Albert Bartlett Novices 'Hurdle (Spa) (Grade 1)
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Albert Bartlett Hurdle Betting Tips
This year the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – also known as the Spa Novices’ Hurdle will take place on Friday 17th March and will see the novice hurdlers take on just shy of 3m and 12 hurdles at Cheltenham.
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Here are the Albert Bartett Novice Hurdle betting trends to consider for the last 10 years:
- All 10 of the previous 10 winners had already had at least 3 starts over hurdles (2010 winner Berties Dream had 13!)
- 8 of the previous 10 winners were either 6 or 7 years old
- 8 of the last 10 winners finished either 1st or 2nd on their last start before the Albert Barlett (the two exceptions were both 33/1 outsiders)
- 8 of the last 10 winners finished 1st or 2nd in a National Hunt Flat race, with 5 winning one
- Only 6 of the last 10 winners had previous experience over 3 miles or further.
- 5 of the last 10 winners had already won at Cheltenham before.
- 4 of the previous 10 winners were Irish trained.
- Only 3 favourites have won the Albert Bartlett Hurdle in the last 10 years at odds of 15/8, 11/8 & 11/8.
Jonjo O’Neill took this race back in 2006 and 2007 with Black Jack Ketchum and Wichita Lineman respectively – making him the leading all time trainer for this race which was only added to the schedule back in 2005 (worth noting this race was a Grade 2, not a Grade 1, until 2008). A P McCoy is the leading jockey with 3 wins, while Robert Thornton has won this race twice (the first edition in 2005 and then again in 2008). Willie Mullins has never won this race and will be looking to add it to his burgeoning Cheltenham Festival titles collection.
Trends Analysis: The lack of 3 mile experience in general for previous winners, as well as the fact that two 33/1 horses have won this race in the last 10 years (and only 3 favourites) means it’s worth looking for value in unexposed horses stepping up in trip. It’s interesting that bumper winners often do well in this 3 mile contest given National Hunt Flat races are normally contested over just 2 miles, while previous Cheltenham winners are worth extra attention given there won’t have been all that many opportunities for novice hurdlers to have run at the track already.
All of three miles bar a step or two await a huge field of novices in a race that seems sure to be run at a good clip from the off, resulting in even more of a stamina test for the hardy combatants. The Albert Bartlett market is one which will change multiple times over the coming weeks, with trainers often leaving the decision as to whether to run in the Albert Bartlett, the Neptune Novices Hurdle or even the Supreme Novices Hurdle until the last minute.
Now a general 9/4 chance for the race, Death Duty has really impressed this season for Gordon Elliott. Winner of three graded races including on his latest start when knuckling down to win a Grade 1 at Naas, perhaps slightly fortunate that his main rival Augusta Kate came down at the final fence, although as Gordon Elliot reported after the race, jockey Jack Kennedy was confident: “Jack [Kennedy] thought he had her covered and the one thing I do know is that he would have galloped all the way to the line. Our lad is a very good horse“. Regardless of whether he would have held that rival, it was still a good performance by a horse who is going from strength to strength at present, jumping with brilliant finesse and galloping much too strong for his rivals. The potential for him to step up to three miles is certainly an exciting prospect as he should improve for the extra distance on what he’s shown so far and there is no telling how good he could be at present. Whether he warrants such a short price is certainly up for debate, but he has does as required so far this season and if staying the trip which is likely, he’d have to have a good chance.
A general 12/1 shot and very useful in bumpers, Bacardys has certainly shown promise this season. He was travelling supremely well on hurdling debut at Cork when coming down three out, but made amends on his second start when winning at Leopardstown, although not as impressively as some would have liked. The potential for him to step up to three miles is interesting, as he should stay if judged on his Point to Point win at Quakerstown at the trip, with his in-running notes ending with ‘impressive’. He should improve with the extra trip and with his stamina assured, he is an intriguing contender for Willie Mullins as he looks to claim the race for the first time. As a ground versatile horse, he has to have a great chance, though it would be good to see him tackle the trip before Cheltenham.
Looking very green and wandering to the flight, Augusta Kate certainly didn’t deserve to come down at the final fence at Naas when against Death Duty in a Grade 1. Despite Jack Kennedy being confident he could hold her, Ruby Walsh had her in a supremely good position and she seemed to be travelling just as well at that rival. On only her second start over timber it was a great performance nonetheless and she is bound to improve for it, with the prospect of a step back up in trip certain to suit after her maiden win at Thurles over 2m 7f, making all with ease. On evidence so far she seems more progressive than Death Duty so the price difference of nearly 12 points with Mullins mare lying at a best priced 14/1 in a market seeming very generous. She needs to be carefully watched on the run up to Cheltenham, as she is certainly dangerous to discount and could improve past the favourite on the lead up to the Festival.
