Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle – An Overview

One for the Outsiders

The Albert Bartlett is a race in which I tend to like to find a horse at a big price. The form of the favourite in the last 10 renewals is 2P121F7PU3. Compare this with the Ballymore (1331313221) and you can see that there can be shocks here. In the Ballymore, only one of the last 10 winners had a double-figure starting price. In this race, 6 did, including all of the last 5, at prices of 33/1, 14/1, 11/1, 16/1 and 33/1.

The reason for this in my view is that the favourite in a grade one novice hurdle at the festival is likely to be a horse who has shown a lot of class, talent and potential in just a few starts – an exciting unknown quantity. However, it’s no secret that this is a seriously tough race and even when not run on ground as testing as in last year’s renewal it can be an absolute slog.

Hurdling Experience

This brings experience, rather than pure talent, to the fore. My starting point, therefore, is experience over hurdles:

Hurdles Starts Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
0-3 79 2 2.53 11 13.92 -67.26 0.34 0.78
4-5 61 3 4.92 9 14.75 51.81 0.8 0.91
6+ 38 5 13.16 10 26.32 60 2.02 1.52

Given that this is a grade one novice hurdle at the festival, it’s no surprise that over 44% of the runners had previously run 3 times or less over hurdles. However, it seems to be a major disadvantage. Only 2 of these 79 horses won, and they underperformed significantly based on market expectations. The real noteworthy record is that of horses with 6 or more previous hurdles starts to their name – around 21% of the field fit this profile, but these have accounted for half of the winners, and this group over-performed based on market expectations in terms of both wins and places. This implies that these horses were underrated and under-bet, with punters tending to favour those with more interesting, attractive profiles.

Age Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
5 37 1 2.7 4 10.81 21.75 0.65 0.96
6 94 5 5.32 17 18.09 -53.32 0.62 0.87
7 33 3 9.09 5 15.15 78.26 1.44 0.91
8+ 14 1 7.14 4 28.57 -2.15 2.17 2.81

If experience is a plus, then the same logic would suggest that we would prefer older horses in this race, and the results back this up. Yes, 6 of the last 10 winners were aged 5 or 6, but these horses accounted for around 74% of the total field. In fact, the horses which significantly punched above their weight were horses aged 7 and older. If we combine the record of all horses aged 7 and older, we see the following stats:

Age Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
7+ 47 4 8.51 9 19.15 76.11 1.57 1.3

Stamina

The main reason that this is considered such a tough race is obviously the trip. 3 miles around Cheltenham is a tough ask for a hardened staying chaser, never mind a novice hurdler. With this in mind, it would make sense that experience over staying trips is an advantage:

Ran over 3m+? Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
No 85 2 2.35 12 14.12 -23.11 0.34 0.85
Yes 93 8 8.6 18 19.35 67.66 1.28 1.09

Only around half of the runners in the last 10 years had actually run over 3m or further previously, yet these horses accounted for 8 of the last 10 winners. The over-performance based on the market is significant, as is the underperformance of those unexposed over staying trips. The disparity decreases when we factor in places as well, but is still noteworthy.

Won over 3m+? Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
No 111 3 2.7 17 15.32 -0.61 0.44 1
Yes 65 7 10.77 13 20 47.16 1.32 0.96

In theory, you would assume that if experience over longer trips is a plus, then success over longer trips is even better. However, when we narrow down the criteria to just those with a win over 3m or further, the A/E of those which don’t fit the trend improves, and the A/E taking places into account improves to the extent that they perform exactly as they would have been expected to, while those horses which do fit the trend actually marginally underperform based on places. For this reason, I’m going to leave it with those horses which have run over longer trips.

Grading Form not as Important?

Ran in a graded race Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
No 56 0 0 7 12.5 -56 0 1.23
Yes 122 10 8.2 23 18.85 100.54 0.98 0.92

When looking at the other grade one novice hurdles at the festival, I tend to emphasise the importance of graded form. It doesn’t seem to as vital in this race. Obviously form has to be taken into account, but the focus shouldn’t necessarily be solely on the winners of graded hurdles. Having said that, 56 horses have run in the race having never run in a graded race in the past, and all have been beaten. However, they actually over-performed based on market expectations when taking places into account.

The Ideal Profile

I’m not overly fussed about graded form or about wins over longer trips. For this reason, the ideal profile here is:

  • 7yo or older
  • 6+ starts over hurdles
  • Ran over 3m+

As I’ve said, my aim in this race tends to be to find something at a big price. With this in mind, the idea would be that these angles would count out those at shorter prices and find a few which are going unnoticed in the market. Indeed, these horses with more experience and proven over the trip tend to be those with the less exciting, less interesting profiles and can go unnoticed by the betting public. There have been 12 runners fitting all 3 criteria in the last 10 renewals, with 3 wins and another 2 places, and overall form of PPP73103P115. This might not seem overly impressive, but there prices were as follows: 15/2, 66/1, 25/1, 14/1, 66/1 (3rd), 33/1 (won), 9/1, 13/2 (3rd), 50/1, 14/1 (won), 11/1 (won) and 33/1. Their A/E was 4.23 and their A/E(W/P) was 2.18.

More Festival Content can be found in the Cheltenham 2019 Section.

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