Staged over 2m5f, this hurdle race has been won in previous seasons by former legendary horses Istabraq and Faugheen before they became Champion Hurdlers. Other winners have often embarked on a subsequent chasing career, and the long-time ante-post favourite for the 2020 renewal could be set for stardom if building upon his decent reputation.
Well-fancied Envoi Allen from the Gordon Elliott stable has won all seven races for his trainer which includes claiming the ‘Bumper’ at last years Festival. He has since won three times over hurdles this term but always seems to do just enough to win. None of his seven overall victories have been earned by more than seven lengths.
The 6-year-old gelding won his last race back in early January on his first attempt over 2m4f, and his victory in that Grade 1 contest was comfortable rather than spectacular. His participation in this race depends upon the ground not being too testing and he is offered at 11/8.
Of the other Irish challengers, The Big Getaway from the Willie Mullins yard should be prominent and the distance will be suitable. A close fourth in a maiden hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, he then easily won at Naas in his only other hurdle race. The 6-year-old is an improving horse but may be better next season over fences.
As for the English competitors, Thyme Hill from the Philip Hobbs stable has been a consistent performer this term. After finishing third behind Envoi Allen in the ‘Bumper’ last season, the 6-year-old has won all three hurdle races to date including a comfortable victory over this course and distance back in January. He is equally happy on a flat course or undulating track but may contest the ‘Albert Bartlett’ if ground conditions improve.
The unbeaten Sporting John could be another English representative but all three of his three victories have been earned on right-handed tracks with his latest win impressively claimed at Ascot during February. He outstayed his other three rivals that day in testing conditions over 2m3f but he is equally capable of competing over shorter distances and can be backed at 3/1.
There will also be some confidence in the prospects of The Big Breakaway from the Colin Tizzard stable. A winner of both hurdle races for his new yard, both contests have been low key events but he claimed very easy victories and deserves to be upgraded in class.