Cheltenham Festival Focus: 33/1 Albert Bartlett chance has Better Days Ahead

Daryl Carter.
Daryl Carter adds 33/1 chances to his ante-post list.

It's week five of Daryl Carter's Cheltenham Festival Focus, and he rounds up the week's action, highlights some brilliant performances, pours some cold water on others, and adds to his ante-post list...

  • Daryl adds 33/134.00 chance to his list

  • Says calm down with Jeriko Du Reponet hype

  • And don't give up on Ballyburn over 2m

  • Huge improvement needed from Jeriko to justify 8/19.00 Supreme price

    Jeriko Du Reponet won effortlessly at Newbury on Friday December 1, hitting the line hard and on the bridle under Nico de Boinville. You must be fairly impressed with the overall performance in isolation under a teachable ride from de Boinville.

    The immediate note is how well he could jump a hurdle - he was slick. The other is that his rider was happy to teach him by covering him up amongst runners and asking him to go for a gap among horses between the second and last flights, and he showed an excellent attitude to do so.

    He jumped the last when shaken under a bit of pressure and latched back on to the bridle with his jockey seemingly eager not to give him a hard time and a gentle introduction.

    He pulled away nicely between the final flight and the line and gave the impression that he would have won by a street if asked for maximum pressure - although that's a simple observation with no evidence.

    There was talk that he was edging to his right, but there is little evidence of this on review. Despite the wayward leader veering left and right, he maintained a straight jumping course, which speaks well of his professionalism for one so inexperienced. Notably, a few strides after the last, de Boinville wanted to give him company, so he brought his mount to eventual runner-up King William Rufus.

    The form

    The form of this race is going to take many knocks from people. However, he was a league above these rivals. Still, runner-up, King William Rufus, had run well above what he achieved when 36 lengths behind Willmount here, and this was back to the form of his bumpers when 13 lengths behind Gidleigh Park and two behind Captain Teague.

    The third had shown nothing under rules in two starts but was a two-length second to Slade Steel (three lengths behind Ballyburn and a winner of a Naas Maiden over King Of Kingsfield) in his point-to-point. The form is no more than okay.

    The clock

    *The official overall times on the Racing Post website don't add up.

    There is certainly no need for rocket emojis here. The clock comparisons with the 130-rated Woodhoo (RPR 114) could have read better. Woodhoo ran her circuit time five lengths quicker than Jeriko Du Reponet. She was nine lengths quicker from four out to the line, quicker between the second last and last and quicker from the last to the line.

    The three-year-old Woodhoo has an official rating of 130, but she has run to the mid-120s on this occasion - I'm afraid I have to disagree with the RPR of 114. The runner-up in the Juvenile race has recorded a career-best but previously a high RPR of 108 in seven hurdle starts - although a winner of four of those and progressive.

    Still, further evidence of this being a performance to keep calm about comes with the final circuit of the 3m Handicap Hurdle won by Ed Keeper. Ed Keeper clocked a last circuit time of half a length faster than Jeriko Du Reponet and was two lengths quicker from three to the finish.

    The market cuts on Jeriko Du Reponet by one firm into 4/15.00 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle are on buzz and not on analytical evidence, and while the typical turn of phrase is "there's no value in ante-post betting", would see me argue there must be when performances like this are cut so short.

    Interestingly, his shortest price comes from the Henderson yard sponsor Unibet - so I would be cautious.

    The rating

    However, on final reflection, I rate this performance around 125. A 8/19.00 Supreme Novice Hurdle contender will eventually want to run to a rating between 148 and 155.

    He is open to significant improvement but is priced like he has run a 140-figure rather than the 125 I have him at. I wouldn't be taking the current 8/19.00. I am happy to have him in the book, but I hope for much better at Kempton at Christmas.

    Finally, the comparison will naturally be made between Jeriko Du Reponet and the yards Willmount. It was pretty notable that Nico de Boinville rode this lad for speed compared to the yards another Newbury winner last month in which he made an effort to hit the front and make all from halfway down the back, suggesting that one is more of a galloper, rather than a quickener.

    Willmount received an RPR of 128 for his performance, while Jeriko Du Reponet 120. To put that into perspective, Jet Powered received 129, Jonbon 137 and Son Of Camas 131 when winning this for Nicky Henderson.

    Jeriko Du Reponet has been given the lowest RPR of any Henderson runner in the last ten years. The lowest RPR of any winner of this race came from My Drogo 116 (now rated 155), so they don't always tell the final tale.

    Improvement is surely forthcoming, but it needs to be to warrant his price tag for the Supreme Novice Hurdle.

    As for Willmount, he has not shown an awful lot either.

    Action roundup

    On Thursday November 30 at Thurles, the 2023 Supreme Novice Hurdle fifth, Il Etait Temps, comfortably made a successful chase debut.

    He jumped well on the whole and travelled powerfully. He was slightly left at one or two, tracking a sound pace set by Aspire Tower and shaken up on the home turn, but had too much natural pace for the early race leader and kept up the gallop shaken up to win comfortably.

