With the abandonment of both Plumpton and Catterick, we are left with a low-grade card at Wolverhampton, so I’m taking this opportunity to add another selection to our Cheltenham Festival ante-post portfolio.
Having had time to have a look through plenty of the markets over the past week, due to the lack of racing, the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle appeals as a race where the betting could change dramatically as the top two in the betting, Fingal Bay and Boston Bob, are much more likely to run in the Neptune Investment.
If that’s the case, it’s a good time to strike a bet on Mount Benbulben who has rock solid form in the book and could easily find himself going off favourite on the day.
The seven-year-old beat the useful Mozoltov and the ill-fated subsequent Grade 1 winner Lovethehigherlaw in bumpers last term, prompting owner Barry Connell to splash out £250,000 to acquire his services.
The owner sent him to Gordon Elliott and, after slipping up on the level in a maiden hurdle at Galway in October, the son of Beneficial scored cheekily at Thurles in November under a confident Paul Carberry.
Davy Condon was in the plate for his next start, in Grade 2 company at Navan and he beat the smart Rebel Fitz by 1½ lengths, staying on strongly over 2m4f on testing ground.
He returned to the same track for the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle the following month and was sent off odds-on to beat Boston Bob, but he hung at times and jumped right on occasions, looking as if something were amiss.
Indeed, it has since come to light that he was not right so there was no disgrace in going down by 4½ lengths to Willie Mullins’s charge who franked the form by winning a strong Grade 2 under a 10lb penalty next time.
In fact that piece of form could hardly have worked out any better with the other two runners both winning their only starts since. Third home, Ipsos Du Berlais, beat Western Leader at Punchestown last month, while fourth home Jetson won a handicap hurdle off 124 over Christmas.
He was 16½ lengths off Boston Bob and had earlier finished 15½ lengths behind Mount Benbulben in the Grade 2 Monksfield Novice Hurdle at the same track the month before.
The former point-to-point winner, who is bred to appreciate both better ground and the step up to 3m, is reportedly back in fine fettle ahead of his Cheltenham assignment and it would be a big surprise to me if connections opted for the Neptune over this much easier contest.
The son of Beneficial is currently a best priced 12/1 but could easily be less than half those odds if Fingal Bay and Boston Bob are confirmed for the Neptune and it is also a positive that he is trading shorter on the exchanges, indicating that he is fully recovered and connections are targeting this race.
Mount Benbulben Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
(12/1 Betfred, Ladbrokes, Hills)
Hurricane Fly Champion Hurdle (11/4)
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Last Year’s Tips Included 40 Leading Prospects: £499.80 profit to a level £10!
- AL FEROF won Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 10-1
- BENSALEM won Stewart Family Handicap 5-1
- BOBS WORTH won A Bartlett 15-8, 4/4 for year
- CAPTAIN CHRIS won Arkle Trophy 6-1
- FIRST LIEUTENANT won Neptune Investment 7-1
- (plus Grade 1 in Ireland 16-1)
- JAMES DE VASSY won Lanzarote Hurdle 8-1
- LONG RUN won King George 9-2, Gold Cup 7-2
- OSCAR WHISKY won Aintree Hurdle 6-1
- Peddlers Cross (Fighting Fifth Hurdle)
- Medermit (Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase)
- FINIAN’S RAINBOW (Maghull Novices’ Chase)
- WISHFULL THINKING (Manifesto Novices’ Chase)