A steady improver this season, Wholestone still remains with lots of potential as a 6 year old. Winning a Grade 2 with seemingly a bit in hand over C&D in December, he showed that he has the speed and stamina required for an Albert Bartlett which tends to be an attritional race. That win also kept his unbeaten record over C&D in tact, now 2-2 and 2-1-0 in total at Prestbury Park. Although with something to find with Death Duty, if he continues to progress in his current vein he could be dangerous, especially with his stamina assured and good course form in the book.
Back in 2010 Berties Dream would secure the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. The horse was a 33/1 shot for trainer Paul John Gilligan and would go on to represent the trainer in the World Hurdle the following year. Berties Dream would be prominently positioned by Andrew Lynch in the opening stages, the pace being set by fellow outsider Premier Victory. Lynch would keep his ride to the inside, one of a handful of realistic challengers coming up to the penultimate.
Najaf, Restless Harry and Berties Dream all took the last on terms, Restless Harry falling at the last. This would leave the two remaining leaders to trade blows in the straight, Najaf being seen off by six lengths by the eventual winner. Hold up horse Kennel Hill took third. Bobs Worth picked up his first Festival victory with a win in this race back in 2011, the Nicky Henderson mount again ridden prominently though on the outside of the pack in the initial exchanges. The horse was in touch in seventh with a circuit to go and moved up to be challenging No Secrets at the fifth from home. There were many chances around the Dog Leg Turn and it looked as though Bobs Worth might have come a-cropper when hitting the third-out hard.
He recovered to lead going over the penultimate hurdle, racing to the outside of Court In Motion and Mossley who both looked strong. The former emptied without warning leaving Bobs Worth to put Mossley to the sword with a fluent jump over the last, his victory sealed by over two lengths despite wandering when out in front. Lucinda Russell would train Brindisi Breeze to glory back in 2012, another front-running winner who would challenge for the lead in the opening stages. Big Occasion, however, would not be headed until the fourth from home where the eventual winner would take control of proceedings.
The late Campbell Gillies and Brindisi Breeze would be challenged by Meister Eckhart and AP McCoy prior to the penultimate hurdle but would remain strong and go for home around the final turn. The hard-ridden Boston Bob would reduce the deficit to within half-a-length before the last but the winner saw him off too with a superior jump and would plough on two lengths clear at the post. Rebecca Curtis would be the second successive female trainer to take the plaudits in 2013, her At Fishers Cross picking up the 2013 renewal.
His stablemate O’Faolain’s Boy would be a reluctant early leader, AP McCoy close up on the winning favourite. There was very little change having ridden a circuit, though the field was two horses lighter after a pile up at the sixth. At Fishers Cross made a mistake at the third-last but remained in touch and eventually took down O’faolain’s Boy in a pincer movement with African Gold. A better jump at the last and with much more left in the tank in the straight saw the favourite pull clear and finish four-and-a-half to the good of his nearest rivals.
Very Wood saw Noel Meade collect his first win in the race in 2014, the 33/1 outsider another who recorded an official winning distance of over four lengths. The five-year-old settled towards the rear in the opening stages and latched on to the back of the main pack of the field as fallers began to impede the stragglers as they made their way down the back of the course for the second time. The Gigginstown horse was four wide following these incidents but was manoeuvred into fifth following the penultimate hurdle. Deputy Dan was the first to scalp long time leader Kings Palace but Very Wood eventually responded to the slaps delivered by Paul Carberry and was well placed to head Oliver Sherwood’s charge as he made a meal of the last.
Following the big price winner in 2014, plenty were wary of the short price favourite with Black Hercules sent off 5/2 favourite for Willie Mullins. It wasn’t to be another win for the leading 2015 Cheltenham Festival trainer though, as he struggled home a long way back in 17 place, with the race going to Martello Tower for Ms Margaret Mullins. Ridden by A P Heskin, he saw the trip out on Soft ground all the way to the line, just holding off the Willie Mullins’ 33/1 chance Milsean in 2nd and with No More Heroes chasing them home in 3rd at 6/1. He was denied a clear run coming up to the last, hampered and having to be switched, and was perhaps an unlucky loser finishing just a length back. The stewards felt that Bryan Cooper shouldn’t have gone for the gap up the rail which led to the interference and as such no action was taken against the front two jockeys.
JP McManus’ owned Unowhatimeanharry won the 2016 renewal for Harry Fry with Noel Fehily in the saddle. Sent off an 11/1 shot, the 8 year old stayed up the hill in strong fashion to beat the gallant Fagan by just shy of two lengths. The form of that race was very solid as Champers On Ice and Barters Hill occupied third and fourth. 8 year old winners are a pretty race occurrence in the race so it was a top performance from a very progressive horse.