    The runner-up, Ho My Lord, has plenty of potential to make up ground from off the pace, while Aspire Tower - who looks the part - seems a little tripless. This looks like a race to keep on side. Il Etait Temps was cut into 14/115.00 for the Arkle, which is more than fair with that race as his likely target. He settled much better here than he did over hurdles where he landed a Grade 1, so he was close to the Arkle market principals in that sphere. He is fascinating, but it is also another boost for Facile Vega's Arkle claims.

    Classic Getaway is worth mentioning, having won the Listed race at Thurles on November 30 over 2m6f. He is a horse that has always held significant promise, and he set a good gallop on the front end to fend off my fancy in the race Haut En Couleurs when seemingly second choice of the Mullins four-strong battalion.

    He pulled up in the 2022 Albert Bartlett when found to have bled, but he travelled like a good horse in that race and could progress into a useful type. Classic Getaway is now 20/121.00 for the Ryanair, which would look the most reasonable trip.

    At Thurles on November 30, Fun Fun Fun won her Maiden Hurdle effortlessly at odds of 30/10 by seven lengths, but it could have been 50 given how much she had in hand at the finish scampering away.

    She looks very speedy, and this change to front-running tactics, having been held up in bumpers, looked to work well.

    The circuit time was slower than the previous Maiden Hurdle winner, Lombron, and the form of this Mares Maiden Hurdle looks very poor, but there was a lot to like about how she went from the back of the last to the line. She could prove Willie Mullins' Mares Novice Hurdle horse for which she is 12/113.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook, and that looks generous given the regard her trainer holds her, but she needs to learn how to race more conservatively.

    Who's the Daddy - it could be him!

    Also on the Thurles card on November 30, Daddy Long Legs won emphatically in the third of four 2m races.

    He clocked a middling circuit time figure but was powerful from the back of the last and two out to the finish, and Paul Townend struggled to pull him up. This was a truly run race - he left a deep impression on me.

    Daddy Long Legs 1280.png

    Daddy Long Legs was making his Irish racecourse debut. He hadn't been seen since running on the flat in France 555 days ago when a short-head second in a run-of-the-mill contest at Saint-Cloud, but he was picked up in July 2022 for a hefty 210,000 Euro and has seemingly been held back for this year, having been all the rage last year for the Triumph Hurdle.
    The form of this Maiden looks okay at best. The runner-up was point-to-point winner Cleatus Poolaw, whose form is a little suspect. However, the third, Irish Panther, was previously second to the useful Farren Glory - who won the Grade 1Royal Bond - and he did make Ballyburn work hard in a bumper contest at Punchestown back in February and finished ahead of the likes of Lecky Watson at the same venue in April.

    The 14-length fourth was second in a good Maiden Hurdle at Navan when last seen 712 days ago, but it's unwise to take his performance literally, given the absence.

    I'd be cautious of this form for now, given it relies on the well-held third, but in reality, there was no second or third to the winner, who looks very useful and one that should be considered a Grade 1 prospect. He was not priced in the Ballymore market until I requested in which he was offered at 25/126.00 but cut immediately to 20/121.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook (top-price).

    However, on reflection, he has plenty of boot and always wanted to go a yard quicker. He is 14/115.00 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle, which looks rather appealing given I have this as the best 2m Novice Hurdle performance to date, along with It's For Me.

    There is one slight concern. He was edging to his right over his hurdles and was lugging that way for much of the contest. He went right at the first, third, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth. However, this may have been through circumstance and inexperience, and Paul Townend was letting him run down a few flights with no notable left elbow further back than right to keep him straight--still, something to note until we see him at Christmas.

    Action roundup

    At Newbury on December 1, Hermes Allen made a brilliant introduction when winning the Grade 2 John Francome Novices Chase on his debut over fences.

    This was a good performance, given he had suffered a setback and was starting his Novice Chase career a month later than planned. It was hard to knock. While it looked visually like Nickle Back went off hard, when comparing it to the following handicap chase, it's clear he didn't.

    Nickle Back steadied down the back straight before injecting pace at the fifth last. Hermes Allen had a poll position with those held up given too much to do. However, Hermes Allen came home very strongly. This was a great start, but he might bump into Gaelic Warrior should he go to Cheltenham in the Turner Novices Chase for which he is 8/19.00, and the yard has Stay Away Fay for the Browns 12/113.00.

    At Fairyhouse on December 2, Corbetts Cross, who had dramatically run out in the 2023 Albert Bartlett when coming down to the final flight, got off the mark at the second attempt over fences having been trounced by Grangeclare West at Naas on seasonal return.

    He was value for more than the winning margin of 3/4 of a length, and despite some hairy leaps and wanting to duck to his left, he was a comfortable winner. This was a big step up on his seasonal return. Five pulled clear of the field, Three Card Brag couldn't match the pace of the winner and looked slow, having been in poll position, and the fourth Nick Rockett went for a run up the rail that wasn't there, finishing on the bridle.

