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“The plan is to run in the Albert Bartlett”: Imposing former Cheltenham hero Hillcrest moves into 10-3 favourite for Festival contest

The giant Hillcrest will test his mettle in Grade 1 company when he heads for the Albert Bartlett next Friday

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2HCTJXR Hillcrest (right) ridden by Richard Patrick before going on to win the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Saturday January 1, 2022.

Henry Daly confirmed that Hillcrest is set to take on a strong array of Irish rivals in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at next week’s Cheltenham Festival having done a nice piece of work at home on Wednesday.

The seven-year-old won at Prestbury Park on New Year’s Day before unseating later in January.

He wrote the wrongs of the Trials Day mishap at Haydock last month, however, and now looks set for his biggest test yet next Friday, his handler said.

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 19, 2021 Mark Walsh riding Vanillier wins the 2.30 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle Pool via REUTERS/Michael Steele
Vanillier was a surprise winner of the Albert Bartlett last campaign

This news arrives a day after the well-fancied Minella Crooner was confirmed to bypass the Festival due to injury.

“We came to the conclusion that if the horse is well, which I think he is, the plan is to run in the Albert Bartlett,” Daly said.

WATCH: HILLCREST HEADS TO THE ALBERT BARTLETT HAVING WON HIS LAST START AT HAYDOCK [CREDIT: RACING TV]

“We know we get the trip, we know we don’t mind the track, the ground is fine from anything from good through to heavy so why wouldn’t we have a crack if he’s ok, which he is.

“I rang Yogi Breisner after Haydock and asked if he’d watched the race, which he had. He said his back end overtakes his front end so if we could help that a bit it wouldn’t hurt.

“We schooled him Tuesday morning having been to Laura Collett’s a couple of times, with Yogi there and Laura riding and we schooled him yesterday and he went nicely.

Trainer Willie Mullins after Turban won the Underwriting Exchange Dan Moore Memorial Handicap Steeplechase at Fairyhouse Racecourse, Ratoath, Ireland.
Irish winners have taken 4 of the past 5 renewals of the Friday event, with Willie Mullins twice claiming victory

“I think he will miss one – I can’t get over that – but if we can only miss one and not three that will be a bonus.”

Dominic Chapman is senior content writer at Low6 with a passion for horse racing. He provides a NAP and NB every day throughout the week on selected National Hunt and Flat cards in both Britain and Ireland. Additionally, he hosts the Paddock Picks Podcast with former Welsh Grand National-winning pilot, Charlie Poste - the pair interviewing and discussing current racing topics with a special guest every week.