Ante-Post Preview #1 – 17/01/2019
3m Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – Friday 15th March 2019
The Albert Bartlett is the last of three Championship Novice Hurdles, run over a full three miles on Day Four of the Cheltenham Festival. This unique race is a gruelling test for any young horse, with favourites notoriously faring poorly – recording just three wins since the race began in 2005. In order to find a winner in this race you need a gutsy horse who stays well –which are exactly the type of qualities which previous winners such as Unowhatimeanharry possessed. With there being less than 8 weeks until the Festival gets underway, we are in a strange position where there won’t be a lot of time for young horses to come out of the woodwork and stake their claims for this Grade 1 contest, so there seems to be a lot of value in some all but confirmed runners – especially as there are a lot of horses at the top of the betting with other targets.
When looking through the market for the Albert Bartlett, I feel we can rule out/have doubts over the following; Battleoverdoyen (Ballymore), Beakstown (Won’t run in Albert Bartlett), Blackbow (Not yet seen), Carefully Selected (Not yet seen), Champagne Platinum (Supreme or Ballymore) and Commander Of Fleet (2½miles preferred, Martin Pipe?). This lands us on Derrinross, who looks to be a perfect contender. The trends boys will tell you that horses aged 6 or 7 have won eleven of the fourteen runnings, but this son of Scorpion can join Unowhatimeanharry’s unique club of winning as an eight-year-old. Despite his age this Phillip Dempsey trained Gelding hasn’t clocked up too many miles – but crucially has had five runs over hurdles already. Derrinross was a three-race Maiden in the 2017-18 season; running behind the likes of Cracking Smart, Minella Fair and Minellafordollars – showing that the further he went, the better he was. As he didn’t win a race last season he was able to keep his Novice status for this campaign, and he has made great use of it by landing two Graded events. Making his reappearance at Cork in the Grade 3 Stayers Novice Hurdle over 3m in Decemeber, Derrinross was allowed to go off as a 16/1 shot – but showed this price to be all wrong when winning by four-lengths under Luke Dempsey from the useful looking Sams Profile. With the Father/Son Trainer/Jockey combination intact at Limerick on the 29th December, the pair were again victorious despite stepping up into Grade 2 company. Making all (rather than most), this stayer relished the soft going to hold off the challenge of Defi Bleu. With his credentials clearly put on the line, the next stop for Derrinross could be in the 2m6f Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival in February – which is a key trial for the Albert Bartlett.
There is currently 20/1 available about Derrinross going one step further and becoming a Grade 1 winner at Cheltenham in March, and I think this is a very fair price – especially considering a good run at Punchestown could easily see this cut in half. He stays extremely well, has the experience to match, and should put in another bold show for the Dempsey’s.
Derrinross Each/Way @ 20/1
Another Horse who has strong credentials is the six-year-old Kateson, who is the first horse on my ‘National Hunt Horses to Follow 2018/19’ to feature in the Cheltenham Festival 2019 Ante-Post section. This Tom Lacey charge is set to step-up to three miles for the first time in the Grade 2 River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster next weekend, but the plan has seemingly always been to go for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham. A hugely impressive Bumper horse – concluding with a 2nd place finish in the Grade 2 Bumper at Aintree last year – Kateson made his debut over Hurdles at Chepstow in November, comfortably winning over the 2m3½f trip. Stepped up to 2m4½f at Newbury’s Winter Carnival meeting, Kateson again showed his ability when winning under a penalty in the Novices’ Hurdle, seeing off Mr Pumblechook gamely despite his usual awkward head carriage. His last run came in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle over the same course and distance as his Newbury win, but the sprint finish didn’t really play to his strengths, finishing a credible third behind Champ (150) and Getaway Trump (142). Although he is yet to race over the three-miles distance of the Albert Bartlett, the River Don will allow Kateson to show his true staying potential in a key trial for the race. He is a Horse who will need some cut in the ground in order to be at his best, however Cheltenham will water the track plenty if we don’t get enough rain before The Festival kicks off in March – so I wouldn’t be worried about that. With a bold show expected from this beautiful grey at Doncaster next week, the 33/1 currently available certainly won’t be around if he finishes in the places.
Update: Kateson will now head to Haydock on the 16th February for the Grade 2 Presitge Albert Bartlett Trial Novices’ Hurdle after the ground came up too quick at Doncaster.
Kateson Each/Way @ 33/1 (25/1 NRNB)
One last horse I wanted to mention in the Albert Bartlett section is another ‘Horse to Follow’ of mine called Dunvegan. This Pat Fahey six-year-old was extremely impressive on his second start over Hurdles in December (His first coming in a Maiden at Leopardstown behind Pallasator last season) when winning a Maiden at Fairyhouse by seven-and-a-half lengths over 2m4f, and could next be seen in the aforementioned 2m6f Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. Plans are currently unclear as to where we could see Dunvegan at the Cheltenham Festival, with that Leopardstown race probably being a key trial to see if connections go to this race or the slightly shorter 2m5f Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. With this in mind, William Hill are currently offering 25/1 on Dunvegan to win any race at the Cheltenham Festival, which seems a fair price to me.
Dunvegan to Win any Race at the Cheltenham Festival @ 25/1 NRNB
Good luck! – Jake Price