Cheltenham: Maverick Caracci Apache the Albert Bartlett wildcard

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Winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ hurdle requires not just a horse capable of staying 3m, but one who needs every last yard of the trip to be seen at their best.

As a result siding with steeds that have already proven they can score over 24f is a sound ploy in the festival Friday contest.

Yet each year many of those entered have yet to have proven their ability to do so, with 4/1 second favourite No More Heroes and 10/1 third in the market Value At Risk among those still to win over 3m.

In fact only six runners have: Black Hercules (3/1 favourite), Martello Tower (10/1), Blaklion (10/1), Caracci Apache (14/1), Definitely Red (25/1) and Shanroe Santos (40/1).

Of the sextet, the Nicky Henderson-trained Caracci Apache stands out as a particularly delectable combination of graded form, potential for improvement and a working-man’s price.

Joint second highest-rated horse in the race along with Black Hercules, the five-year-old announced himself as a likely type for this contest by gunning down Blaklion on the line in a 3m1.5f Grade 2 at Doncaster.

He did so despite running green, hanging left up the run-in to the extent that he clobbered the running rail as he breasted the line.

It was just his third win in three runs over hurdles and the way he stayed on past that battle-hardened rival suggests the Twiston-Davies animal has little right to be ahead of him in the betting.

Caracci Apache has been stepped up in trip with every start over timber, answering each assignment with improvement that has seen his Racing Post Rating upped 16lbs during the sequence.

He is clearly progressing at an alarming rate, in stark contrast to the likes of Black Hercules and Martello Tower.

Willie Mullins’ favourite has risen 5lbs across two runs over hurdles this term, both of which unfolded on the kind of heavy ground he’ll not encounter unless an unforeseen monsoon souses Cheltenham on Thursday evening.

The latter, meanwhile, has had four runs during the current campaign, yet his RPR has clambered only five notches.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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