With three big novice hurdle races featuring at the Cheltenham Festival, it makes sense for owners with a collection of decent horses to attempt to split them up in the hope of landing multiple victories.
One such owner in 2016 is Graham Wylie, who will be targeting Bellshill, Yorkhill and Up For Review, all trained by Willie Mullins, at the Festival.
Given that at least two of this trio are fairly flexible in terms of distance, deciding which should tackle the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over 2m, the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle over 2m5f and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over 3m can be a headscratcher.
This makes life difficult for ante-post punters too, who will be reluctant to effectively throw away their hard earned by placing a bet on a particular horse in a race that they don’t line up in.
Here is how we see Wylie most likely splitting up his threesome:
Albert Bartlett – Up For Review @ 6/1
Up For Review looks the most certain stayer of the trio and impressed on a first start over 3m when landing the Dorans Pride Novice Hurdle on heavy ground last time.
This was the race won by Martello Tower in 2014, who followed up with victory in the Albert Bartlett.
With the Neptune run more at a modest pace than an end-to-end gallop, Up For Review may get done by more of a speed horse over the shorter trip and so the Albert Bartlett looks tailor-made, especially if he can dictate from the front.
He was probably Mullins’ best bumper horse last season and has been highlighted to be better than Yorkhill by Ruby Walsh this term. Bellshill looks to be Wylie’s best hope of a Festival novice hurdle win.
Given that Min is the clear favourite for the Supreme at present and that he is also trained by Mullins (albeit under the ownership of Rich Ricci), there will surely be an agenda to keep him apart from Bellshill.
Bellshill has already won twice this season on heavy ground over 2m4f and he does have the cruising speed and finishing burst to challenge over 2m, which could be significant if the early pace in the Neptune is modest again.
The fact Bellshill is not always the most fluent jumper makes him a better fit for the Neptune too, as the longer trip will give him more time to make up for a mistake.
By process of elimination this puts Yorkhill in the Supreme and the decision to drop him back to 2m for the first time this season on his last start could be significant.
Tolworth Hurdle winners are generally more likely to contest the Supreme than the Neptune, with Noland doing the double in 2006 and L’Ami Serge fancied to do both last season, until finishing fourth to Douvan at Cheltenham.
This may be because the Tolworth is the only Grade One trial in Britain over a distance around 2m prior to the Festival.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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