The Dublin Racing Festival was sensational from start to finish, with Willie Mullins cleaning up in a fashion that we are accustomed to seeing. His main rival within the Irish training ranks, Gordon Elliott, had a quiet meeting – but usual patterns dictate where Elliott wants to peak his horses. The Cheltenham Festival is his Mount Everest, and will be so again.
With that in mind, there was one horse of his that very much struck an impression with the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in mind. Fakiera fits the generally accepted profile for this race, being an experienced battle-hardened campaigner, having already had seven hurdle starts. So, while that aspect is by no means a hindrance, it is more his recent starts that have suggested that he is an ideal type for the 3m Grade 1 novice hurdle on the Friday of the Cheltenham Festival.
Gordon Elliott has never won this event as a trainer, despite having two seconds and two thirds in the last few years, and his willingness to always rise to a challenge will see him desperately want to right that wrong.
Fakiera could be the one that ticks this Grade 1 off his list, and at 10/1 with Sky Bet, he rates a very nice each-way bet for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Sky Bet are the latest firm to offer the ‘non-runner, no bet’ concession on all 28 Cheltenham Festival races. So, while they may not be top price on Fakiera, an honour that goes to Bet365 with 11/1, for the sake of one point less, it is advisable to take the safety net of NRNB.
Back Fakiera in the 2021 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle with Skybet!
Fakiera does have a Ballymore entry, and given his hurdle mark of 141 in Ireland, he could squeeze in at the top of the weights for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle should the UK handicapper re-assess him just shy of the ceiling rating of 145 for that race. That said, the Albert Bartlett over 3m on the stamina-sapping New Course that is used for the Friday of the meeting, will very much suit this strong stayer.
Before Saturday, Fakiera had yet to race beyond 2m4f, despite notching up a Grade 3 success and finishing runner-up in a Grade 2, both at Navan – an undulating course with a notably stiff finish. Also, he had yet to have a reasonable pace to aim at, as a feature of his runs to date have been a stop start tempo on very soft ground – factors that just wouldn’t suit him.
So, in taking in the 2m6f Grade 1 on the Saturday of the Dublin Racing Festival, the hope would have been that connections could finally judge their horse in a better race with a strong gallop to aim at. Not so… the race won by Gaillard Du Mesnil was the slowest of all the Grade 1 races at the weekend, in terms of tempo.
Yet, Fakiera, still had it within him to keep tabs on quicker horses as they accelerated, and then ran on past toiling rivals up the stiff finish of the Leopardstown home straight, to finish an ever closing fourth. Fakiera and the winner Gaillaird Du Mesnil were the only horses in the race that hit the line with any running left.
Quite simply, as long as the Albert Bartlett is run at anything equal to or above a reasonable tempo, and with the prospect of better ground perhaps even helping Fakiera travel through the race, and we are sure to see a season- (and career-) defining performance from him.
At 10/1 ‘non-runner, no bet’ each-way, Fakiera is a strong fancy with Sky Bet to provide Elliott with his first ever winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
2020 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Tips [expired]
Ante-post markets, by the very definition of them, can be huge victims of recency bias. This year’s Albert Bartlett market has the look of one that has been caught up in the merits of the recent trials for the race.
The likes of Latest Exhibition, Monkfish, Harry Senior and Ramses De Teillee have all been cut on account of their recent impressive winning performances. I get that, and fully agree that they are all worthy contenders. But I just have the feeling that the best horse in the race has been slightly forgotten about, as we haven’t seen Thyme Hill since winning the Challow Hurdle at Christmas time.
Yes, he is market leader (joint in places), but I have a strong feeling that he should be clear favourite and a touch shorter in the betting. So, I suggest getting stuck in at 5/1, or 9/2 with the NRNB concession. There is a chance he could re-route to the Ballymore if the ground was heavy and/or Envoi Allen and stablemate Sporting John were to themselves re-route to the Supreme. So, it could make sense to take the NRNB price.
Granted a clear passage and ground that isn’t bottomless, there isn’t a horse in the field that has the class, stamina and battling qualities that Thyme Hill possesses. A running-on third in last season’s Champion Bumper, when mixed in with a course win over hurdles and a ready Grade 1 win in the Challow, and you have a heady combination.
Having pinned my colours to the Challow Hurdle form-line, then I can’t believe that the horse that gave Thyme Hill a real race, The Cashel Man, can be backed at 50/1 with Bet365 NRNB for the same race.
A very high-quality staying horse on the flat, who handled undulating tracks like Goodwood, Lingfield and Newmarket on the level, he was also only beaten just under five lengths in a Cesarewitch. He made Thyme Hill work very hard on that occasion, and is completely unexposed over a proper staying test over hurdles.
The Cashel Man has only one entry at the Cheltenham Festival, is trained by a man tinged with genius when it comes to getting horses to peak for the meeting, and on the evidence of his handicap hurdle romp at Newbury at the start of the season, goes extremely well fresh. That we haven’t seen him since he chased home Thyme Hill is certainly no negative.