The seventh running of the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over three miles has attracted a bumper 103 entries, including 33 trained in Ireland.
Emma Lavelle has entered Court In Motion, who swept aside the Brian Ellison-trained Neptune Equester to win the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick on 15 January. The six-year-old had previously finished second to the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Backspin in the Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury in December.
Backspin was fourth to the Nicky Henderson-trained Bobs Worth in the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on 29 January, and the third that day, the Alan King-trained Habbie Simpson, is also engaged
O’Neill and King have won the race previously; O’Neill with Black Jack Ketchum (2006) and Wichita Lineman (2007) and King with Nenuphar Collonges (2008). Also among King’s entries is Pride In Battle, twice successful at Newbury.
Martin Keighley saddled Champion Court to defeat the Nigel Twistoin-Davies-trained Sybarite in the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle over two miles, five furlongs at The Open in November but was a below-par ninth to Bobs Worth at the course last month.
Mossley defeated the Paul Nicholls-trained Join Together in the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over the course and distance in December but suffered his first defeat under Rules when only fifth to Court In Motion at Warwick last time. Join Together was third to Court In Motion on debut at Exeter in November.
Willie Mullins has 10 entries including Grade One Royal Bond Hurdle winner Zaidpour, So Young, Punchestown winner Raptor, dual Grade Two winner Gagewell Flyer, and Thurles victor Bishopsfurze.
The Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant held Zaidpour to win the Grade One Future Champion Novice Hurdle over two miles at Leopardstown in December, while Jessica Harrington has entered Oscars Well, the easy winner of his last two races, most recently when eight lengths superior to the Michael O’Hare-trained Sweet Shock in the Grade One Navan Novice Hurdle in which the Noel Meade-trained Fully Funded was third.
Dermot Weld has engaged the 2008 Grade One Punchestown bumper runner-up Endless Intrigue, second on his only start over hurdles behind the Edward O’Grady-trained Shot From The Hip, while Ballyadam Brook, trained by Terence O’Brien, was third to Cue Card in the Grade Two Sharp Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.
Charles Byrnes took the prize with War Of Attrition in 2009 and has entered the useful Fists Of Fury, while the Donald McCain-trained Lively Baron and Tornado Bob have made good impressions with a brace of hurdles victories apiece, and the Nick Williams-trained For Non Stop was runner-up to Grands Crus at The Open before finishing fourth to Backspin in the Challow hurdle.
The Rebecca Curtis-trained Teaforthree was third to Mossley at Cheltenham in December, while others include the Charlie Swan-trained Start Me Up, the Henderson-trained State Benefit, another from the Lavelle yard in the form of Highland Valley and the Evan Williams-trained Fiulin, who was seventh to Menorah in the Grade One Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over two miles at The Festival in 2010.