Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle preview: Thyme Hill fancied most for Cheltenham Festival Grade 1

Published on: March 11, 2020
Author: Jamie Clark
2020 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle preview from Cheltenham includes Thyme Hill

Thyme Hill has taken his form to a whole new level over the obstacles in winning all three starts this season, so appeals most for the 3m Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle on Gold Cup day at the Cheltenham Festival this Friday (14:50).

Trained by Philip Hobbs, this six-year-old was a smart bumper performer placing twice around Prestbury Park last term.

In the second of those, Thyme Hill was beaten just 2 1/2 lengths by Envoi Allen in the Champion Bumper.

That was a renewal which has worked out as very strong form indeed. Much of that is down to Thyme Hill’s subsequent exploits over hurdles.

Hobbs pitched him straight into Grade 2 company for the Persian War at Chepstow on his bow in this sphere.

The way in which Thyme Hill finished stoutly, holding subsequent Grade 1 winner Fiddlerontheroof by two lengths, suggested he would get further.

He confirmed that impression when stepping up to 2m 5f and landing the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle – officially a trial for the Ballymore – under a penalty here at Cheltenham.

Despite regular jockey Richard Johnson losing an iron towards the finish, Thyme Hill only needed riding out to score by three lengths from Champagne Well.

He then landed the hat-trick in the Grade 1 Challow at Newbury. Thyme Hill wasn’t fluent at the last, but stayed on well to assert in the final half-a-furlong and hold The Cashel Man by 1 1/2 lengths.

The front two pulled 18 lengths clear of Enrilo in third, so that gives the form a solid look.

Hobbs has kept Thyme Hill fresh for a crack at the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle ever since. He is the clear best of the British runners engaged and odds of 9/2 with Ladbrokes reflect that.

Latest Exhibition feared most in Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Irish trainer Paul Nolan and his Latest Exhibition proved popular winners of a Grade 1 during the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown last month, so this progressive horse is feared most.

Like Thyme Hill, the seven-year-old is yet to run over the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle trip but has shaped as a stayer.

Latest Exhibition’s bumper form was more modest, but he landed his hurdles bow at Galway in October by 4 1/2 lengths.

Connections pitched him into Grade 3 company at Navan off the back of that effort, where he only found Abacadabras three lengths too good.

The winner has since won a Grade 1 and finished a gallant head runner-up in the Supreme here earlier in the week.

Latest Exhibition returned to Navan and resumed winning ways on his penultimate start when stepped in in trip and up to Grade 2 level.

He stayed on well for pressure to hold the highly-regarded JP McManus owned Andy Dufresne – a winner since – by 2 1/4 lengths. That punched his ticket to the Dublin Racing Festival.

Again, on the upgrade and over a further distance of 2m 6f, Latest Exhibition stayed on well to assert close home and beat the re-opposing Cobbler’s Way by a couple of lengths in his finest hour to date.

A further increase in stamina may be just what this son of Oscar wants.

Nolan had Discorama run his customary good race to place at a third consecutive Cheltenham Festival earlier in the week, but it would be no surprise to see Latest Exhibition go even better.

He is 6/1 with Betfair for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle as a result. Latest Exhibition arguably brings leading Irish form claims to the table here and commands respect on that basis.

Ramses De Teillee each-way value

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle preview: Thyme Hill fancied most for Cheltenham Festival Grade 1

It has often been the case in the past that horses with plenty of experience under their belts have won this race.

Bearing that in mind, Ramses De Teillee looks each-way value with stamina in no doubt.

Trained by David Pipe, this eight-year-old has won two trials for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle this season.

While a cynical interpretation of that is he has only been over the smaller obstacles to preserve his chase mark for the Grand National, Ramses De Teillee has been in fine form in this sphere.

He has won all three hurdles starts this season, including when making all on heavy ground here on reappearance in October.

Ramses De Teillee was then only fourth in a Grade 3 handicap chase for stayers at Cheltenham the following month.

When switched back to novice hurdle company, however, the son of Martaline put in a really impressive display in the Grade 2 River Don at Doncaster.

He again made all to win going by 17 easy lengths from the toiling Champagne Well.

On a form line through the runner-up, that makes Ramses De Teillee look overpriced in relation to Thyme Hill.

He also backed up this victory by winning again under a penalty in the similar grade Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock.

Ramses De Teillee looked in trouble at once stage when headed at the last, but showed gutsy and determination to retake the lead and draw clear, ultimately winning by four lengths.

The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle demands more, but there is each-way value in odds of 12/1 with BetVictor for this likely Aintree bound runner.

Monkfish another Irish raider to consider

Willie Mullins won this race in 2017 with Penhill, so the top rated Monkfish is of obvious interest.

Trained by the Closutton maestro for owners Rich and Susannah Ricci, this six-year-old has a stamina laden pedigree.

Monkfish is an Irish point winner who has since landed two of his four starts under Rules.

He relished heavy ground and the 2m 7f trip to land a maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse on his second outing of the campaign.

The son of Stowaway won by 11 easy lengths, then proved he handled a sounder surface when bolting up by 20 lengths in a Thurles novice contest that was graded calibre in all but name.

Monkfish stayed on strongly and left his rivals toiling in his wake. The distant runner-up Alpine Cobra had previously placed in a Grade 3, so the form isn’t too shabby either.

Mullins has kept Monkfish unexposed from top level competition perhaps with the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in mind.

After just six career starts, he is open to plenty of further progress and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him in the frame at 6/1 with Betfred.

The aforementioned Cobbler’s Way is another from the Emerald Isle to consider each-way at 20/1 with William Hill here.

Trained by Henry De Bromhead, who had a fine start to Cheltenham Festival week, this Gigginstown House Stud owned six-year-old stayed on well to be second behind Latest Exhibition last time out.

Cobbler’s Way started picking off tired horses and, although he couldn’t reach the winner, the extra couple of furlongs could be in his favour.

He isn’t rated as highly as the Mullins trained, JP McManus owner Janidil who steps up beyond 2m for the first time, but Cobbler’s Way has a shout here.