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2016 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle runners - Barters Hill heads Cheltenham field despite late scare

Jon Wilde in Fri. 17th March 17 Mar 2016
  • A field of 20 will go to post for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham
  • Get the latest news on runners in the race immediately before Friday's Gold Cup
David Bass rides Barters Hill to victory at Newbury (credit: Cheltenhampro.com)

Trainer Ben Pauling is relishing saddling the likely favourite Barters Hill in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday after declaring himself happy with his charge despite a scare earlier this week.

The six-year-old won all his four bumpers last term and is unbeaten in three races over jumps so far, for which he has been sent off odds-on every time.

After winning at Huntingdon in November, Barters Hill took the Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury and landed a Grade Two event at Doncaster in January.

Pauling reports his stable star to be all set for his big test having given connections a fright when he pulled out stiff on Wednesday.

The trainer said:
“He's fit, healthy and ready to go. We are very excited. He's in the form of his life. It will be a good day and we are very much looking forward to it.”

Jockey David Bass has ridden Barters Hill on all but one of his starts and has been counting down the days to March 18.

He said:
“I can't wait to get back on Barters Hill. He’s a very good horse. His profile is unbelievable and I can’t think of many horses who have done what he has at this stage of their career. 
“To win four bumpers and three novice hurdles, including very good races at Aintree, Newbury and Doncaster, is some achievement and the form is working out everywhere. 
“It takes a bit of persuasion to get Barters Hill into top gear but he has a good cruising speed and stays really well, which is what you need for championship races over three miles. I think he has an outstanding chance.”

Neil Mulholland feels his Shantou Village has plenty in his favour as he bids to get back in the winning groove after finishing second to Yanworth on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham in January.

Bath-based Mulholland said:
“He's in good form. Now the ground has dried out we are hopeful of a good run. 
“He won a point-to-point over three miles. He's got stronger since then and we hope stepping him up in trip might improve him. 
“He ticks a lot of boxes. Everything's great, he hasn't missed a beat since his last run.”

Unowhatimeanharry has come on in leaps and bounds this season, much to the delight and surprise of his trainer Harry Fry who said:

“Having qualified for the Pertemps Final last time out at Exeter we thought that would be the route we go, but the handicapper was very taken by the race and put him up 14 pounds to 152. 
“As he is still a novice we thought we would take our chance in the Albert Bartlett. He has seriously improved all season and won at Cheltenham twice, including in an Albert Bartlett trial. It was probably not the strongest renewal but all he could do was win. 
 “He’s in great form at home and hopefully can continue his upward curve.”

Solstice Star takes his chance after being balloted out of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle on the same card.

He was in action last Saturday when second in the Imperial Cup at Sandown, but trainer Martin Keighley reports Solstice Star to have taken those exertions in his stride.

Keighley said:
“If he had got into the Martin Pipe he'd have run off his previous mark and been 6lb well in on official ratings but he missed the cut. But we had the option of the Albert Bartlett and have decided to let him take his chance. 
“The step up to three miles shouldn't be too much of a worry. He has been doing all his winning on very soft ground so the step up in trip will counteract the going, hopefully. He's been bucking and squealing and looks really good.”

Willie Mullins is making a powerful bid to win this race for the first time by saddling no fewer than seven of the runners.

His septet is headed by Long Dog, who has won his last six starts including Grade One races at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown.

Bachasson, Balko Des Flos, Bleu Et Rouge, Gangster, Open Eagle and Up For Review also help to give the County Carlow handler a formidable hand.

The other Irish-trained challenger is Fagan from Gordon Elliott’s stable and the trainer is hopeful of a good run despite the six-year-old having plenty to do on ratings.

Elliott said:
“We went to Musselburgh with him last time and he was beaten by O O Seven but I thought it was a very good run. 
“He won't disgrace himself and will have a good chance of finishing in the first four or five. 
“I wouldn't send him if I thought he'd be tailed off and I bet you there will be more behind him than in front. He could sneak into a place, definitely.”


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2016 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle runners - Barters Hill heads Cheltenham field despite late scare

Trainer Ben Pauling is relishing saddling the likely favourite Barters Hill in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday after declaring himself happy with his charge despite a scare earlier this week.

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