The Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle formerly the Brit Novices is the championship contest for staying novice hurdlers and has attracted a high-class 106-strong entry including 38 from Ireland. Jonjo ONeill has saddled the last two winners of the three-mile contest Black Jack Ketchum 2006 and Wichita Lineman 2007 and the Jackdaws Castle handler has two entries this time with the promising pair Crocodiles Rock and Theatrical Moment. The current market leader is the Jeremy Scott trained Gone To Lunch following his fine third behind two-time Ladbrokes World Hurdle hero Inglis Drever in the Grade Two Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on January
The Mark Bradstock-trained Carruthers landed the Grade Two Ballymore Properties Leamington Novices Hurdle over two miles, five furlongs on heavy going at Warwick earlier this month and takes high rank among the home trained entries. The five-year-old drew clear of Nenuphar Collonges, Souffleur, Just A Thought and Hills Of Aran. Nenuphar Collonges had been successful over the course and distance in the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in December. Alan Kings charge held Gone To Lunch, Souffleur, Razor Royale, and the Irish raiders Aldhaher Beebers and Native Royal.
The trainer has seven entries in all. Souffleur previously caught the eye when six lengths superior to the Paul Nicholls-trained Elusive Dream in the Grade One Ballymore Properties Challow Novices Hurdle at Newbury in December, in which he also defeated Gauvain, Razor Royale, Zilcash and the Grade Two Ballymore Properties Winter Novices Hurdle victor Lightning Strike. The five-strong Nicholls contingent also includes impressive Chepstow maiden hurdle winner Big Fella Thanks, Grade Two placed Nakai, the unbeaten four-time winner The Tother One and What A Friend. David Pipes five entries includes Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup fourth and Grand National entry Madison Du Berlais, while Nicky Hendersons unexposed quartet has Ascot winner Earth Crystal, and Keith Reveley could saddle Grade Two victor Tazbar.
Nigel Twiston-Daviess quintet includes Battlecry, winner of the Grade Two Albert Bartlett (River Don) Novices Hurdle at Doncaster on Saturday, while Victor Dartnall has engaged Lodge Lane who defeated Carruthers at Exeter on January 1. The bumper Irish entry includes the Mouse Morris-trained Venalmar, winner of the Grade Two Woodlands Park 100 Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas, from fellow entries Trafford Lad, winner of a Grade One at Navan in December, Woodbine Willie and No Full. Charles Byrnes has engaged Liskennett, who had Siegemaster and Our Bob behind in the Grade Two Toshiba Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 27.
The latter is one of three Willie Mullins-trained entries, the others being Cooldine and Uncle Junior. Parsons Pistol defeated Uncle Junior in a three-mile Grade Three at Cork in December and is one of a five-strong Noel Meade-trained contingent that includes the high-class Gem Daly and three-time winner Rinroe, while Tony Martin has entered Cesarewitch winner Leg Spinner and Tom Cooper could run Forpadydeplasterer, who split Whatuthink and Cork All Star in a Grade Two at Leopsardstown at Christmas. Edward OGrady has a quintet entered that includes hat-trick seeking Kasimali and dual bumper winner Roccos