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Will Commander Of Fleet deliver at Cheltenham?

Commander of Fleet has established himself as one of the leading contenders for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, following his fine run of form in the National Hunt over the course of the campaign.

Gordon Elliot’s charge has won three of the four races in his fledgling career, putting him in the frame for glory in his bow at Cheltenham Festival. The bay gelding has been backed at 7/1 in the horse racing betting odds for the crown, although he will face off against a talented field and the five-year-old will have to be at the peak of his powers.

Birchdale, Carefully Selected and Blackbow will also be among the contenders, who have an impressive pedigree. Battleoverdoyen hasn't been committed to a race yet by Elliott, and it could be that Commander of Fleet’s biggest threat for the title comes from his own stablemate. However, the bay gelding has overcome challenges before and will be an excellent shout to take his place in the winners’ enclosure at the end of the contest.

The Irish-bred horse began his career winning a Moig South point-to-point for Pat Doyle, before progressing to win the Goffs Land Rover Bumper at Punchestown at the end of last season. He was among the leading contenders for the crown and put forward a fine display to claim the win, pulling away down the final furlong to triumph by a comfortable margin ahead of his stablemate Column of Fire.

He returned for the new campaign as the overwhelming favourite at the Kildare Now Maiden Hurdle – once again at Punchestown. Davy Russell took his place in the saddle and guided his charge to a steady start to the contest before gradually moving him through the field. Commander of Fleet took the lead two fences from the end of the race and was able to canter over the line to claim the victory by six lengths.

Elliot’s charge endured the first setback of his career in December last year when competing at Fairyhouse in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle. Quick Grabim was the favourite for the event and duly responded with a fine performance that Commander of Fleet could not match. He finished off the pace in fourth out of four competitors.

As a result of his disappointing performance, the bay gelding had a point to prove in his next race, which will likely be his final one before he takes to the track at Cheltenham.

Commander of Fleet was a slight outsider at 13/2 behind Willie Mullins’ Relegate. With Jack Kennedy in the saddle, he made a couple of early mistakes that knocked him off the pace of the leading group. Elliott’s charge found a rhythm and was able to up the ante to move into contention. He took the lead on the final hurdle and had the pace to surge ahead of Rhinestone to close out the victory by half-a-length.

There will be talented horses in the field at Cheltenham and he will have to rise to the occasion to see off the threat. Commander of Fleet has a great deal of ability, but it will be interesting whether he is able to translate that form on the big stage in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

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