RYAN Mania believes Blakemount could be a dark horse in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle – the three-mile championship race at the Cheltenham Festival for novice hurdlers which was won last season by AP McCoy on At Fishers Cross.
Sue and Harvey Smith’s hurdler Blakemount was narrowly beaten by Malcolm Jefferson’s Urban Hymn at Doncaster last Saturday in one of the races of the season.
Both Yorkshire rivals, together with Jefferson’s Oscar Rock and John Quinn’s racing Pulse, feature among the 81 entries for the race. However, Malton-based Jefferson has already indicated that Urban Hymn may skip Cheltenham after his Doncaster battle.
Yet after a week dominated by the disappointment of the retirement of 2013 Grand National winner Auroras Encore following a leg injury, Mania believes Blakemount – a runaway winner at Wetherby last November – deserves to take his chance.
“He’s a proper horse, one of the best I’ve sat on,” said the 24-year-old, who already anticipates a hot pace being set by David Pipe’s ante-post favourite Kings Palace. “If he was in a bigger yard I think he’d be a much shorter price for the Albert Bartlett. He’s just been touched off by some good horses.
“It was hard work on Saturday in the ground and we hit the front, but Brian (Hughes) had an easy lead in front on Urban Hymn and was just able to save a bit and we had no more left to give.
“I think the uphill finish on a stiff track like Cheltenham will suit him and we know he stays.
“The better ground will be a plus because although he goes through soft, he handled good ground at Newcastle much better.
“I’m not saying we’re going to win, but he must go there with a good chance.
“I haven’t talked to Sue and Harvey about it but I’d imagine it will be straight to Cheltenham now as it’s only six weeks and he had a pretty hard race.”
The wet weather is continuing to disrupt Cheltenham preparations, with 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby set to head straight to the Racing Post Arkle Trophy after missing two intended targets at Doncaster because of unsuitably soft ground.
“We’d rather save him, do lots of schooling at home and get some outings on decent ground if we can find it. And if we don’t run, so be it, but we’re not going to run him for the sake of it in testing conditions,” said trainer Harry Fry.
The same applies to Dynaste for the Pipe team. After pulling up injured in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, he resumed cantering yesterday, but will not have a prep race before Cheltenham where he holds entries in both the Betfred Gold Cup and Ryanair Chase.
The latter, over a shorter trip of two miles five furlongs, is likely to be the target if conditions remains testing.
No inspection is planned ahead of Catterick’s jumps card this afternoon.
Wetherby will continue to monitor the weather ahead of tomorrow’s Grade Two totepool Towton Novices’ Chase.