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Under The Radar Open Eagle Can Soar Into A Place In Albert Bartlett

Tuesday 1st March 2016

The Cheltenham Festival is now just two weeks away and one of the final races we are taking an ante-post look at this season is the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle. The race for the staying novice hurdlers has been a hit and miss one for punters down the years with just three favourites winning since 2006 and a number of big priced winners coming during that time as well.

The key for any potential Albert Bartlett horse is their ability to stay the 3m at Cheltenham which is always a stiff test for these young sorts and recent winners like Bobs Worth, At Fishers Cross and Martello Tower certainly fell into that bracket.

We take a closer look at the main contenders this season before making our selection for the big race in just over two weeks time.

Barters Hill Set To Start As A Warm Favourite

Ben Pauling has made no secret of his love for Barters Hill and so far the horse has lived up to those expectations with the 6-year-old going to Cheltenham unbeaten in seven starts and with a massive reputation. He won the Champion Bumper at Aintree last season to signal his quality and he has taken to hurdles just as well so far this term.

Barters Hill is 3-3 from over the hurdles and has looked more and more like a stayer with every single run this winter. His most recent success up at Doncaster in the River Don Novices Hurdle told us everything we needed to know about this horse. A messy race, Barters Hill was in front earlier than he might have wanted, he set a very strong gallop and at one stage looked likely to be beaten by the un-fancied Ballydine (16/1).

Barters Hill kept pulling out more though as he battled his heart out on the run in to claim the victory at Doncaster and although it perhaps wasn't the best performance according to the form book, he did prove both his heart and stamina which he will surely need again at Cheltenham. There are no holes in the Barters Hill form with horses like Buveur D'Air and Bellshill unable to live with him during his Bumper days and as such he is a best price 11/4 with Ladbrokes to win the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle.

Who are the main dangers to the favourite?

As we have already said there have only been three winning favourites of the Albert Bartlett since 2006 which does mean there can often be some value in taking on a relatively short priced favourites but which horses are the big threats to Barters Hill this season?

The first place to start this section is with the very exciting Shantou Village who has been a shining light for the up and coming Neil Mulholland yard this season. The 6-year-old produced a breathtaking display at Cheltenham in December when winning the 2m4f Neptune race on good ground in stunning fashion and that run confirmed his undoubted class. He travelled well that day before pulling 15 lengths clear of Champers On Ice which is top class form by any standard.

He returned to Cheltenham on Trials Day to once again contest the Neptune race but this time he was well beaten into second place by a brilliant display from Yanworth. He once again beat Champers On Ice to confirm his form from December although he was no match for the quicker Yanworth on very testing ground. We can expect him to be better on better ground in the spring and although he is yet to prove himself over 3m under rules, he was a P2P winner over that trip and he should be right in the Albert Bartlett mix at 13/2.

Willie Mullins has won most of the Graded races at the Cheltenham Festival but he is yet to taste Albert Bartlett glory and he will of course be eager to put that right asap. 

He has a whole host of horses entered at the time of writing with the majority of them likely to go elsewhere which does make it difficult for ante post punters but one or two firms do have the NRNB concession available. One that is likely to run for Willie is Up For Review (14/1) who had a stellar reputation before he was slammed in that Doncaster race that Barters Hill won last time out. That run was a shocker which would be a worry although he is clearly better than that and he should run better at the Festival which means he can't be ignored.

Open Eagle (33/1) was beaten by stable-mate Thomas Hobson (20/1) at Warwick recently and both could be better up at 3m if you believe the trainer with Open Eagle perhaps the one at the prices of the two given his upward curve of late although he will clearly need more.

Perhaps the best of the Willie Mullins Albert Bartlett team this year though could be the fascinating Gangster who could well be anything at this stage. The Gigginstown owned horse was on the go last summer which would be a slight worry but he has had just the one run this winter, when hacking up to win the Grade 3 Cork Stayers Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December on his first try up at 3m and has been kept fresh ever since.

That win at Fairyhouse came on heavy ground, he was more than at home on better ground last summer and Mullins has reported him to be working well at home which means that he does appeal in the Albert Bartlett market at 8/1 with a whole host of firms, including Paddy Power and bet365.

Away from Willie Mullins, Unowhatimeanharry (25/1) needs more but might be open to that for Harry Fry after winning four on the bounce although he could go to the Pertemps Final instead, whilst Champers On Ice (33/1) does look a stayer but has been beaten twice by Shantou Village and should be held on that form alone.

Eagle Might Well Soar Up in Trip

Punters having a bet on the Albert Bartlett are all likely to have to struggle with the same question. Are you with Barters Hill at the prices or against him?

He certainly sets the standard and has done nothing wrong yet which means few would be surprised to see him win at the Festival but this race has thrown up some bigger priced winners in recent history and although I think Barters Hill is top draw, there is value further down the list.

Gangster could be one to watch for Willie Mullins but it is his stable-mate Open Eagle who could turn out to be massively overpriced. The former flat horse was beaten by Thomas Hobson over 2m5f at Warwick which would be a worry but he was staying on well that day and should be seen to best impact up at 3m on better ground. 

Tip - Open Eagle - Each-Way @ 33/1 with Ladbrokes, Coral and Betfair.

Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle Betting - Click To Bet

Tornado Flyer 20/1
Blackbow 20/1
Carefully Selected 20/1
Commander Of Fleet J W Kennedy / G Elliott 20/1
Acey Milan 33/1
Each Way Terms 3

4. Commander Of Fleet J W Kennedy / G Elliott
Odds correct as of 11th Apr, 15:31 . Odds are subject to change.
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