Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Date is March, 13, 2020
Type: Grade 1 National Hunt Hurdle Race (3 miles)
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Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle 2020 Preview & Tips
Preview By Frank Monkhouse
Former professional boxer who is now a content writer specialising in sports and betting. Has worked for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Coral and Betfair covering all manner of sports, from boxing and football to horse racing. A student of the formbook, he loved stats, trends, numbers and how they can guide punters towards a winner.
The £125,000 contest, a three-mile novice hurdle on the New Course featuring twelve flights, was formerly known as the Spa Novices’ Hurdle and still retains this title for registering purposes, something it can revert to if it’s sponsorship should be ended.
The race features not just the star long-distance hurdlers of the future but potential top staying chasers as well, a point borne out by Bobs Worth who took the contest in 2011 before returning to win the RSA Chase in 2012 and ultimately the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2013.
The Albert Bartlett was inaugurated in 2005 as one of the new races introduced when the festival was upgraded to four days from three, and was initially a Grade 2 race however now it has fully earned it’s stripes and is a very genuine, competitive Grade 1 event.
Antepost Key Runners & Favourites
Any Albert Bartlett race is bound to be competitive, and this year’s is no different if the early ante post betting is anything to go by. We’re going at least 8/1 the field here with Thyme Hill leading the way, though much is set to change between now and March 13th.
Albert Bartlett betting will be fierce in the lead-up to the event, but for now based on what little information we have on a bunch of novice hurdlers, many of whom haven’t gone over three miles yet, we think the value call is to back two horses each-way, non-runner no bet.
Of the leading contenders, Thyme Hill has achieved the most to date. Philip Hobbs’ five-year-old has had two tries over hurdles, the latest of which was a good Cheltenham success over the well thought of Champagne Well over 2 miles 5½ furlongs.
He is sure to get better as he steps up in trip and could yet be the country’s leading novice hurdler, but at single-figure prices he must be worth taking on in the ante post market as he offers precious little in the way of value.
Gordon Elliott’s Fury Road also enters calculations and will surely be the subject of several Albert Bartlett tips following his facile success in a Grade 3 at Navan in November. He did go off at 1/25 that day however after two other leading contenders pulled out, leaving many to question the form.
That said, he can only run as well as his ability allows and that ability looks up to scratch from here, his two easy wins to date having come over 2 miles 6 furlongs and 2½ miles, so assuming he does indeed improve for a more stern test in terms of trip and opposition, he has to be considered one of leading lights.
Another potential star from Ireland is Joseph O’Brien’s Midnight Run, a five-year-old who after two wins and a second in bumpers made a successful hurdling debut when scoring at Cork in November by an easy 9½ lengths.
He has since been beaten into last in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse, but clearly something was up that day and he did not show his proper form. Assuming O’Brien gets him back to the track in fine fettle and should he improve then he’d be a contender, however he may be aiming at something closer to the minimum distance rather than this gruelling three-mile contest.
The Big Breakaway
At just four years old Colin Tizzard’s once-raced hurdler The Big Breakaway could be one to keep a close eye on, purely from the point of view that he can only get much, much better than what we’ve seen so far.
Over 2 miles 3½ furlongs at Chepstow in November, The Big Breakaway ran better than many had predicted when easily taking care of his maiden hurdle field by eight lengths, notching a rating and time that marked him out as decent. Should he gradually climb the ranks and increase in his racing distance then he could become a genuine contender for this race, but there are many ifs and buts at the moment.
Andy Dufresne & Latest Exhibition
That brings us to the formline concerning Andy Dufresne and Latest Exhibition. The former, trained by Gordon Elliott for JP McManus, had already announced himself on the scene at Navan in November when winning his maiden hurdle in taking style before he was sent off the 1/3 favourite for a Grade 2 back at the same track in December.
It was a surprise then that the latter named horse, trained by Paul Nolan, did for him on that occasion and in the process earned himself quotes of just 16/1 at best for this contest.
To our mind, there is no way Andy Dufresne showed his best form that day so when you consider also that he made a mistake during the race which cost him, allied with the fact that he was squeezed for room in the closing stages, it seems rather silly that he’s available at a bigger price than his conqueror knowing fine well he is expected to go on to be the better horse.
At the moment it seems his trainer wants to keep aiming for the two-and-a-half-mile races, but we think he could improve over further which makes him a leading light for this season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
Check out our Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide for the list of TOP 15 betting sites to place a bet on upcoming Festival.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Chase Stats & Trends
Luckily, we don’t rely too much on stats and trends for if we did, this race would be a complete basket case! If Albert Bartlett betting is anything to go by we may as well simply stick a pin into the paper and see what we’ve picked, but there are a couple of gems we can dig up here that might just help us along.
