Trainer Mouse Morris

Cheltenham Festival tips: Mark Howard Portfolio February 8

Mark Howard adds a Leopardstown runner-up to his Cheltenham ledger at 14/1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.

Cheltenham Festival tips: Mark Howard Portfolio

Gentlemansgame in Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at 14/1

Already advised

The weekend belonged to Willie Mullins as far as Ireland is concerned with the champion trainer cleaning up at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

The Closutton team were responsible for 9 winners from 60 runners over the two days, including half a dozen Grade 1 successes. Chacun Pour Soi, Energumene and Monkfish outclassed their opponents with dazzling performances, while Appreciate It and Gaillard Du Mesnil cemented their positions at the forefront of the Sky Bet Supreme and Ballymore ante-post markets respectively with professional no nonsense displays.

Unfortunately, the ante-post portfolio took a knock in the concluding Grade 2 mares’ bumper on Sunday with Brandy Love only finishing third.

In an event in which Mullins fielded a handful of runners, the Jet Away filly appeared to over race during the early stages, which may account for her tame finishing effort in the testing conditions. On that evidence, it is difficult to see her troubling stablemate Kilcruit or the unbeaten Sir Gerhard, but is worth recalling Ferny Hollow was eclipsed twice before landing the Festival bumper last spring. Unlike her human namesake, Brandy Love isn’t fully exposed and all may not be lost.

The aforementioned Gaillard Du Mesnil won the Grade 1 staying novice hurdle which opened the meeting on Saturday with the Joe Donnelly owned gelding scoring by five lengths.

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The Mouse Morris trained GENTLEMANSGAME filled second position and there was plenty to like about his finishing effort. Tapped for speed rounding the home turn, Robbie Power’s mount kept on in determined fashion to collar long-time leader Stattler for the runners-up berth.

A point-to-point winner for Donnchadh Doyle in October, he had been bought for €62,000 as a store horse at the Derby Sales the previous year. Leading bloodstock agent Mags O’Toole subsequently snapped up the Gentlewave gelding for €250,000 at the Cheltenham November Online Sale a week after his point victory on behalf of Brian Acheson, of Robcour fame.

Making his Rules debut in a two miles maiden hurdle at Cork at the turn of this year, Mouse Morris’ new recruit dismantled sixteen opponents by upwards of 21 lengths under Rachel Blackmore. Leading early on, he powered away after the third last looking every inch a Graded performer in the making.

It was therefore a major step up in class and distance at the weekend, but the five year old belied his lack of experience with a most encouraging effort. Despite the fact he finished behind Gentlemansgame, some bookmakers have Stattler as their ante-post favourite for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. However, it is the runner-up who appeals most. His finishing effort suggested another couple of furlongs will be to his advantage and, while drying ground is an unknown, he looks a hardy sort with a touch of class.

It is ten years since First Lieutenant supplied Mouse Morris with his seventh and most recent Cheltenham Festival winner. The County Tipperary based handler has the Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Queen Mother Champion Chase on his CV and Gentlemansgame may provide him with his first win in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle next month.

Moulin Riche (2005) and Very Wood (2014) both won the race as five-year-olds. The 14/1 on offer with both bet365 and Unibet looks fair value.

Published at 1100 GMT on 08/02/21

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