Firstly credit where credit's due... Rory Delargy first put me on to this trend, so he gets the kudos. The Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle is one of only three novice Grade One hurdles run at the Festival and it's the staying novices championship. Of the three races it definitely has less prestige than both the Supreme won this year by Shiskin, and the Ballymore won by wonder-horse Envoi Allen. But it has a surprisingly impressive record of throwing up future festival winners with horses that were unplaced in the race.
The current roll call of Albert Bartlett unplaced horses that went on to win a race at the festival is...
- Oscar Park was 9th in 2004 and then went on to win the Pertemps Final at 14/1 in 2007
- Chief Dan George was 8th in 2007 then went on to win the Ultima Chase at 33/1 in 2010
- Cape Tribulation was 5th in 2009 then went on to win the Pertemps Final at 14/1 in 2012
- Bostons Angel was PU in 2010 then went on to win the RSA Chase at 16/1 in 2011
- Teaforthree was 8th in 2011 then went on to win the National Hunt Chase at 5/1 in 2012
- The Druids Nephew was 8th in 2012 then went on to win the Ultima Chase at 8/1 in 2016
- O’Faolains Boy was 4th in 2013 then went on to win the RSA Chase at 12/1 in 2014
- Black Hercules was 7th in 2015 then went on to win the JLT Chase at 4/1 in 2016
- Native River was 9th in 2015 then went on to win the Gold Cup at 5/1 in 2018
- Blaklion was PU in 2015 then went on to win the RSA Chase at 8/1 in 2016
- Balko des Flos was 5th in 2016 then went on to win the Ryanair at 8/1 in 2016
- Paisley Park was 13th in 2018 then went on to win the Stayers Hurdle at 11/8 in 2016
And this year, Lisnagar Oscar, 5th in the 2019 edition, won the Stayers Hurdle at the working man's price of 50/1! So in the last 10 years, only the 2014 and 2017 renewals have not yet produced a subsequent winner... yet!
This year's Albert Bartlett looked a very strong renewal.... there was a 19-runner field and 11 of them were rated 140 or higher. The race was won by Monkfish (152) from Latest Exhibition (149) and Fury Road (144) with Thyme Hill (150) in 4th, these four were 10 lengths clear of Janidil (150) in 5th. Monkfish's time was 5 minutes 57.96 secs (16.96 secs outside standard) which compares very favourably to Lisnagar Oscar's time in the Stayers of 6 minutes 3.2 secs (22.20 secs outside standard), albeit he was carrying 5lbs less.
Janidil is the first horse I want to talk about. He came here on the back of a hat-trick of wins that were all over 2 miles but plenty of use was made of him indicating that it was felt the trip was felt to be on the short side for him. He stayed on really well in each win but this was a big step up in both trip and class. I'm guessing Barry Geraghty could have taken the ride as he didn't have one in this, but Mark Walsh who had ridden him in all 3 wins was on board. He jumped off at the back of the field and a mistake at the 2nd didn't help, he was then clumsy at the 4th but always travelled really well and jumped fluently from then on. Walsh still had a double handful turning down the hill but there were only about 8 lengths covering the field and he was still behind a wall of horses jumping the 2nd last. Coming into the straight he was driven to try and join the leaders but had to switch around the weakening Oscar Academy. By then the leaders had gone and Walsh wasn't too hard on him after but he still finished clear of the 6th. He may not be up to the very top class but he's definitely one to keep a close eye on and he may well be capable of better if dropping down in trip slightly. He isn't overly big but is very sturdy and I'm not sure what kind of campaign connections have in mind for him, but I fully expect to see him at next year's festival
Lieutenant Rocco of Colin Tizzard's (reported to have left the stable since?) is also worthy of a positive mention. He came into this as the youngest and least experienced horse in the race having only made his debut in January. He put two class 4 races at Chepstow and Warwick to the sword, winning by 11 and 9 lengths respectively but looked far from the finished article and was rated as an improver by Timeform, he went off as one of the outsiders at 33/1. Pretty keen for most of the race he was always up with the leading group and he jumped much better than he had previously. He came under a ride going down the hill but didn't find much and it all looked a bit too much for him at this stage of his career, Harry Cobden wasn't too hard on him sensibly pulling him up before the last. He looks all over a chaser and I expect to see him over fences next year...
The Wolf is also worthy of a mention in dispatches. He went off an unconsidered 100/1 shot and nothing in the first part of the race gave any indication that he should be any shorter as he made a mistake at the 2nd which knocked him to the back of the field. He seemed to be struggling but came back on the bridle going down the hill improving his position, unfortunately, he then made a mistake at the second last and landed very awkwardly costing him momentum, but he then ran on stoutly all the way to the line passing beaten horses and finished a decent 7th.
Harry Senior was pulled up as they started the second circuit and we can clearly put a line through his run.