Albert Bartlett Ante-Post Preview: Get an each-way fancy

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Willie Mullins has another strong crop of novice hurdlers this term.
Willie Mullins has another strong crop of novice hurdlers this term.

Following the release of entries for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, Jamie Jackson has taken a look at the field and picked out his best best at this stage, a 16/1 each-way fancy...

Although it's produced leading stalwarts such as Bobs Worth, Unowhatimeanharry and Penhill within the last decade, the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle has proven to be something of a puzzle in the past couple of years or so, with Minella Indo (50/1) and Kilbricken Storm (33/1) scoring at huge prices. The race was added to the meeting when a fourth day was introduced in 2005, meaning the roll of honour is slightly lacklustre just yet, and a recipe for finding the winner still not apparent.

With the dust settling on the Dublin Racing Festival, many of the leading protagonists in the staying novice division had their metal tested. Already a winner of the G2 Navan Novice Hurdle, Latest Exhibition relished every yard of the 2m 6f of the Nathaniel Lacy & Ptnrs Solicitors Novice Hurdle, staying on best to assert and win by two lengths. He looked a little tapped for toe turning for home, but showed determination, grit and staying power to grind out the victory - attributes that will resonate massively with punters were he to turn up on the 13th March. Second that day was Cobbler’s Way, who was catching his rival with every stride but couldn't quite get there, and he looks a forgotten horse at around the 20/1 mark.

Coming into the weekend, the favourite for both the Albert Bartlett and the aforementioned Grade 1 at Leopardstown Fury Road, but he had his bubble burst in a big way, staying on tamely into fourth. A facile winner of the Grade 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle (a race in which Gordon Elliott has sent his leading novice hurdle hopes Death Duty and Samcro) and the Grade 2 Land Rover Novice Hurdle prior to that start, he entered the race as the ‘hype horse’. However, he simply didn't have the answers that day, and  he has rightly been knocked down the pecking order for the showpiece at Cheltenham as a consequence.

Arguably the strongest candidate and the form pick of the race, Thyme Hill has proven himself with every test that has been thrown at him so far. A very good third in the Champion Bumper, with this form reading exceptionally well, he has gone from strength to strength this season. On his hurdling debut, he duly dispatched of the subsequent Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle winner Fiddlerontheroof in the Grade 2 Persian War Novices' Hurdle at Chepstow in October, before winning nicely under a penalty in the Grade 2 Ballymore Trial at Cheltenham the following month. Sent off a warm 6/4-on favourite for a weak renewal of the Challow Novices' Hurdle at Newbury last time out, his forte that day really looked like his staying power, giving encouragement that the step up in trip for the main event will suit him in March.

The devastating duo of Mullins and Ricci have a relatively unexposed and potential star in Monkfish, who seems to get better the further he runs. He won by a resounding 20 lenths under a penalty in a novice hurdle at Thurles last month, and he really could be anything at this stage. He was beaten in a bumper on Rules debut at Punchestown last May by another candidate for this in Longhouse Poet, who perhaps hasn't quite scaled the heights he was expected to over timber so far this term. He's held his own in Grade 1 company the last twice, however, and has been shaping as though this test of stamina will suit. 

With the Irish looking to hold all the aces, Colin Tizzard holds a couple of jokers who could mix it with the best of them. A €360,000 son of Getaway, The Big Breakaway is beginning to justify his hefty price tag. On his debut at Chepstow in November he cosily beat Blackjack Kentucky, before romping home at Newbury in a similar contest at Newbury a month later, giving 6 lb to his main market rivals in the process. Another rising star with a very different profile is stablemate Harry Senior, who began his hurdling career running over 2 miles back in October. It wasn’t until he was stepped up in trip that he really started to shine, however, winning in attritional conditions over 2m 3f at Chepstow on Welsh National day, before following up over two and a half miles in the Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Festival Trials Day last time out, staying on best up the hill to prove he is simply a dour stayer. 

Another son of Getaway, The Big Getaway is a hugely imposing horse with plenty of scope and a lot to like. His owner Marie Donnelly has other leading novice fancies for the Festival in Shishkin and Asterion Forlonge, and based on his attributes, he looks like their Bartlett horse. This big, raw horse was never going to be a bumper horse, but he was very closely matched with Fiddlerontheroof and Fury Road in that sphere last term, and since jumping a hurdle he’s looked an entirely different prospect. He looked every bit the winner on his hurdling debut at Leopardstown in December, until missing the last and landing in a heap and being picked up by Cobbler’s Way. This seemed to be the making of him, and the way he jumped and respected his hurdles when winning by 17 lengths at Naas on his next outing was outstanding. As such, there looks to be plenty of value in his current price, and he's an appealing each-way proposition. 

Selection

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Friday 13th March 2020 - back The Big Getaway each-way at 16/1 

Tip

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
The Big Getaway silk

The Big Getaway (EW)

Showed promising form in bumpers last term, and has quickly built on that over hurdles; looking unlucky not to win on debut at Leopardstown in December, before hosing up in a novice event at Naas last month. There should be plenty more to come from him yet, and with the step up in trip likely to suit, he makes plenty of each-way appeal at his current price. 

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