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Cheltenham Festival clues for staying hurdles at Haydock February fixture

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One of the official trials for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival, the Grade 2 Prestige Novices’ Hurdle, is run at Haydock Park.

There was an impressive winner of this year’s renewal of the extended three-mile contest for up-and-coming stayers. Victory in the race has helped launch the careers of two subsequent Grand National heroes in Minniehoma and Neptune Collognes.

Lisnagar Oscar from the Welsh yard of Rebecca Curtis took the Prestige of 2019 by 10 lengths from long-time race leader Ask Ben. The six-year-old Oscar gelding looked value for more than the winning margin, however, as he was eased close home after readily putting the race to bed in between the last two hurdles.

He is a now a best-price 10/1 with Betfair to land the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle on Cheltenham Gold Cup day; Friday, 15 March. Lisnagar Oscar certainly has a progressive profile and learned from a costly mistake at the Gloucestershire venue when he was runner-up to Rockpoint.

The form of that Bristol Novices’ Hurdle race (another Albert Bartlett trial) was reversed in no uncertain terms on Merseyside. Rockpoint did have to give weight to the entire field at Haydock, but was nearly 20 lengths down on Lisnagar Oscar.

Victory certainly puts Curtis and connections in the picture for the Albert Bartlett, won in recent years by Bobs Worth and Unowhatimeanharry. Lisnagar Oscar could face the likes of Irish raiders Commander Of Fleet and Derrinross come the Festival.

Shades Of Midnight advertises Paisley Park form

Haydock Park racecourse grandstands” by Alexander P Kapp (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Earlier in the season, Paisley Park ran out a dramatic winner of a Grade 3 handicap hurdle on Betfair Chase day at Haydock back in November. He has since gone on land more success at an even higher level.

Emma Lavelle’s rapidly improving seven-year-old followed-up with Grade 1 glory in the JLT Long Walk at Ascot just before Christmas and also scored in the Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day.

While Cheltenham betting tips from Betting.Betfair suggest Paisley Park is one to back on the day of the Stayers’ Hurdle given he’s a hot favourite to win that big race, Shades Of Midnight – the horse he headed close home at Haydock – has since returned to Merseyside and scooped the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle. This was earlier on the same card as Lisnagar Oscar’s victory.

Shades Of Midnight was a creditable third on debut for Scottish trainer Sandy Thomson in the Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby. He then failed to complete in the National Hunt Chase for amateur riders at the Cheltenham Festival and finished down the field in a valuable novices’ handicap at Ayr.

The nine-year-old has improved over both hurdles and fences this season, however, scoring over both sets of obstacles since going down half-a-length to Paisley Park. In a race where hot favourite Yanworth was pulled up when making his return to action after almost a year off the track, Shades Of Midnight made all and found plenty when pressed.

It was in truth a weak renewal of the Rendlesham. Nicky Richards’ new recruit Kilcooley was giving Shades Of Midnight most to think about at the business end of the race, but had spent a whopping 1066 days out of action and made a huge blunder at the last which ended his challenge.

Paisley Park remains 2/1 with Betfair to win the Stayers, but Shades Of Midnight has done him a favour by advertising Haydock form winning by a cosy eight lengths upon returning there.

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