Saturday 15th February – Haydock, 4:25pm, 3m ½f (3m 58y) Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Class 1) (5yo+)
The Prestige Novices’ Hurdle was run for the first time in 1977 at Newbury and was called the Philip Cornes Saddle of Gold Stayers’ Novices’ Hurdle Final. The race was transferred to Chepstow in 1992 before moving to Haydock in 2001.
The race has been won by horses aged six on 11 of its 12 renewals.
The betting has given a good clue to a likely winner over its nine renewals with five favourites/joint favourites obliging and 10 winners going off in the first three in the betting.
A recent run before the race is advantageous as 10 of the winners had their previous run within 44 days of the race. Current winning form also needs to be seriously considered with 10 of the winners also victorious on their previous start.
Look for runners who have previously run over similar distances to the race as 10 of the last 12 winners had run of distances between 2 miles 7 furlongs and 3 miles 1 furlong with eight horses winning over similar distances.
Form earlier in the season is also worth a look with 10 of the last 12 winners running at least three times and eight winning earlier in the season.
Previous hurdling form is important as 11 of the previous winners had run at least two times and eight of the eight winners of the event having also won at least twice over the smaller obstacles.
An Official Rating of 130 of higher has been required to win the race in 10 of the last 12 renewals but only one of the 12 winners had also previously won a Grade 1–3 race previously.
The Ollie Murphy-trained Port Of Mars, who has an entry in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival, comes into the race on the back of a win in a Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow in January. He won the race in decent style by 1½ lengths. The six year old bay gelding steps up markedly in class but the fact he has already won over the race distance and has winning form in heavy ground could be in his favour.
He was sired by the multiple Group 1 winner Westerner who has turned into a leading National Hunt sire. The statistics of his progeny are also very interesting when looking at Port of Mars: 49% of Westerner’s offspring have won over hurdles, 25% have won over longer distances and 30% have won in heavy ground. In the expected worsening weather conditions the race will be very attritional. Port of Mars has demonstrated in his short career that he can cope in the likely conditions.
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