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Albert Bartlett preview

The last of the G1 Novice Hurdles is the Albert Bartlett, a gruelling three mile test which has thrown up the likes of Wichita Lineman, Bobs Worth and At Fishers Cross in recent years. It's a race that's worth looking at in depth - while there have been four successful favourites under 2/1 in the last decade, there have also been a couple of 33/1 shots claiming victory.

My turn to have a crack at this one, certainly an intriguing contest, even more so by a decent drop of rain overnight.

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Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
3m New Course, Grade 1
£120,000
1440GMT

Willie Mullins brought a ridiculously strong team to Cheltenham particularly in novice hurdle ranks but was denied in the Neptune by another Irish runner in Windsor Park. This time Willie has five horses in his armoury, and all of them have multiple recent wins.

In racecard order:

Arbre Vie
Lightly-raced French import with only five starts to date, and just two for the Mullins camp. Hard to line up his form as they don't really link up with any other runner but he has won well in both runs for Ricci & Mullins. One interesting link in his form, he ran a close third to Aux Petit Soins who was very convincing on Wednesday in the Coral Cup. Untapped.

Avant Tout
Just three starts to date and steps up from two to three miles. Rated 10lb behind Arbre Vie, a huge ask to improve that much beyond others with improvement still in them.

Black Hercules
The obvious favourite, has had a boom on him since the start of his career. Took on three miles for the first time last start and relished it, albeit in a small field on a heavy track at Cork. Has won four from six but it irks me that his two failures have been in the big races, although both were bumpers last season (Cheltenham and Punchestown). For all the hype, he's only one of eight horses rated 145-148, so it's the Mullins & Walsh factor making him favourite rather than pure class. Have to take him on at the price.

Blaklion
Consistently running to 145 at his last four starts which puts him right in this but vulnerable to rivals on the improve. Narrowly beaten at his last two starts, and Sam Twiston-Davies replaces Ryan Hatch, a notable tick. The pair who beat him at Newbury (Parlour Games and Vyta du Roc) were right in the finish in the Neptune, and his conqueror at Doncaster, Caracci Apache opposes him here. In contention but place best for mine.

Caracci Apache
Three from three over obstacles and relishing the increase in trip each time. EVerything went his way at Nico de Boinville mightn't be one the biggest names in the jockeys' room but he has ridden Festival winners before and has won twice on this runner. Capable, probably a touch of value at 20s.

Carningli
Won a Chepstow maiden last start and his jumping wasn't fluent. Won't get near these.

Definitly Red
Annoyingly misspelt, inclined to write him off just for that! Trained by Brian Ellison who is yet to notch a Festival winner, but the yard is in outstanding recent form. Strong English formline through Fletchers Flyer in a G2 last start, won at the track, distance, in the going and has top jockey aboard. Do not rule out.

Fletchers Flyer
Promising hurdler who meets the aforementioned Definitly Red 3lbs better for defeat by a head at Haydock last time. Nothing to really to pot him, but nags me slightly that this will be his fourth different jockey in a row, but that's probably a symptom of being from a smaller stable. Right in this, gives AP McCoy a decent chance of a final day winner.

Kylemore Lough
Bolter of the field, beaten in a four horse Listed race at Huntingdon last start, miles out of his depth here.

Martello Tower
Has form through Outlander, a leading chance in the Neptune who ultimately failed with my money aboard, and finished ahead of No More Heroes last time at Leopardstown, although that horse was said to have scoped poorly after the race. Has won a pair of Grade 3s over this distance. In contention but I prefer a few ahead of him.

Measureofmydreams
One of the many Mullins and Gigginstown Stud runners but bottom of the pile. Beaten 31 lengths by Martello Tower in December with the benefit of 6lbs, no reason to suspect that could be overturned.

Milsean
Similar form and connections to Measureofmydreams. Nuisance value.

Native River
Not hopeless, rated right up to the best here yet will go around at a huge price. Impressive win at Exeter last start, running away from the field giving them all weight. The Tizzard stable is not averse to a big price Festival winner, worth an interest.

No More Heroes
The pick of the Gigginstown team. Yet to run over three miles but has always looked like it will suit him. Scoped dirty last time at Leopardstown, should be right in this but the market hasn't missed him.

Out Sam
The preferred Henderson runner based on jockey bookings. Just two runs under rules, beating two of today's rivals at Newbury in November (receiving 8lb from Thomas Brown) and then winning under a big weight at Ascot without a huge amount left in the tank. The Newbury win puts him right in this with natural improvement. Another with a strong chance.

Shanroe Santos
Northern raider with two starts under rules. Won a Class 2 Novice nicely last time at Musselburgh over the same distance but would have to think that is well below the level required here.

Shantou Bob
Fascinating runner from the Warren Greatrex yard, who claimed their first Festival winner yesterday in the other staying hurdle with Cole Harden. Beaten a nose by Vyta du Roc at Sandown in December (cast a plate) and then bled from the nostril in early January, running third in a Grade 2 at Warwick when 10/11 favourite. Just like Cole Harden yesterday, he's had a wind operation too. Rated to be in the mix here and the stable is firing.

Tea For Two
Marginally top in official ratings, winner of three from five over hurdles. From a smaller stable and has an inexperienced jockey aboard who would normally claim 7lb, but Lizzie Kelly has ridden him throughout his career. You can't substitute big race experience and this is a hot race, but that concern is more than compensated in the price.

Thomas Brown
Not raced since he won here on New Years' Day, defeating among others, Zeroshadesofgrey which ties in favourably with form of Blaklion and Caracci Apache. Form through an earlier win at Exeter ties in with Arbre Vie through Kingscourt Native, and then there was the second to Out Sam conceding 8lbs. Stablemate of Fletchers Flyer, trainer can't seem to split them. One of a host of chances, he'd be shorter in a higher profile stable.

Value At Risk
Just the two starts over hurdles, for a 22L win at Newbury and a narrow defeat at this venue behind Ordo Ab Chao who finished midfield in the Neptune. Steps up to three miles for the first time, but being by Kayf Tara, that's only a good thing. Won't mind the rain one iota, another strong chance.

SUMMARY
This is tough, very tough. If you're not going for either of the two favourites then just about anything can win.

I'm going to take a punt on the Greatrex stable continuing their run - another staying hurdler coming off a wind op at a massive price.

1. Shantou Bob (50/1 at Stan James if you're quick, or 33/1 generally)
2. Arbre de Vie
3. Native River
4. Tea For Two

with other mentions in exotics for Out Sam, Definitly Red, Fletchers Flyer and Thomas Brown.

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