it once and having five horses place, but I quietly fancy this one to outrun his likely odds of 25/1. Ballyward would be another to note if taking up his entry. The last horse I want to mention is Mr Whipped. A five-year-old gelding who ticks most of the boxes regarding trends and who represents a powerful trainer who always needs to be respected with his novice hurdler’s. The Henderson stable may have more pressing and obvious claims with Santini, and while I think he is very impressive and should make a very exciting stayer, he has only had two previous runs over hurdles and the lack of experience may cost him. Mr Whipped has an official rating of 146 and has the benefit of four hurdling starts. It is hard to assess how he will cope with the hustle and bustle that this race is sure to entail with all of his runs coming in fields of 10 or less, but his stable has no shortage of talent to scope from and he has to be respected at odds of 14/1. Albert Bartlett Trends
13 / 13 Ran in either a Class 1 or 2 last time out 13 / 13 Had previously contested in either a Grade 1 or 2 13 / 13 Had recorded at least 2 wins in the last 365 days 13 / 13 Ran in a race with no more than 11 runners last time out 13 / 13 Ran off a break of at least 27 days 13 / 13 Had previously contested in at least 2 races at a left handed track 13 / 13 Had previously contested in at least 3 hurdle races 12 / 12 Held an official rating of at least 135
Article by @ShaneMcEvoy1