Caspian Caviar Gold Cup aside, good punting opportunities are few and far between today but there may be some value about the Grade-2 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Raced over just shy of three miles, today’s soft ground and Cheltenham’s hill will make this a proper test of stamina, which possibly won’t bode well for John Ferguson’s ex-flat recruit Ennistown.
The progressive Final Nudge steps up in class and trip along with Justanother Muddle. They were both last seen in separate races beating Tippmanboy on heavy ground, with the latter’s winning margin of 2½ lengths the longest.
They were each driven out hard to victory over their mutual opponent and stamina was the difference on both occasions; however, Justanother Muddle has benefitted from an extra 18 days rest and this might come a little soon for Final Nudge to be seen at his best.
The issue is the favourite Unowhatimeanharry arrives in top form and looks to have more class than both, having won his last two starts in far easier fashion. I can’t back him with confidence at 11/8, though.
Net Work Rouge would make a lot of appeal, but his trainer is concerned by the going and at 5/1 I’m in no rush to doubt him. Ballycross is very unexposed, but does have something to find with that horse on their recent meet, and taking the 25/1 would be a total lottery.
I am keen to take a big price, though, and the most intriguing runner in the field is Collin Tizzard’s West Approach, who was last seen being well beaten over the minimum trip on seasonal debut by a potentially top-class horse Buveur D’air at Newbury.
This Grade 2 company isn’t the most logical next step, but has to be read as a vote of confidence in a horse with just four starts in the form book. I’m not too interested in what has come before – even though he showed some handy bumper form on similar ground – because a glance at his breeding has him down as a stayer through and through.
His sire, Westerner, produced the World Hurdle winner Cole Harden, and the current ante-post favourite to take his crown, Thistlecrack – who romped home at Newbury’s recent Hennessy meeting – is out of his dam, Ardstown.
He’s bred to win such a race and this is the first traditional step on that path for British-trained hopefuls. At 16/1 and with that in mind, he’s taken to get that journey off to a winning start.
1pt win West Approach @16/1, Cheltenham 14:25
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