Cheltenham Festival 2019: Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle Preview
The final Grade 1 in the novice hurdle division is the three mile staying race. This race nearly always sees an upset caused, with the average starting price of the winner throughout the last ten years being 16/1. Horses tend to fair better that have had plenty of hurdles experience, second season hurdlers included. Horses towards the top of the market who are more high profile and inexperienced constantly get beat out of sight, for example Black Hercules in 2015. As previously mentioned, experience tends to really help horses in this race; Last years winner Kilbricken Storm was making his sixth start over hurdles and was duly sent off at 33/1 but won very easily from Santini and Ok Corral, who are vying for favouritism for their respective races this year. He had won a Grade 2 at the track previously and relished the heavy ground that day. With all of the aforementioned considered, I am going to make a case for a few horses that represent good each way value.
The first of my selections will be Derrinross, a horse that ticks a lot of boxes. He is a second season hurdler and won a couple of graded races at three miles. Including at Limerick, where recent winners of this contest such as Martello Tower (14/1) and Penhill (16/1) both ran before tasting success at The Festival. Derrinross has won on heavy ground and over three miles, but this is not the only reason – his form actually has some substance. A horse he beat comfortably at Limerick called Cap York from the Noel Meade yard was back in fourth that day, Derrinross gave had to give 3lb to this rival. Subsequently, Cap York has won a Pertemps qualifier at Punchestown in good style. In his previous race at Cork Derrinross won a Grade 3 beating Sams Profile who has an each way shout in the Ballymore, Derrinross had to give this rival 5lb that day.
The next horse I have actually backed at 50’s for this race is Ask Ben for the Graeme McPherson stable. McPherson ran a novice in this race a few years ago called Ami Debois who finished just out the frame behind Penhill, Monalee and Wholestole so the trainer knows how to train a horse suited for this race and hopefully Ask Ben can go a few places better than Ami Debois. Ask Ben has had four starts over hurdles, two of them being over three miles. He has won twice at different distances, travels and stays really well. On his hurdle debut he accounted for the Dan Skelton trained Beakstown who subsequently hosed up in a Grade 2 at Warwick. To add to this he has form behind the favourite, the Rebecca Curtis trained Lisnagar Oscar. Now looking at the bare result Ask Ben has ten lengths to make up, but he had to make his own running on ground that wouldn’t have suited him that day and give the winner a fair chunk of weight. These horses will be running off level weights next week and without having to do all the hard work up front Ask Ben has the potential to reverse those placings.
The final horse I will make a case for (but my preference is for the other two due to price) is Rhinestone, who is a general 12/1 chance for this race. He has plenty of bumper form in the book including in last years Champion Bumper where he was not disgraced, finishing 9th. He did get done for a turn of foot that day and I thought it was a similar story over two miles and six furlongs at Leopardstown where he was just touched off by Commander Of Fleet, who is likely to go off favourite should he take his place here. I thought Rhinestone stuck to his task gamely that day would improve for the extra two furlongs, add in the bonus of the hill here and it could see him reverse that form. Rhinestone also has an entry in the Coral Cup so I would advise taking the Non-Runner No Bet concession if you fancy him, although his trainer has said he is more likely to go for this race.
Recommendations – Derrinross (12/1) & Ask Ben (33/1) – Both generally available