Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Betting Tips & Predictions – Cheltenham, Friday 15th March 2019

Also known as the Spa Novices’ Hurdle, this three-mile contest is one of the newer additions to the Festival having enjoyed its first appearance in 2005. It took three years for it to gain Grade 1 status and this is something that it has held ever since.

This contest normally draws in a large field and this year is no exception. Proven stamina is worth its weight in gold in this race and we will be siding with one who ticks that box at what looks to be a nice each way price.

Top Tips

Dinons each way @ 14/1

Odds correct at time of writing but may have changed since. Check site for latest prices.

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Race Info

We have a maximum of 20 runners declared for this race which will take place on the New Course, the slower of Cheltenham’s two tracks. The two mares in the field, Alsa Mix and Salsaretta, will each receive a 7lb allowance.

GoingDistanceGradePrize MoneyRunnersEW Terms
Soft 3m Grade 1 £130,630 20 Runners 1/4 1-3

Recent Winners

One of the key trends emerging from this race is that you want to avoid runners that didn’t perform well last time out. Out of the last 13 winners, 12 finished in the top three last time out.

This has been a good race for the outsiders, with each of the past five winners returning a double figure SP, including two 33/1 shots.

YearWinnerSPTrainerJockey
2018 Kilbricken Storm 33/1 Colin Tizzard Harry Cobden
2017 Penhill 16/1 Willie Mullins Paul Townend
2016 Unowhatimeanharry 11/1 Harry Fry Noel Fehily
2015 Martello Tower 14/1 Margaret Mullins Adrian Heskin
2014 Very Wood 33/1 Noel Meade Paul Carberry

Analysis: Din In With A Big Chance

In recent years this has been one of the toughest of the Grade 1 events of the week to call. A quick look at the prices of the recent winners tells us that, and it looks a race in which to be a little wary of siding with one at a short price.

Is Birch The Best?

Currently heading the betting this year is Nicky Henderson’s unbeaten five year old Birchdale. This gelding by Jeremy is just about as good looking an individual as you will see, and has lived up to his appearance in winning all three of his career starts.

An eighteen length winner over 2m4½f at this track last time out, he was more than a little flattered that day as he was being strongly pressed by Brewin’upastorm only for that rival to come down at the final fence. That run does show that he handles this track though which is a big factor in his favour. With Brewin’upastorm running a solid race in fourth in the Ballymore, the form looks solid and he boasts sound claims if seeing out this additional distance.

Elliott In Command?

Gordon Elliott had a worryingly slow start to this meeting but bounced back with two winners and a runner up in the final three races on Day 2. Those results were reassuring for those looking to support last year’s top trainer here in the remainder of the races, and he looks to boast a couple of live chances here.

The best of them – at least according to the market – is the five year old Commander Of Fleet. Three from four under rules, his only defeat came in a Grade 1 over 2m at Fairyhouse. Kept to top company but stepped up to 2m6f last time out, he showed admirable staying power in the closing stages to see off the re-opposing Rhinestone, with the other 14 runners well beaten off. Up further in distance here, he looks to possess all the tools to go well.

Dinons To Stay On Best?

Gordon Elliott’s apparent second string, Dinons, may not boast quite the up and coming profile of some of his rivals here but should not be underestimated. Experience can be a big advantage in this race, and having his eighth start over hurdles here he boasts more of that than a good few of these.

A winner of five of his seven outings to date, his only defeats have come when falling with the race at mercy on his hurdling bow and when being nearly brought down last time out. He won’t be winning this should it turn into a sprint for the line, but that is rarely the case in this race and his proven stamina – twice an easy winner at the distance – and consistency, will stand him in good stead.

Final Verdict: Dinons each way

It’s tough to argue with the potential of those towards the head of the market this year, and at least one of them may well deliver. This can be a gruellingly tough race though and it seems equally likely that they will be found wanting coming up the hill.

Overall we can’t help but feel that Dinons continues to be a little underestimated in the market. He’s the joint top-rated runner in the field, has fewer questions than most to answer in terms of the trip and ground and is the one for us each way with the excellent Davy Russell in the saddle.

About the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle: The Spa Stamina Test

Horses Racing to Finish at Cheltenham
Steven Jones, flickr

National Hunt racing is an extremely varied sport. There are many different stars competing in a host of different divisions many of which have further subdivisions. Celebrating that variety is one of the main reasons why the Cheltenham Festival is so loved by racing fans.

Take the novice hurdling division for example. It contains the leading hopes for the future of National Hunt racing but among that number are horses who will excel over shorter trips, those who will become stayers and everything in between. That is why the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is such an important race.

Officially registered as the Spa Novices’ Hurdle but best known by its sponsored title, this Grade 1 contest is a chance for future stars over both hurdles and fences to compete against each other over three miles, which is longer than the other novice hurdles with the closest being the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at 2m5f.

An Instant Hit

The first running of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle only took place in 2005. As it was one of the races introduced as the Cheltenham Festival was extended to four days there were some people who questioned whether it would prove to be a success. They soon had their answer.

Then called the Brit Insurance Novices’ Hurdle after its first sponsor, the race was run as a Grade 2 for the first three renewals. Following the legendary ride that Tony McCoy gave Wichita Lineman during his win in 2007 the race was promoted to Grade 1 status in 2008 which is the first year that Albert Bartlett began their association.

The prestige garnered by those early years has only increased as time’s gone by but people really began to sit up and take notice in 2013 when Bobs Worth won the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Nicky Henderson gelding had won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Chase two years previously and with that precedent being set connections of many more promising types who had been bred to stay started aiming their charges at the Albert Bartlett specifically. The steady increase in prize money as shown in the below graph also helped attract higher calibre entrants.

Chart Showing Prize Money for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle Over Time

Non-Runner No Bet Options Key for Ante Post Plays

Horse racing fans will often try to maximise their knowledge of the sport to try and snap up early value with the bookies by heading to the Cheltenham ante post markets. The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is usually a strong indicator for the RSA Chase at the following year’s Cheltenham Festival but a word of caution is required for those thinking about their ante post positions for the coming renewal.

The leading contenders for the Albert Bartlett usually hold entries in at least one more race. Connections often make their minds up close to the Festival and so it is advisable only to bet with bookies who offer non runner no bet terms unless the information about a horse’s destination is solid.

The rather muddied picture is not made any clearer when looking at the most likely trials for this one. Assessing the form of the official trial in December and the two Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle trials in October and November all of which are held at Cheltenham is recommended as is the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury and the River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster but the most eye catching performers from those races can still end up at either the Albert Bartlett or the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

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