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Heavy ground was the order of the day at Haydock Racecourse on Saturday 19 February but several horses relished the muddy conditions to earn their place in the winner’s enclosure. One that particularly stood out as a leading fancy for this year’s Cheltenham Festival next month is a seven-year-old that measures in at over 18hh…
Cheltenham Festival one to watch: Hillcrest
Saturday was a red-letter day for trainer Henry Daly and while he will have to sweat out whether his Ascot winner Fortescue, on a borderline mark, makes the cut for the Grand National at Aintree in April, the trainer will go to the Cheltenham Festival with a terrific chance in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, following the victory of the massive Hillcrest (pictured).
He made light work of conditions and his rivals to win Haydock’s Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle by eight lengths.
“He certainly looks pretty smart, there’s no getting away from it and, watching that today, he looks proper,” said Henry Daly. “They’ve gone a right gallop and he looked relentless.
“I said after Cheltenham [at New Year] that at this stage, he is better than anything I’ve had. He is huge, but he’s got a lot of talent and it’s just a question of where we go.”
Hillcrest was partnered by jockey Richard Patrick to beat the Nicky Richards-trained Crystal Glory, ridden by Sean Quinlan. There was a long distance back to the only other two finishers, the Tom Lacey-trained Scipion (Stan Sheppard) and Green Book for Venetia Williams with Aidan Coleman in the saddle.
“Getting off, Richard said that 2½ miles is fine, but his class got him through [when he won at Cheltenham] on New Year’s Day,” added Daly.
“I don’t think he’s had a particularly hard race considering the conditions. I would think we’re more than likely to go for the Albert Bartlett having watched that, it’s not rocket science. We’ve got the Aintree three-miler there – he won over 2½ miles earlier in the season, so it wouldn’t frighten us going back there,” he said.
- Read Marcus’s full report on the weekend’s racing action in Horse & Hound, in shops on Thursday 24 February
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