Trainer Henry Daly believes he has made the right decision to enter Hillcrest (5/2 favourite) in Friday’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, although he knows it will be a competitive race.
Hillcrest is expected to lead the British charge in the Grade One contest, which will be the third race on the final day of the Prestbury Park Festival and will act as the prelude to the Gold Cup.
However, Daly made a relatively late call to enter the son of Stowaway in the three-mile contest, as he also held an option in the shorter Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, but the Ludlow handler is in no doubt he made the right call after seeing his charge triumph in an extended three-mile Grade Two at Haydock last time out.
“It was fairly obvious after his win at Haydock that he got the three miles, so he should get the same trip at Cheltenham,” Daly told reporters, as per Racing TV.
“He’s won over two and a half there, but this looked like the obvious race.
Cheltenham Festival Betting Odds
“He is in good form and schooled well last week. It is a tough race but it is a Grade One, so deserves to be.”
If Hillcrest is to claim victory in the race then he will have to overcome a strong Irish challenge that could be led by the Gordon Elliott-trained Ginto (3/1), who has won on all three of his starts over hurdles, including a Grade One at Naas on his most recent appearance in January.
Willie Mullins will have a quartet on runners, as he looks to land victory in the race for a record third time, with Minella Cocooner (9/1), who will be saddled by Paul Townend, and The Nice Guy (12/1) expected to be his main challengers.
The Nice Guy has won two bumpers and scored on his hurdles debut at Naas last time out, with Mullins admitting even he has been surprised by the seven-year-old’s development.
“He’s a horse that’s surprised me,” Mullins acknowledged. “At home I couldn’t get that type of feeling that he could win one bumper, never mind two, and then win a hurdle very easily.
“He’s not a big, strong, three-mile chaser to look at, but the way he jumps, I think he’s going to be a nice chaser. I’m very happy with his progress.”
All Today’s Horse Racing Odds