Matt Tombs / Saturday 7th March 2015 / 18:09
I looked at the Albert Bartlett at the start of the year and backed Shantou Bob at 25/1. He then bombed in the Grade 2 Leamington at Warwick but burst a blood vessel there. He’s back on track now following a wind operation and it wouldn’t be a total surprise if he won, (33/1,) but he’s clearly had physical problems, and it’s a market I want to play in again.
Unlike the Supreme and Neptune, which may well cut up, the Albert Bartlett looks like having a big, competitive field. It is run over only 3f further than the Neptune but it requires a completely different type. They tend to go a good gallop and this has been won some classy stayers and some all out sloggers. Being run on the New Course, the 3rd last flight is nearly a mile from home and that can further exacerbate how much of a test of stamina this race is.
Black Hercules (6/1) is favourite and has looked good in both runs so far, winning a maiden over an inadequate 2m and then beating Alpha Des Obeaux over 3m in a Grade 3 at Cork. He’s been off since early December and has had only 2 runs, which leaves him short of both experience and recent match practice for a tough race like this. Every winner of this had had run in at least 4 hurdles except Bobs Worth, who’d had 3. I like him but he’d have to look a superstar to back him with that sort of profile.
No More Heroes(7/1) looked really good when beating Shaneshill at Navan in December over 2m4f. He was apparently sick when a disappointing 7¼l 5th to Outlander at Leopardstown over the same trip the following month. The vibes are that he’s back in form now and he has to come into the reckoning, but I’m not keen about taking short prices about horses coming off a bad prep run.
Value At Risk (12/1) is a fascinating contender. He didn’t perform in the Bumper last year but I never hold that against a young horse, especially in his case as he got within 2¼l of Shaneshill in the Punchestown equivalent. Switched to Dan Skelton he went in a lot of notebooks when bolting up by 22l from a subsequent winner at Newbury on his hurdling debut. He was then sent off 11/10 for the Grade 2 Classic at Cheltenham over an extended 2m4f, (a race that has been a decent guide to this), but got done for toe by Ordo Ab Chao. He’s out of a Midlands National winner and the step up in trip ought to suit, but like Black Hercules, he is inexperienced after just 2 races over timber.
By contrast, Blaklion (14/1) has had 6 runs over hurdles, the last 5 of them in graded events. He wasn’t beaten far by Parlour Games in the Challow (2m5f) or Carracci Apache in the River Don (extended 3m,) and looks a solid performer. He certainly doesn’t look a star but he’s tough and game and looks fair each-way value as he’s more likely to run his race than many of these.
His Doncaster conqueror Carraci Apache (14/1) has won all his 3 hurdles races, getting up close home last time. He looks talented but whether he’s streetwise enough for such a contest at this stage is questionable. I can see him getting too far behind. I wouldn’t be confident that Nicky has him hard trained for this.
Thomas Brown (14/1) is an interesting horse. He’s run in 3 good novice hurdles so far, beating Vago Collonges at Exeter, failing by 3l to give Out Sam 8lb at Newbury and then edging out Robinsfirth at Cheltenham. On a line through Zeroshadesofgrey (25/1) he ought to have the beating of Carraci Apache and Blaklion, though Thomas Brown’s form was over an extended 2m4f. Thomas Brown looks to be crying out for a step up to 3m and has definite claims. Zeroshadesofgrey looks a real stayer and is just the sort to run well in this at a big price.
Out Sam (20/1) was making his hurdling debut when taking advantage of the 8lb he got from Thomas Brown at Newbury. Stepped up a furlong to 2m6f, he wasn’t impressive when landing the odds at Ascot in January and he’s another coming here off just a couple of hurdles runs, (was 2nd in a couple of points.) He looks a good prospect for the future but I’m not sure he’s the type to win this.
Definitely Red (25/1) looks a decent price. He was well thought of by Steve Gollings and was a fair 8¾l 7th to Silver Concorde in the Bumper last season. After he was beaten by the now 145 rated Native River on his hurdling debut he was switched to Brian Ellison. Ellison described him as still very green when unimpressively landing the odds at Carlisle.
He stepped up hugely on that when taking advantage of the 3lb he was getting from the talented Fletchers Flyer to win by ½l in the 3m Grade 2 Prestige at Haydock. He does look to be on a strong upward curve and if he’s battle hardened enough, he comes right into this. Native River (40/1) was disappointing in the Challow but, dropped back to 2m1f, he beat a good horse in Emerging Talent easily at Exeter. He’s not easy to assess but he’s just the type to run well at a big price in this.
Snow Falcon (33/1) looked a really good horse in bumpers last year and got narrowly beaten by two talented types in Milsean (2m) and Identity Thief (2m4f) on his first two hurdles runs. Stepped up to 2m7f last time he bolted up at Navan and he looks to be going the right way for last year’s winning trainer Noel Meade. He has each-way prospects.
Often when I come down to two at the end of a piece, the choice of which one to tip is fairly clear. It was a real coin toss in January though, between Shantou Bob and Martello Tower and I’ve been regretting my decision virtually ever since.
Martello Tower (12/1) really ought to be challenging for favouritism for this. He’s got lots of experience after 5 runs over hurdles, (also won a point.) He gave leading Neptune fancy Outlander 6lb and wore him down close home over 3m at Limerick at Christmas. He then came out the best horse in the Grade 2 over 2m4f at Leopardstown won by Outlander last time, (Windsor Park and No More Heroes behind). Both races look strong form and Martello Tower is tough, game, likes decent ground and he stays – just the credentials you need for this.
The vibes are strong with Barry Connell describing him as his best chance at the Festival and I want to get it right this time and back the form horse that is still a good price. With a big field looking likely, (50 left in at the 6 day stage,) this will probably turn into a real war of attrition - and nothing will relish the hill better than Martello Tower.
1pt Martello Tower to win the Albert Bartlett at 12/1