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Albert Bartlett preview

The Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle is a tough test, three miles for the out-and-out novice stayers. Andy Charles, @capitalgull, lines up the form.


American Spin – A late comer to the hurdling ranks at eight, and did win an egg and spoon race at Fontwell, but well and truly up against it in this grade.

Benheir – Asking a lot to progress from being beaten at Ffos Las (easy winner there on debut) last month and needs to find a couple of stones to challenge the leading lights.

Big Occasion – Couldn’t fault this one’s attitude in his most recent victory at Carlisle but that form is well over a stone off the quality needed for this. Likely to be up front early but staying there is a different matter.

Boston Bob – There will be many Irish punters heading home before the Gold Cup if this Willie Mullins charge is beaten. Opted for the longer trip of this race over the Neptune where speed could have been a concern. His form is top class but this will be the first time he has encountered ground as quick as this. A short price given that concern.

Brindisi Breeze – Has clearly improved since his defeat at Musselburgh in a bumper but has that progression come because of the slower ground? Slogged a decent field into submission at Haydock last month but this could test his pace. Another sure to be up front and vulnerable late.

Dawn Commander – Gambled on to win a handicap at Bangor last time but found one too good and jumped sloppily (probably cost connections the win). Shouldn’t be good enough to win this despite coming from a shrewd and in-form yard.

Fill The Power – Tried Grade 1 company when thrashed by Fingal Bay at Newbury – that probably sums up his chance in this race. Brave front-running winner at Newcastle before but this is too hot for him.

Fox Appeal – Still very green when winning a second Taunton handicap last time out. Clearly has a lot of talent but only ever just does enough and might not be one to enjoy the battle this event will clearly become.

Grand Vision – Formerly frustrating type who got the winning habit two runs ago and repeated the dose at Haydock last month. But beating staying chaser Sa Suffit is something of a different task to this.

Hard To Swallow – Yet to win over hurdles and hasn’t always jumped very well either. Could have finished second to Fingal Bay had he stood up in Persian War at Chepstow on decent ground which he will have here. Tough to see him winning but not worst of the outsiders.

Ipsos Du Berlais – Well beaten by Boston Bob before Christmas but has regained the winning thread since. Hard to imagine him turning around the form with the favourite but there are few shrewder trainers than Noel Meade.

Lovcen – Would have been easier to judge had he not fallen in the race won by Rocky Creek at Doncaster. Since won a competitive handicap at Wincanton (well backed to do so) and should handle rough and tumble of this, but is he good enough?

Meister Eckhart – Put in his place by Brindisi Breeze last time out and hard to see him reversing that even if the ground is very different here.

Mount Benbulben – One of the season’s talking horses proved a costly failure when slipping up on his hurdles debut. Has won twice since then before going down to Boston Bob last time out. Said not to be right that day and worth noting he was made favourite – much better is expected this time.

Rocky Creek – A really taking winner at Doncaster (Lovcen an early faller) and already looks to be a chaser in the making. Undoubtedly has a chance here and the apple of Paul Nicholls’ eye, but lack of experience would have to be a concern for me.

Sea Of Thunder – Would have absolutely bolted up here in December but for knuckling over at the last. Although that form is not top-class all of his best form is on good ground and a repeat of it would have him in the shake-up and his trainer has a history of Festival success with Weapons Amnesty winning this in 2009.

Sivola De Sivola – An eye-catcher over two miles at Cheltenham last time, Tom George’s grey will be suited by this return to a staying trip. Paddy Brennan adores this six-year-old and thinks he will run a huge race – his form is probably 10lbs off but sure to be staying on late.

The Bosses Cousin – Won his only hurdle so far in good style at Fairyhouse but this is a huge step up in class and trip, which is easily enough to put you off despite coming from the powerful Mullins yard.

The Druids Nephew – Scored in game fashion at Kempton last time to open his account under rules but another taking a huge rise in class and easily opposed.

Tour Des Champs – Struggled since debut win and was too bad to be true when pulled up on horrible ground at Haydock last time. Different conditions today but needs to find rapid improvement.

Verdict:

While most of Ireland will be cheering on Boston Bob to rescue them at the end of a bad week (at time of writing) for the Emerald Isle, it could well be another raider on top in this contest that lacks depth. It was hard not to be impressed by SEA OF THUNDER’S Cheltenham performance last year (despite the fall) and back on better ground he could be the one to cause a bit of a surprise. Sivola De Sivola is respected and should be coming home well and Hard To Swallow would not be the most surprising improver now the winter ground has disappeared.

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