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Kings Palace a standout Cheltenham Festival ante-post bet

Since the health and wellbeing travails of Sprinter Sacre began in earnest over Christmas punters will be hard-pressed to find a more solid favourite than 4/1 Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle jolly Kings Palace.

Needless to say there is always the possibility that, as in any ante-post market with some distance to run, a challenger may arrive out of the blue to change the game.

Yet in terms of form in the book it’s hard to quibble with what David Pipe’s gelding has achieved this term.

He lost just one race he completed in a three-race debut campaign last season.

Nicky Henderson’s Captain Cutter, now 10/1 third-favourite in this year’s Neptune Novices Hurdle betting, was his conqueror in that listed Ascot bumper over a 2m that now seems certain to be inadequate.

Falling on his hurdles bow in his final outing of 2012/13, he’s stepped up, nay leapt up on that form since, relishing tackling longer trips.

On his first run over more than 2m he came home a length in front of Kaki De La Pree at Fontwell, with the pair 15l ahead of bronze medallist Billy No Name.

Tom Symonds’ second won his next two races, to give the form a nice look, but perhaps more excitingly the distant third was also an 8l scorer on his next run.

Then came Kings Palace’s Cheltenham debut, in which he tackled a trip in excess of 2m6f for the first time.

The result was an 18l mauling of some good horses on the kind of good ground that he may well face at the Festival in March.

Despite the dominant nature of the victory, all of his beaten foes to have completed a race since have landed a big win.

Second-placed Creepy followed up in the Grade 2 Neptune Novices Hurdle over 2m5f back at Cheltenham.

Third-placed former Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude took a Grade 3 Handicap Chase at the course’s December meeting.

Even Aerial, who was 52l behind Kings Palace in seventh, won a novice hurdle by 6l at the next time of asking.

Amusingly that Paul Nicholls inmate had finished a 6l second to Coneygree in last year’s renewal of the race that David Pipe’s hurdler won on his next trip to a racecourse.

The fact Coneygree himself was amongst the favourites for the 2013 Albert Bartlett at the time lends further support to the notion that Kings Palace is an above average proposition.

In taking the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett-sponsored race at Cheltenham’s December meet by 14l, Pipe’s six year-old brought up his hat-trick for the season.

Not only that but he continued to accumulate some sexy collateral form.

The second, third, fourth and fifth horses he thrashed so mercilessly that winter’s afternoon had all won their previous race over hurdles.

Just one of them, the fifth-placed Flicka Williams, has been out since, finishing a highly creditable second off top weight in a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter.