Cheltenham Festival: Blazing Khal has Paddy on the run in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle

We're approaching the Christmas Festivals but the Cheltenham 22 movers and shakers are taking shape with another Irish challenger on Paddy's radar.

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Another weekend of top-flight jumps action and a few more wannabes made their case for Festival glory next March.

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TUESDAY, MARCH 15 – CHAMPION HURDLE

Connections of ante-post favourite Honeysuckle were probably not quaking in their boots after Guard Your Dreams scooped Saturday’s International Hurdle at Cheltenham, but he beat some decent types in the likes of Sceau Royal and Song For Someone and was given an introductory quote for the Blue Riband.

This guy’s enjoying a right season with a win over Saturday’s Racing Post Gold Cup hero Coole Cody, admittedly over hurdles, here in October before a third to Buzz in a Grade 2 hurdle at Ascot last month. Don’t forget he was Grade 1-placed over timber when filling the same position behind My Drogo in April’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle in Aintree.

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TUESDAY, MARCH 15 – MARES’ HURDLE

Some punters love a grey and Martello Sky matched her looks with a brave neck success from Indefatigable in a mares’ handicap hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday. Admittedly the second home was giving the winner 5lb, but the first home still carried the second highest weight in this competitive event and while the Festival race will be a tough ask at level weights, she certainly merited being tightened up for it.

TUESDAY, MARCH 15 – NATIONAL HUNT CHASE

Willie Mullins’s Stattler joined Run Wild Fred at the front of this market after a beautiful chasing debut at Fairyhouse on Saturday, when he made a beginners chase his own with a six length defeat of Fighter Allen. He was sent off favourite for this year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, mustering a fourth before a third in the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle at Punchestown and has the size and scope to be even better over fences, especially when seen over a longer trip than this weekend’s 2m 5f.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16 – CROSS COUNTRY CHASE

Diesel D’Allier was one of our best-backed horses ahead of Cheltenham’s Paddy Power November Meeting and while a third didn’t make his supporters rich, their cash was ultimately along the right lines as he landed Saturday’s Cross Country Chase at the same venue.

This success meant he was almost cut in half in price for the March equivalent and while that task will be much harder at level weights then rather than in last week’s handicap, Richard Bandey’s stable star deserves his place as does Potters Corner who was a wafer-thin second and also halved in odds.

THURDAY, MARCH 17 – TURNERS NOVICES’ CHASE

My Drogo did what a 2-9 favourite should do and easily won a novices’ chase at Cheltenham on Saturday, when Paddy’s odds’ boffins trimmed him for the race now known as the Turners Novices’ Chase. The Milan gelding was returning to the course where he had taken a tumble on his first start over the bigger obstacles last month and the overwhelming reaction from connections seemed to be relief.

That said he remains a highly-exciting prospect and we can’t wait to see him on his next start in the Grade 2 Paddy Power Novices’ Chase – historically called the Dipper – back at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

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FRIDAY, MARCH 18 – TRIUMPH HURDLE

Interne De Sivola was no match for In This World on his hurdling bow at Warwick last month, but seemed to come on bundles for that introduction with a ready victory in the Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Prestbury Park on Saturday and his hat was thrown into the betting.

Sharp minds in our trading room remembered his first start and also took the knife to In This World who is second favourite for this championship contest.

FRIDAY, MARCH 18 – ALBERT BARTLETT NOVICES’ HURDLE

Irish trainer Charles Byrnes is not a man the bookies take lightly so when his Blazing Khal won his second Grade 2 novices’ hurdle in a row at Cheltenham on Saturday, evasive action was always going to be taken and he’s almost halved in price.
The five-year-old is still unbeaten over timber and, apart from a bad mistake at the second last, was always too good for his rivals coming home four and a quarter lengths clear of Gelino Bello.

The Limerick handler stated that he thinks “three miles is his forte” and this race “will definitely be the aim” and he might be seen next at the Dublin Racing Festival as long as it’s not good ground.

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