HORSE RACING boff Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) enjoyed an excellent Thursday at the Festival. Here he pinpoints his best bets for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.
Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle | 14.50 Friday | Channel 4
A Grade 1 hurdle for staying novices, this is a gruelling race and it looks wide open. Willie Mullins sends over seven for it and I expect him to take top honours – but with who?
Barters Hill (4/1 Ladbrokes) is the apple of Ben Paulings’ eye and comes here as the unbeaten favourite. He is as game as they come and will relish the trip but I'm not sure he will be quite good enough to win.
Last time out Barters Hill ground out a victory on poor ground at Doncaster but the second and third that day are not good benchmarks and I think this may be a bridge too far for him.
Shantou Village (4/1 Ladbrokes) was firmly put in his place by Yanworth last time out at today's course but that was on very different ground and over Friday’s trip he is very interesting.
Shantou Village was an impressive winner the time before and I make him a threat to the selection here. My only concern is, the ease that he was beaten last time out makes me think he may be vulnerable to an improver.
As I said I fancy a Willie Mullins winner and he sends over seven, so which one will it be? Stable Jockey Ruby Walsh takes the ride on Long Dog (7/1 Ladbrokes) and he has done nothing but improve during his career.
He won a pair of Grade 1's last year but he's followed an unconventional path for one of the stables stars and I think he will struggle here. He has a fantastic attitude and will try his heart out but I don't think he's quite good enough.
Gangster (6/1 Ladbrokes) flopped at Galway in the summer but followed that up with two impressive wins over the winter. His latest win was in a Fairyhouse Grade 3 over three miles and he is guaranteed to be staying on at the end.
Gangster could easily run into a place here but I think he meets a stablemate with a little more pace.
Bleu Et Rouge (9/1 Ladbrokes) has had three starts over hurdles and after winning his maiden here, finished fourth behind Long Dog in a Leopardstown Grade 1.
He improved no end for that and next time out he won another Leopardstown Grade 1 over 2 miles 2 furlongs, beating Tombstone who had finished ahead of him the time before.
Bleu Et Rouge is a young horse on an upward curve and, although we have to take his stamina on trust, he ran like a horse who wants a trip and I feel he represents great each way-value in this.
Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle – Bleu Et Rouge (9/1 each-way Ladbrokes)
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