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Cheltenham

  • 14:40 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle 3m

  • (Registered As The Spa Novices' Hurdle) (Grade 1) £120,000 added 4yo+ 13 ran
  • Winner £68,340 2nd £25,644 3rd £12,840 4th £6,396
  • Going: Soft, Good to Soft in places
  • Surface: Turf
    Weighed In
  • Winning time: 6m 40.10s
  • Off time: 14:41:20

African Gold tackles the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle on the final day of Cheltenham

Last Updated: 14/03/13 3:54pm

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African Gold: Improving all the time

African Gold: Improving all the time

African Gold faces the acid test as he steps up to Grade One company in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The five-year-old has only been beaten once in six starts for Nigel Twiston-Davies and comes here on the back of four successive victories.

African Gold was a four-length winner of a Doncaster novice event on his most recent start in February and that form got a massive boost when runner-up Close Touch was a 12-length winner of a competitive Grade Three heat at Sandown last weekend.

Twiston-Davies' son, Sam, takes the ride once again and the pair will be hoping to supplement The New One's impressive triumph earlier in the week.

The trainer said: "He's done nothing but improve and we love the way he runs. He's improving all the time. The chance of better ground, I think, will bring even more improvement out of him.

"I think he's got a strong chance and he hasn't done an awful lot wrong. We don't know how good he is yet."

Utopie Des Bordes represents Nicky Henderson and she is already a winner at the highest level in her native France.

The five-year-old landed the prestigious Prix Maurice Gillois, a Grade One four-year-old chase, last November before transferring to the care of Henderson.

After triumphing in a Doncaster maiden on her British bow, Utopie Des Bordes won a Listed event at Sandown last time but will be having her first crack at three miles here.

Henderson said: "She is two out of two for me and won a nice Listed race at Sandown the other day over two and a half miles. We are going to up the trip to three miles because it seems she stays."

Charlie Longsdon runs Superior Quality, who has won both starts since joining the yard from Ireland. "He's done nothing wrong since joining us and won both his start to be given a mark of 139," said Longsdon.

"If he was a six-year-old I probably wouldn't be running, but he's eight and will be going chasing next year. He's old enough to cope with three miles as a novice. I think he'll finish in front of more than beat him and he'll love the drying ground.

"He was a cheap buy and the owners have had two fun days already and I'm sure there's more to come."

Willie Mullins' Ballycasey is amongst the market leaders following two wins this season.

He was a three-length winner at Thurles in January and while Mullins has had this race in his sights all year, the trainer is concerned the gelding may not have enjoyed the trip to Cheltenham.

Mullins said: "Ballycasey has been laid out for this race all season and hopefully he will like the drying ground.

"The only concern is while he travelled over well, he hasn't settled into the stables as well as some of the others. Hopefully he'll be OK tomorrow."

Mullins also runs Clonmel Grade Three winner Inish Island, who finished third to the reopposing At Fisher's Cross at this track before Christmas.

He added: "Inish Island was second to the favourite at the December meeting and if he shows his best form, he could run well too."

Jonjo O'Neill sent out a winner on Thursday when Holywell landed the Pertemps Final and tries to follow up with Cloudy Copper in this race.

However, he is concerned about the drying ground for his dual hurdles winner.

He said: "I'm worried about the ground. He'll take his chance, he's in good form and you never know, but I think the ground has dried up too much."

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