Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle Ante-Post Odds: Back this 40/1 outsider to make Cheltenham frame

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There's set to be a hugely competitive renewal of the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle on the last day of the Cheltenham Festival, and Steve Chambers has taken a look at the latest ante-post odds and has picked out a big-priced selection for the three-mile Grade 1 event...

Following the news ante-post favourite Blazing Khal was ruled out of the race, the contest has taken a new complexion and it's the Gordon Elliott-trained Ginto that took over favouritism alongside stablemate Hollow Games, and the Henry De Bromhead-trained Journey With Me. The trio are currently hovering around the 6/1 mark with the bookmakers and Ginto earned his place at the summit after claiming Grade 1 glory in the Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle, where he beat Grand Jury (25/1) comfortably. Three wins out of three over 2m 4f over hurdles has seen Ginto make an impressive start to his hurdling career, and he does hold a Ballymore entry, but he does look an out-and-out stayer, so has to be respected here.

Journey With Me lowered the colours of the highly thought of Kilcruit last time out in a maiden hurdle, and he shaped like another exciting staying prospect. Kilcruit could only finish third that day and it was Minella Crooner (10/1) from the Elliott stable that finished second, and that pair could lock horns again in the Albert Bartlett. Both will need to improve significantly from that effort when stepping up to Graded company and could just fall short with the hustle and bustle of this energy-sapping contest, if they line up.

Hollow Games completes the fancied triumvirate and was eye-catching when winning the Grade 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle two starts ago, but he was comfortably beaten by Ginto when they met last time out, so he has form to find with that raider at Cheltenham, and it could be of the leading three in the market it's worth sticking with the proven Grade 1 winner.

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Unbeaten from four career starts under Rules, Gerri Colombe (8/1) was last seen winning over 2m 7f, so he's destined for a crack at this event, and while he holds a Ballymore entry, the Gordon Elliott-trained raider looks destined to be a leading player here. A winning favourite at Thurles last time out, he will need to step up when sent into Graded company, but having shown improvements with every run to date he could be one of the most notable protagonists at the head of the betting.

Archie Watson is more accustomed to have runners on the Flat, but in Stag Horn he has a really exciting National Hunt recruit, who was last seen blazing a trail en route to victory in the Grade 2 Leamington Novices' Hurdle at Warwick. That 2m 5f success earned him quotes of 20/1 for the Albert Bartlett, and having shown a real high level of form over staying distances on the Flat then this sort of test could see him come to the fore. He's still lightly-raced over timber, but with huge experience from the Flat game he shouldn't be overawed by the challenge, and he looks to be one of the leading British raiders.

Adding to the home charge is Henry Daly's Hillcrest (16/1), who beat the classy I Am Maximus in a Ballymore Novices' Hurdle trial at Cheltenham, and while he has to be respected, if taking his chance here, he could well be seen competing in the Ballymore, so it's worth edging on the side of caution in terms of an ante-post bet on him.

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With so many horses holding multiple entries across the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Ballymore Novices' Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle then from an ante-post perspective you want to unearth a selection that is likely to line-up, and one that fits that mould is the 40/1 outsider FREEDOM TO DREAM. Peter Fahey's raider's sole Cheltenham entry is in the Albert Bartlett and having won on debut at Punchestown, he was then no match for Eric Bloodaxe in a Grade 2 at Limerick last time out.

A smart bumper horse that once finished runner-up to Appreciate It on the level back in 2019, Freedom To Dream is significantly bigger than Eric Bloodaxe in the ante-post betting, but he did run all the way to the line in that Limerick event over 2m 7f, so the test of an Albert Bartlett should really suit him. A winner on good to yielding ground, Fahey's charge was beaten on heavy ground by Eric Bloodaxe, who also must come into calculations here, but in Freedom To Dream there could be a challenger that goes better in the spring and at 40/1 he looks far too big at the current stage of proceedings.

2022 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
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Freedom To Dream (EW)

Cheltenham Festival 2022
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