In a sign of the influence of Irish point-to-point exports on the wider National Hunt sport, half of the 74 entries for Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at March’s Cheltenham Festival hail from racing between the flags in Ireland.
The longest of the Grade 1 novices’ hurdles at The Festival has proven to be a lucrative hunting ground for former Irish Pointers, with Monkfish landing last year’s race for the Willie Mullins yard, completing a hat-trick of successive wins in the race for Irish graduates.
His narrow victory followed on from the successes of the now Gold Cup contender Minella Indo and Kilbricken Storm in the two preceding years.
It is a race that has so far eluded champion trainer Paul Nicholls, however his team for this year’s race could be led by Richard Black’s Dromahane runner-up Barbados Buck’s.
As his name suggests, he is out of a half-sister to the mighty Big Buck’s, four-time winner of what is now the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, and Barbados Buck’s has looked good in winning three of his four starts this season, following up a pair of Southwell successes with victory at Kempton Park in early January.
The Getaway gelding had been bought from Black by Nicholls and Bloodstock Agent Tom Malone for €210,000 after his point-to-point effort.
Whilst the Limerick Grade 2 winner Farouk D’Alene would look to be the leading Irish-based point-to-point export for the race, those horse now based on the other side of the Irish Sea would look to be to the fore.
Adrimel, a debut Ballyarthur four-year-old winner for Joe Ryan, provided Tom Lacey with his first Grade 2 success when he won the Ballymore Lemington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick in mid-January to remain unbeaten over obstacles following previous victories at Sandown and Haydock.
“It’s testament to the horse that he has been winning over two. We were always excited and waiting to step him up in trip, but I saw no need while he was doing what he was doing,” said Lacey following that success.
“Haydock really enforced that he needed to go up in trip as he was just out of his comfort zone way too early in the race. The cheekpieces just helped his jumping, as it was slicker.
“He went through the race in a much more professional manner. He was in the right palace throughout and it’s hard to make up ground in the grade on that ground.
“If he had jumped the last he would have won with a bit more up his sleeve. He hasn’t done much wrong, so I’m not going to grumble.
“I think he would cope with a quicker surface, but ultimately on spring ground you might have to go up again. That would be the obvious thing to do, I imagine.
“He is still a young horse, only six. He is a big frame of a horse that will fill out and improve. The world is his oyster.”