    However, Corbetts Cross was a worthy winner despite jumping slowly, and he will be seen to best effect once moving up in distance. It's hard to suggest he is a massive player in the Brown Advisory 10/111.00on this evidence, but he is clearly an improving sort, and his hurdles form entitled him to plenty of respect. I wonder if you could trust him to put in a clear round compared to a Stay Away Fay, who looks more robust in that department.

    Supreme backers of Bally burned but don't give up

    Ballyburn made his seasonal/hurdle debut at Fairyhouse on Saturday December 2, but suffered an odds-on defeat to the useful Firefox over 2m. Ballyburn was good down the back straight over three flights but was notably keen and carried his head very low - Klassical Dream low.

    He tracked Firefox throughout, and his jumping was good at the sedate pace before they straightened up for home and finally got racing. He blundered the second last before a good jump at the final flight. This was a case of a race turning into a sprint and the winner holding poll position and out-speeding the Willie Mullins runner.

    However, there were big positives to take from this outing for Ballyburn Supreme Novice backers. The performance suggested he would learn a lot from this run and would be well suited to a strong run of 2m, having not been left for dust by the winner. Given his free-going nature, he will surely stay at this distance - just as Dysart Dynamo did in 2022.

    If I had to have a bet on which race Ballyburn would run, it would undoubtedly be the Supreme Novice Hurdle for which he is now 12/113.00, where he would get a strong early pace to help him settle, and he won't be one wanting for stamina at the finish.

    He needs to improve to get to that level and learn to race correctly, but, interestingly, Paul Townend was happy to go the slow gallop and take the lead from the winner in another teachable ride. I wouldn't give up on him.

    The winner, Firefox - now 10/111.00 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle - looks useful, but he was hesitant at the first flight and had the race to himself at the head of affairs in what was a plodding affair.

    To put into perspective how slowly run this was, the following rated Novice Hurdle leader was 10.47 seconds ahead of Firefox at the fourth last, equal to almost 42 lengths.

    Firefox was 16 lengths quicker, four out to the finish, than the rated Novice Hurdle winner, Waterford Whisper, and four lengths quicker from the back of the last.

    All in all, it's challenging to take much from this race, and I would expect a form reversal granted a stronger gallop - don't believe the hype on social media that this was a "spectacular" Novice hurdle - it wasn't.

    Farren Glory won the Grade 1 Royal Bond on Sunday 3rd December. This race was feeble for a Grade 1 contest, and I foolishly fell for the promise that An Tobar 5/23.50 SP favourite, offered here on his debut. I'm kicking myself because I know he did a boringly slow time when beating nothing of note on debut, which we discussed in week two. Still, this race will surely have a minimal bearing on the Supreme Novice Hurdle in which Farren Glory was added to the market at 16/117.00.

    Farren Glory had beaten Irish Panther at Clonmel on seasonal return over 2m3f but was readily held in the better company in April behind Nick Rockett and in both point-to-points. Perhaps the drop back to 2m has seen him improve, but for now, this form should be treated cautiously - we will pick this up in more depth next week along with the Hattons Grace and Drinmore.

    Back Better Days Ahead to win the Albert Bartlett @ 33/134.00

    The Albert Bartlett division is horrid to get involved with early on, but there's a bit of value with Better Days Ahead - 33/134.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook.

    The case is not overly strong, but I liked how he was travelling when he came down on his seasonal/hurdle debut at Down Royal, and the fact that he clocked an RPR of 130 without finishing out his race suggests he is not one to take lightly.

    Better Days Ahead 1280.png

    Gordon Elliott's youngster put that right and bounced back with an emphatic victory at Fairyhouse, and although entitled to do what he did at odds of 2/91.22 in an uncompetitive race, it was quite taking the boot he showed from the second last to the line. His RPR of 121 could have been more inspiring, but I'd be surprised if that didn't significantly underestimate his ability.

    Better Days Ahead is all about stamina. There's little doubt about that, but he has shown a good turn of foot when scoring over Chapeau De Soleil in a steadily run bumper at Fairyouse last year. Although disappointing at Cheltenham, he was poorly positioned to make a challenge from the rear of the field. However, he was only 10/111.00 for that race.

    He was a very promising point-to-point winner last February, and we have yet to see the best of him. While this is a bit of a stab in the dark, he could be out this Saturday at Navan. His owners, Bective Stud, sponsor a race on the card, but the Novice Hurdle over 2m4f could be an option - a race in which the same owner/trainer combo won with Ginto last year.

    He is currently top price 33/134.00 with Betfair for the Albert Bartlett, and with the yards owners Firefox likely to tackle 2 1/2 miles should he go to the festival, then the Friday race is indeed his target. He looks very promising.

    Back Better Days Ahead to Win the Albert Bartlett @ 33/134.00

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