14.40 Cheltenham: Kings Palace ready to rule in Albert Bartlett
On paper, the Albert Bartlett looks a match between Irish raider Briar Hill and David Pipe’s exciting Kings Palace and the latter is strongly fancied to come out on top.
The six-year-old has won all of his three races this season, with the last two coming in runaway style at this track.
In the first of those he slammed subsequent Grade 2 winner Creepy, easing down by 18 lengths over 3m 2f after a superb round of slicking hurdling. The gelding then put in a majestic performance last time out at Cheltenham in a Grade 2 contest, when jumping fluently from the front under Tom Scudamore and sauntering clear to win by 14 lengths.
His jumping in those two contests was as good as I have seen for many a year by a novice, and he looks to be improving at a rate of knots.
Connections look sure to adopt the same attacking tactics in this, and I can see him being away and gone from the field before Briar Hill begins to hit top gear.
Willie Mullins’ charge is unbeaten in five starts under rules, and ran out the impressive winner of last year’s Champion Bumper at this meeting.
He has shown a good level of form in notching three wins over hurdles this season, but is a lazy type who takes time to get going and needs some stoking from the saddle.
That could well be his downfall in this race, as he could find himself too far off the pace in the early stages as Kings Palace sets a scorching early gallop from flagfall.
There is no doubt that he will be staying on strongly at the death, but the selection has bags of stamina himself so he is not going to be stopping and could be gone beyond recall.
Of the rest, Deputy Dan looks a lively outsider if handling the quicker ground.
Oliver Sherwood’s six-year-old has won both his starts this season by wide margins and was particularly impressive last time out in a Grade 2 contest over 2m 5f at Warwick.
He stayed on strongly in the mud that day to score by nine lengths and had subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Splash Of Ginge a further seven lengths behind in third.
That form entitles him to plenty of respect and gives him a big chance of hitting the frame.