Wholestone and West Approach are among nine entries for the £30,000 Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (2.25pm) at Cheltenham on day two of The International this Saturday.
The three-mile contest has been a good pointer to future stars in recent seasons, with subsequent Festival scorers Unowhatimeanharry (2015), Blaklion (2014) and Coneygree (2012) all on the roll of honour.
Wholestone (Nigel Twiston-Davies) and West Approach (Colin Tizzard) have met at the last two Cheltenham meetings, with Wholestone coming out on top on both occasions.
West Approach, a half-brother to the awesome Thistlecrack, went down by a half-length in a three-mile novices’ hurdle at The Showcase in October and then the pair were second and third respectively behind Irish raider Peregrine Run in the G2 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at The Open on November 11.
Other notable contenders include Laser Light (Alan King), who won nicely at Chepstow in October before just being touched off at Ascot, and Anchor Man (Paul Nicholls) who created a good impression when scoring on his hurdling debut at Exeter.
Local trainer Graeme McPherson is set to run Ami Desbois following a decisive success in a class three handicap hurdle over nearly three miles at Haydock Park last month. That was the horse’s first start since landing a maiden hurdle by 11 lengths over a similar trip at Hexham in May.
The six-year-old already boasts respectable form at this level, having finished third to Barters Hill in the G2 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster in January.
McPherson, who is based near Stow-on-the-Wold, said today: “Ami Desbois is very well. He is in the Albert Bartlett trial and also holds an entry in the Citipost Handicap Hurdle [3m] on Friday of the meeting. He will run in one or the other.”
“We could do with a drop of rain as he won very well on softer ground at Haydock. He has been in great form since and will relish every yard of the three miles.”
“He was third to Barters Hill in an Albert Bartlett trial, but is a different horse this season. He has got a fantastic future as a chaser and we deliberately kept him as a novice for this season.”
“We thought he would improve for a summer out and he showed he has at Haydock. I thought he did it easily enough and he deserves to take his chance in a better race.”
Blue Rambler (Ian Williams) also scored in handicap company at Wetherby last time out and, prior to that, had finished a good sixth in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket on the Flat. The entries are completed by No Hassle Hoff (Dan Skelton), Gayebury (Evan Williams) and Impulsive Moment (Neil Mulholland) who all captured minor events over hurdles last month.
Cheltenham’s seven-race programme on Saturday is headlined by the £130,000 StanJames.com International Hurdle (3.00pm, 10 entries) and the £100,000 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (1.50pm, 19 confirmations).
Taquin Du Seuil (Jonjo O’Neill) and Village Vic (Philip Hobbs), first and second in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month, are disputing favouritism with Aloomomo (Warren Greatrex) in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, while Stan James Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours (Nicky Henderson) tops the betting for the StanJames.com International Hurdle but Yanwoth is my nap bet on Saturday at Cheltenham.
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