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McConnell lining up dual challenge on Albert Bartlett prize

John McConnell is planning a twin assault on the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, with Bardenstown Lad set to be joined by stablemate Mahler Mission.

A winner over three miles at Cheltenham in October, Bardenstown Lad made a successful return from a winter break with an impressive display in the Scottish Stayers’ Hurdle at Musselburgh last weekend.

Mahler Mission, meanwhile, won the Grade Two River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster last month.

McConnell considers both horses realistic contenders for the Albert Bartlett and is happy to let them do battle at the Festival.

He said: “We were delighted with Bardenstown Lad the other day. It was exactly what we wanted as we didn’t want him to have an overly-hard race.

“He was on the go last summer, so we gave him a break with one eye on the Albert Bartlett and brought him back for a prep run.

“We got a nice schooling session into him and Gordon Elliott’s horse that finished second (Where It All Began) is probably not a bad horse either.

Mahler Mission on his way to victory at Doncaster
Mahler Mission on his way to victory at Doncaster (Tim Goode/PA)

“It was a good performance and I don’t think we’ve got to the bottom of him yet – that’s the exciting thing about him.”

Of Mahler Mission, he added: “He’ll go straight for the Albert Bartlett, too. He had a bit of a break and is back in cantering away.

“It’s nice to be going there with two horses that deserve to be there.”

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