GBI RACING

Santini heads Nicky Henderson's squad in pursuit of Albert Bartlett prize

Santini

Santini leads a four-strong team for Nicky Henderson in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham today.

The Seven Barrows handler has won the three-mile contest once before, with subsequent Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth in 2011.

Santini was snapped up for £150,000 after winning his only start in the point-to-point field and is unbeaten in two outings over hurdles, most recently seeing off Wednesday's Ballymore Novices' Hurdle runner-up Black Op in a Grade Two at Cheltenham in January.

Henderson said: "I took Santini out one day at Ascot because it was soft, then I ran him back here on the soft and he went through it well, so hopefully he will be fine."

Chef Des Obeaux finished four and a half lengths behind Santini on his hurdling bow at Newbury in December and has won each of his three starts since.

The supplemented Ok Corral and Mr Whipped complete the quartet.

Henderson added: "T his is totally Chef Des Obeaux's ground, but he is an absolutely useless work horse. I thought he is as slow as they come. He won well last time, though.

"Ok Corral should be fine on the ground. He has been fragile, but he is going the right way now and Barry (Geraghty) said we should up him to three miles as that will make it easier for him.

"The track (Musselburgh) was totally against Mr Whipped last time. I switched him at the last minute to run him up there and I shouldn't have done as I hadn't got him ready.

"Whether this ground will be to Mr Whipped's liking, I am not sure. They are four very different horses."

Willie Mullins struck gold with Penhill 12 months ago and has three representatives in Ballyward, Real Steel and Fabulous Saga.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "Ballyward is the right sort of horse for the race in that he's a horse who stays well. The worry would be it tends to suit horses with plenty of experience and obviously he's only had the two runs over hurdles.

"Real Steel is stepping up a mile in trip, but both myself and Paul (Townend) felt the step up would help him improve.

"Fabulous Saga has lots of experience. He's in good form, but his two best performances have come when the ground has been very wet, so I just wonder how he'll handle it if it ends up being more tacky."

Chris's Dream is another interesting contender from across the Irish Sea.

Connections went to £175,000 to secure his services in December and he made a successful debut for Henry de Bromhead in a Grade Three at Clonmel last month.

"I was pleasantly surprised last time and he did it nicely. I suppose this is the kind of ground he wants. We got him before Christmas. We liked him, but we didn't expect him to do it like that," said the trainer.

"He seems in good form and looks really well, but we will find out just how good he is on Friday. He is very straightforward at home."

Poetic Rhythm and Calett Mad are leading hopes for locally-based trainers Fergal O'Brien and Nigel Twiston-Davies.

Mulcahys Hill was only beaten a short head by Poetic Rhythm in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury in December, but was a long way behind Santini at Cheltenham.

Trainer Warren Greatrex said: " It was my fault last time as I ran him too soon after the Challow and he ran a bit flat. I should have given him longer to get over the Challow as it was only four weeks earlier, but you live and learn.

"He was not far off beating Poetic Rhythm in the Challow and I know three miles will suit him better.

"He is giving me the impression he is in very good form and the softer the ground, the better for him."

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