This Season’s Form
7 of the last ten winners of this race won their last race and/or their penultimate race before the Festival, so it seems despite many outsiders winning strong form is still very important. The number of runs that year doesn’t seem overly crucial, though being placed at least three times (if they’ve run that many) looks to be a prerequisite.
One five-year-old and one 8yo have won in this time period, but they are exceptions as all other winners have been aged 6 or 7 which seems to be ideal. Any younger and they may lack the mental and physical capacity to see out this tough three miles, any older and they may have already begun to reach a peak before Cheltenham, leaving others to improve past them on the big day.
A couple of favourites have won this race, but both were going into the event as unbeaten hurdlers and as such were probably quite rightly labelled superstars. Not many superstars will line-up in this race though, so on the evidence we have it would be easy to say avoid favourites!
Taking out those two successful favourites and 7/2 shot Unowhatimeanharry, who was also unbeaten, the average SP of an Albert Bartlett winner in the last ten years is a huge 26/1.
This race is not old enough for anyone to have dominated, though Tony McCoy’s record of three winning rides in seven years is impressive. Now that he’s retired, we can’t even look at him as our leading rider and with no jockey in the last ten years even winning more than once, it’s anybody’s game from the saddle.
As far as most successful trainers go, Jonjo O’Neill has saddled two winners of the Albert Bartlett, in ’06 and ’07, but it would be no surprise were it to be one of the big guns now such as Elliott, Mullins, Hobbs, Henderson or Nicholls who is successful in 2020.
Albert Bartlett Tips
The three-mile division is one that takes some time to sort out, as not all horses thought capable of staying this distance will go on to prove their trainers right.
With that in mind, we don’t want to stick only with favourites but with so many contenders to choose from it’s probably wise to back a couple of them to small stakes, each-way ideally, hopefully with a non-runner no bet caveat added by your bookmaker.
Based on the form evidence we have at our disposal thus far, the two to concentrate on are most likely FURY ROAD and ANDY DUFRESNE.
Gordon Elliott then is the man to watch in this division and it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on his quotes as time goes by, but given that both of his have already reached a high level and yet for tangible reasons should do a whole lot better they appear value at 16/1 and 20/1 respectively.
Fury Road has had no real opposition yet but will probably give a bigger glimpse as to his real ability when he does, while Andy Dufresne had his problems when going into graded company first time out and didn’t show us what he is made of, something he will doubtless do between now and March.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Ante Post Bet: FURY ROAD & ANDY DUFRESNE
Albert Bartlett Offers
Cheltenham Festival offers will be thrown at us from every angle as we approach March, including when it comes to the leading three-mile novice hurdle of the season. We don’t know what those offers will be just yet, but last year’s offers were fairly enticing for sure.
In 2019 Ladbrokes’ Bet £5 Get £20 Cheltenham Special was very popular on all four days, as was the Double Your Winnings on the First Race Everyday at Cheltenham which was put up by their partner firm Coral and we hope something like that is repeated.
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Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Betting Guide
As is the case with all festival races, our Albert Bartlett Hurdle tips will be much more accurate when final declarations are made on Wednesday March 11th, two days before the race.
At that point a host of live, up-to-date betting options will be available to us from the basic win market, to betting without the favourite, each-way bets and a whole lot more besides.
In the meantime, even before official entries are made, we have the ante post market at our disposal and it’s one in which 37% of all bets so far have gone the way of Thyme Hill, which is perhaps no surprise. Our selections Fury Road and Andy Dufresne are responsible for 14% and 9% of online bets respectively.
We’ll have more information when entries are open.
Past Albert Bartlett Winners
Here’s how all of the last ten winners of this race shape-up:
|2019||Minella Indo||32||6||50/1||Rachael Blackmore||Henry de Bromhead|
|2018||Kilbricken Storm||3113||7||33/1||Harry Cobden||Colin Tizzard|
|2017||Penhill||611141||6||16/1||Paul Townend||Willie Mullins|
|2016||Unowhatimeanharry||1111||8||7/2||Noel Fehily||Harry Fry|
|2015||Martello Tower||1F12||7||14/1||Adrian Heskin||Margaret Mullins|
What Happened in 2019?
The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle 2019 winner’s name, Minella Indo, is perhaps not one that resonates with too many but boy has he proven to be a money-spinner for trainer Henry de Bromhead and his connections.
Having not won a hurdle race at all going into the Albert Bartlett 2019 this six-year-old was allowed to go off at 50/1, however having taken the lead with three flights to jump he stayed on stoutly to beat 4/1 favourite Commander Of Fleet to return to a strangely quiet winner’s enclosure.
Proving it was no fluke, Minella Indo went on to follow-up in the equivalent race at the Punchestown Festival where once again he was not the market leader.