Betfair Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle Haydock 2ml 7f Saturday
Saturday’s contest is run over obstacles based on the French hurdle design, which is similar to a plain fence but lower in height, and significantly, unlike the British design, are of very rigid and inflexible construction, so it comes as no surprise that many subsequent top chasers, such as Grand Crus and Dynaste have won the race, and Holywell and Synchronised have been placed.
David Pipe has won three of the ten renewals of the contest, but given the likely conditions at the weekend and the current low strike rate of the Nicholashayne operation his two representatives, Low Key, and Batavir are passed over. However the man with the second best record in the race, Nick Williams, who has hit the back of the net on two occasions, runs the six year old Tea for Two, and he isn’t so easy to dismiss.
He breezed up in the 21f Lanzarote hurdle last January off a mark of 134, winning by 16L, but was hit with a 19lbs rise for his trouble. Having disappointed in his next two races he has been cut some slack by the handicapper and raced with some promise, off a mark of 142 finishing sixth, on his reappearance at Chepstow six weeks ago. By Kayf Tara, Saturday’s 23f shouldn’t present any problems and again enjoying the benefit of Lizzie Kelly’s 5lbs claim he looks a well handicapped horse off his new mark of 141, only 7lbs higher than for his Lanzarote romp.
With a greater emphasis on stamina likely at the weekend, Warren Greatrex certainly has a candidate in Shantou Bob bred for the job. The seven year old is by the St Leger winner, Shantou, out of a Bob Back mare so Saturday’s 23f should hold no fears. He relished testing conditions in only his third race over hurdles, when failing by the shortest of margins to get the better of Vyta Du Roc in a Cl1 Gd2 novices hurdle at Sandown last December. He was staying on with great resolution, and the effort was even more meritorious as he lost a shoe causing him to hang. He broke a blood vessel when odds on in his next race and was a little disappointing at the Festival over three miles, but did run on well to finish sixth. Very lightly raced one feels the best is still to come from Shantou Bob and a reproduction of his Sandown effort would put him firmly in the mix.
Venetia Williams’s French-bred 5yo Yala Enki looked an animal going places when hosing up in a 21 1/2f novices hurdle at Exeter eighteen days ago, making all, and winning by sixteen lengths. A winner over fences in France he is clearly a pretty versatile young horse and as six of the ten winners have hailed from his country of birth, and five of the last six first past the post, have been five year olds, the stats certainly point firmly in his direction.
Brian Ellison’s 6yo Definitly Red showed the right attitude, when despite a ground losing mistake at the third last, he fought back to beat the favourite, Fletchers Flyer, over three miles at the course in Febuary on soft ground. He was pulled up at the Festival, but this winner of two listed bumpers in testing conditions at Newbury and Cheltenham, (also won a heavy ground Uttoxeter bumper) definitly has an engine and looks well treated off a mark of 138, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st10lbs. A winner first time out for the last two years, he is well worth considering.
Emma Lavelle’s triple course winner, Closing Ceremony, is worth a second look. He was beaten in a 26f Warwick slog by Join The Clan, to whom he was conceding 22lbs, (including Patrick Cowleys 10lb allowance) last January off a mark of 134, but made a very good impression five weeks later when making all in a Cl1 Gd2 hurdle over three miles at Haydock, in a time four seconds faster than Definitly Red managed on the same day. While such time comparisons can be slightly spurious this stout stayer is clearly on the up, and will definitly improve for his reappearance run behind Aqualim three weeks ago.
Selection : Shantou Bob
E.W. : Definitly Red