Based on the alterations to various Cheltenham betting markets after Briar Hill’s success in the Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas, it appears that the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is the number one Festival target.
Of the three races potentially on Briar Hill’s radar, last season’s Champion Bumper victor is 6/1 to win the Albert Bartlett over 3m, 12/1 to triumph in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle over 2m5f and 20/1 for the 2m Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
With trainer Willie Mullins not short of talented novice hurdlers, he will be sure to keep the majority apart to give himself a chance of multiple Cheltenham victories.
Un De Sceaux is among the least versatile and requires more of a sprint trip. It would be a big surprise if he didn’t contend the Supreme Novices’.
Faugheen and Briar Hill are both fairly interchangeable, although the former is already a winner over 3m, while Briar Hill’s stamina has not yet been tested beyond 2m4f.
This is one reason as to why the Neptune may be the best fit for Briar Hill, alongside the record of previous Slaney Hurdle winners that have taken in the same Festival contest.
The last five Slaney Hurdle winners have gone to Cheltenham and the quartet that have run in the Neptune have all finished in the first three. The only exception was Gagewell Flyer, who was pulled up when beaten in the Albert Bartlett.
Briar Hill’s victory in the Slaney Hurdle was more workmanlike than impressive and this has led to the feeling that he will be upped in trip by Mullins in the future.
However, Champagne Fever won the Supreme Novices’ for Mullins at the last Festival and this never looked to be the obvious contest for him in the build up.
Therefore, a run in the Albert Bartlett is not a foregone conclusion and much could come down to the ground in the days leading up to the Festival, as a softer surface would enhance his prospects of competing in the Neptune.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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