Tony Calvin: Barbados can bank us some Bucks in the Albert Bartlett

Cheltenham hurdle action
Tony has an antepost pick for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham

Tony Calvin was very impressed with a low-key novices' hurdle winner at Kempton on Saturday, and as a result he's got an antepost tip in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham...

"I would rather focus on that he has had a sighter of Cheltenham in the past and, even more so, his impressive recent form trajectory."

You snooze, you lose.

I was obviously watching the racing on Saturday afternoon - with the odd switch over to Newcastle v Gloucester on BT Sport - and, like many it seems, I was particularly taken by the way that Barbados Buck's picked up after the last to win the 3m novices' hurdle at Kempton.

I know we are increasingly living in a times and sectionals world in racing - rightly, and belatedly, so - but instinct, both immediate and considered, remains a key part of my betting, and that told me that I just saw a horse that was going places.

So did I do the friends and family thing, and rush around trying to take the general 40/1 about him for the Albert Bartlett straight after the race, or did I just sit on my arse, flick back to the rugby, and not even consider having a bet?

Yes, you guessed it. I literally didn't even think to look for a price for him for the Cheltenham three-miler.

Don't ask me why. I just didn't.

The horse is now a top-priced 20/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook for the Festival and, in normal circumstances, I would just sulk at an opportunity missed and forget about him until March.

But the more I looked back at the race, the more I was taken by the performance and I am happy to stick him up at 20/1 win-only with the Betfair Sportsbook, or 21.020/1 or bigger on the exchange.

Visually impressive

I guess the layers went 40s after the race (and it looks as if at least four firms did, including the Sportsbook) because it was a low-key novices' hurdle.

And that much is undoubtedly true. The runner-up was pulled up on his previous start (though was found to have an irregular heartbeat after the race), and the third had been beaten 23 lengths on his most recent start, too.

So we are not talking anything other than a bog standard (for Kempton) fare here.

But you should certainly not ignore the fact that the winner was defying a 10lb penalty, and the second had good maiden hurdle form when a 3¼ length third off levels at Ludlow last season (the winner is now rated 135), so it would not be wise to downplay the performance too much.

If at all.

And, quite clearly, the most taking part of the performance was the way the horse picked up after the last when asked, albeit gently, to lengthen by Harry Cobden.

That was the section of the race where the visual impression and instinct kicked in.

Nicholls has a good one here

Now, the Albert Bartlett is an incredibly open race at the moment - the Betfair Sportsbook actually go 12/1 the field, with Willie Mullins' Leopardstown winner Stattler topping the market - but I thought Barbados Buck's put in a pretty big claim at the weekend (by the way I am stilling awaiting an answer to a question I asked a times specialist on his performance, though I am not expecting anything too punchy at all on that front).

Paul Nicholls has never won the Albert Bartlett, or the race in its' previous guises and under decent sponsors - in fact, I went back to 2011 trying to find a horse he even had placed, before failing to do so and giving up (though he may not have run too many in it, I guess) - but he has a good one here, all right.


In fact, he is very blessed in that hurdling division this season, as Ballymore favourite Bravesmansgame is the best British novice we have seen.

Indeed, Flash Collonges himself possibly looked Cheltenham-bound (perhaps even for the Albert Bartlett too, though Harry Skelton stressed he was "a big, raw horse" after the race) when beating the 133-rated Malinello by 8 ½ lengths off levels over an extended 2m5f at Wincanton on Saturday.

Recent form trajectory very impressive

A lot of people are making noises that we should not be too surprised about his talent given that he is from the same family (and owned by the same family) of Big Buck's - wouldn't major on that myself (his full sister Barbados Blue is rated only 119) - but it is another layer to the bet, at least.

I would rather focus on that he has had a sighter of Cheltenham in the past and, even more so, his impressive recent form trajectory.

It was only back in October that he was being put in his place at Stratford (he was tried in cheek pieces there, so Nicholls was obviously scrabbling around trying to unlock the potential), so to do what he did at Kempton augurs very well.

I am led to believe that he goes straight to Cheltenham now - though plans change as we know, especially with Nicholls, as he is loathe to resist a winnable, small-field Graded opportunity! - and he does so as a horse with four hurdle starts already under his belt, which is always a positive in the three-miler.

I know recent winners Minella Indo and Monkfish didn't actually have bundles of hurdling experience but they had a winning point background, so I think experience is important.

So yes, I think we will be hearing a lot of more of Barbados Buck's.

Others may go there with greater form claims (especially if he doesn't run again until Cheltenham) and he is a staying chaser of the future by the sounds of it, but that is often what you need in an Albert Bartlett, as the last two winners have shown.

And if some, if not all, of the Irish cannot make it over in March this time, then so be it.

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