Smart Stat: 4 - W. P. Mullins's number of winners in past 10 runnings
A typically competitive renewal of the County Hurdle, a race in which Willie Mullins has a good record in over the past 10 years. He fires three darts at the race this time round, but it could pay to focus on Mr Adjudicator. He finished runner-up to Farclas in the Triumph Hurdle at this meeting last season, and made a most encouraging return from seven months off when 11 lengths second to subsequent Champion Hurdle winner Espoir d’Allen in November. That form looks particularly strong now, and an opening mark of 149 doesn’t look excessive on the pick of his form.
Smart Stat: 20% - Nicky Henderson's strike rate in spring
Both of Nicky Henderson’s runners here look very interesting and arrive with progressive profiles. It is Birchdale who remains unbeaten, though, and is taken to extend that run in what admittedly looks a wide-open renewal of the Albert Bartlett. In truth, he was perhaps coming off second best to Brewin’upastorm when that rival fell at the last at this course last time, but there’s no doubt he would have been staying on strongly up the hill after the last, and the step up to three miles here should unlock further improvement. This race normally goes to a more experienced type, but given the promise he’s shown so far, he’s worth siding with.
Smart Stat: 21%#W. P. Mullins's strike rate in spring
All eyes will be on the big three here, Presenting Percy, Native River and Clan des Obeaux, but in truth, this year’s Gold Cup has a very open feel to it. With that in mind, taking a chance on a bigger priced runner could be the way to go. Willie Mullins has four in the race, and of that quartet Al Boum Photo makes the most appeal at the prices. He wasn’t disgraced in top-level events last season, and was set to win the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown until his rider took the wrong course on his final start that term. He looked good when completing a routine win in listed company on his return and he is one of the more unexposed types in the field.