Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle Tips: Hillcrest to reach the peak


The appetiser for the showpiece of the week, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, comes in the shape of the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at 2:50pm. Often a race in which we see future Gold Cup contenders stake their claims (think Bobs Worth and Minella Indo) this year we could see the same again with two in particular heading the market who look destined to make strapping staying chasers in time. Billy Grimshaw likes the chances of one to continue his progress and claim Cheltenham glory...

The shape of this race and indeed the market for it took a shift last week when ante-post favourite Minella Crooner was ruled out for the Gordon Elliott stable due to a pulled muscle. He had been well fancied to reverse placings with his conqueror at the Dublin Racing Festival Minella Cocooner, and indeed many believe that the Leopardstown winner would've been more suited to the shorter test of the Ballymore. Willie Mullins doesn't often get his targets wrong however (see Sir Gerhard's demolition in the Ballymore earlier this week) and trusting the master of Closutton means despite his free going style not necessarily lending itself to this race, Minella Cocooner is not to be dismissed lightly. Mullins is mob-handed and The Nice Guy is his next representative in the market, but further down the list his Ramilles makes most appeal to my eye. He was well regarded last season yet finished down the field in the Champion Bumper, but everything about his run style screams he will love this trip and test a year or so on. 

Unlike many of the races at the Festival this week, the market is not dominated solely by Irish raiders. One of the most interesting challengers crossing the Irish Sea is undoubtedly Falcon Eight for Dermot Weld, a high class performer on the flat who reached a lofty 111 rating at his peak. He has taken his time to get used to hurdling but his stamina is without question after his strong staying performances on the level throughout his career and he could have the toe needed to streak away should he be in the mix coming toward the closing stages.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

Moving onto the market leaders, it has been topsy turvy between Ginto and Hillcrest for some time now. Starting with the Elliott representative, Ginto was only confirmed for this race at a fairly late stage due to the injury to stablemate Minella Crooner. He has been a tremendous novice hurdler and looked sensational in demolishing Eric Bloodaxe, who re-opposes here but is an outsider, at Navan back in December. He further enhanced his form in the Grade One Lawler's of Naas in January, beating Grand Jury by four and a half lengths and although that runner did nothing for the form at the Dublin Racing Festival, the visual impression created marked Ginto out as destined for the top.

His market rival Hillcrest is, as has been well documented, an absolute behemoth of a horse. Described by many as the biggest racehorse they've seen, he has always been destined to be a stayer. He would be unbeaten since his debut in a bumper were he not to have been wiped out on his penultimate start at Cheltenham, but before that he won well at the track in the listed Ballymore trial. The sheer size of this horse for Henry Daly means he is destined for fences but before that this test of stamina and relentless galloping looks ideal for him, particularly on the evidence of his last run. He was monstrous in breaking the heart of the re-opposing Green Book on heavy ground at Haydock and his finishing splits indicate he was not stopping. His trainer seemed cautious afterwards about his participation in this race due to the potential for Haydock to have bottomed him out, but connections have given glowing post race reports and his confirmation here must mean he is raring to go. This looks every inch a future Gold Cup winner and I expect him to confirm himself as the leading staying novice of the season with victory over Ginto and the rest of the field here.

2022 Albert Bartlett
Hillcrest silk


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Cheltenham Tips
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