Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle: 2m, Friday, March 18, 2:50pm
Key Stat: Willie Mullins has yet to train the winner of this race in 18 attempts
A very stern test of stamina for novices where previous Cheltenham experience has been a notable factor providing 10 winners with no winner racing less than three times over hurdles.
Gigginstown House Stud specialise in strong, powerful, future staying chasers in the making so the Albert Bartlett should be right up their street and they have owned two of the last seven winners plus last year’s second and third.
J P McManus has also owned two winners. However, this is the Grade 1 novice hurdle at the Festival that keeps eluding Willie Mullins who is 0-18 including two short-priced favourites.
Up For Review might still be his best hope this season, despite a defeat at Doncaster in January but his Arkwrisht, A Toi Phil and Gangster, all running in the Gigginstown silks look like being well suited to this stamina test if given their chance.
Of the British-trained contingent, although he has saddled only two runners, both of Jonjo O’Neill’s contenders justified favouritism in convincing fashion.
The Hyde, Bristol and Classic Novice Hurdles, all Grade 2 events run at Cheltenham at the November, December and late-January Meetings respectively, have featured seven of the 11 Albert Bartlett winners between them so that has been the best place to look for a British-trained runner.
The Classic Novices’ Hurdle at the end of January in which Shantou Village finished second to Yanworth has been the best guide featuring four winners, three of which won both races.
Despite a couple of 33/1 shocks in the first 11 years, Barters Hill’s fans will be pleased to note that four of the six horses to be sent off at no bigger than 2/1 have done the business winning with something to spare.
Eight victors had won a graded race over hurdles and experience does count with five of its 11 winners also running in a novice hurdle the previous season.