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The Inside Track on the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Well we’ve got to day four, the liver and the wallet may have taken a battering, but the modern-day Festival requires all participants to dig deep into those stamina reserves in order to see out the trip. Qualities required at this stage by both punters and the runners in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

I started the week with a NAP selection for Irving in the Supreme, and the race that carries the name of our favourite spud supplier sees the Next Best line up. Kings Palace is the beast in question, and were I the sort of person to carry a notebook around with me, the name of this six-year-old would be very near the top of page one, thanks to two Cheltenham victories before Christmas, wins achieved with an aggregate winning margin of 32 lengths.

In what could be a big week for the Pipe/Scudamore partnership – forget what Simon Clare has told you elsewhere here, Red Sherlock will win the Neptune (obviously don’t forget it if by some fluke Simon had the good sense to tip Red Sherlock) – King’s Palace can complete a course hat-trick.

It hardly seems worth discussing the other runners in this race, such is the domination Kings Palace will have over his rivals, but I’ve been told I won’t get paid if I don’t write another 100 words so here goes.

Briar Hill could be the chosen one for this contest from team Mullins, last year’s Champion Bumper winner has won all three starts over hurdles at long odds-on, and we end as we began, with a familiar story of not really knowing how beating up small fields in Ireland will translate to the toughest National Hunt stage of all.

I’m basing much of my punting policy for the week on opposing short-priced runners trained by Willie Mullins (apart from Hurricane Fly. And Quevega. It’s important to operate a flexible policy at Cheltenham) but I’m fully aware such a strategy could be doomed to failure, as numerically at least, Mullins has assembled arguably the strongest raiding party ever sent to Prestbury Park.

Anyway, now is not the time for doubt and hesitation, now is the time for men to bet like men, and be thankful that whatever happens, it’s only another 361 days until the tapes go up on another Supreme Novices’ … and worry not folks, I’ve already got one for that race.

Selection – Kings Palace