Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase Racing Tips 2m5f New Cheltenham Saturday

First run in 1963 as The Massey Ferguson Gold Cup, it has been won by some top class performers, including two of the greats of the Winter Game, Flyingbolt, who carried an eye watering 12-6 to victory in 1965, and Fred Winter’s Pendil, who won carrying a pound more in 1973. However more recent renewals have been dominated by good solid handicappers, although the 2006 winner, Exotic Dancer, did go on to finish second in The Gold Cup. Having won four of the last eight runnings, any contenders from Paul Nicholls Ditcheat yard, demand maximum respect, as do runners from the Seven Barrows stable of Nicky Henderson, who have hit the back of the net on three occasions. Course form is most important as the last animal to win on his debut at the track, was Kings Fountain, twenty six years ago, and the Bet Victor Gold Cup, run four weeks previously, has proved a solid guide, with four of the last ten winners having contested that particular heat. However the omens aren’t so good for the winner of this year’s Bet Victor, Splash Of Ginge, as only the classy Exotic Dancer in 2006 has managed to follow up since Senor El Betrutti in 1997. It is worth noting that the Bet Victor is run over the old course, which is much tighter in character, and the Caspian Caviar is run over the more galloping in nature, new course, which gives horse and rider that little bit more time to organise themselves.

David Pipe has only won the race once, with Tamarinbleu in 2007, but Dad Martin, won it twice, so they certainly know what is required at Pond House, and there seems to be plenty of confidence in the markets behind their runner up in last months Bet Victor, Starchitect. The 10/1 shot looked the most likely winner before two out but meeting the penultimate and last fence on the wrong stride he just couldn’t get past Splash Of Ginge who revelled in the testing conditions, and went down bravely by a neck. He meets the winner on a pound better terms on Saturday, and if tidying up his jumping must have serious prospects of reversing the placings.

Le Prezien, who finished third in The Bet Victor, did best of the Ditcheat runners and indeed made eye catching progress from off the pace to finish within two and three quarter lengths at the line, and he could well be suited by the nature of the new course on Saturday, so off a mark only two pounds higher, has to be considered. However stable companion, Clan Des Obeaux (pictured), also has plenty to recommend him. Image result for Clan Des ObeauxFrench bred, he is a son of the high class French jumper, Kapgarde who is a sire of plenty of good National Hunt animals, and he showed that he was going the right way when getting to within half a length of Whisper at Kempton on level weights on his reappearance, following a six month break in November. He confirmed the good impression three weeks ago when coming home seven lengths in front of that good yardstick, Vintage Clouds, in the Haydock mud off a mark of 148. As his Kempton conquerer Whisper is now rated on 169 Clan Des Obeaux doesn’t look at all badly treated on 155, and as he has performed with credit on all his three runs over the new course, including a sixth behind Ivan Gorbatov in the 2016 Triumph Hurdle, and a close second behind Whisper in a course and distance Chase last January, he looks a danger to all.

The Nicky Richards trained, Guitar Pete, won two Grade One hurdles as a four year old, when trained by the late lamented Dessie Hughes in Ireland, but unfortunately, daughter Sandra had little luck with the son of Dark Angel. However since his transfer to Richards, things have taken a turn for the better, and he followed a good second in a valuable Class one Market Rasen Chase in September, with an excellent win at Wetherby five weeks later, beating the Nicholls trained Sametagal, by seven lengths off a mark of 127. He lined up for the BetVictor on a mark of 134, but lost all chance when badly hampered at the first. He did persevere, and to his credit, finished the race twenty five lengths behind the winner. He lines up on Saturday on the same mark giving him a lovely racing weight of 10-02 (Including jockeys three pounds claim) and if getting anywhere close to his old Hurdle form would look thrown in.

Talented Welsh handler, Evan Williams has an interesting contender with his lightly raced eight year old Kings Odyssey. Racing off a mark of 147 in last year’s contest he was travelling easily in third place when coming a cropper six from home. He showed little in his next two races but made a very satisfactory return to action thirty three days ago when only beaten two lengths over an inadequate two miles at Carlisle. He gets into Saturday’s contest on a mark seven pounds lower than last year and as a course and distance winner over the new course has to be of interest.

The Nicky Henderson trained O O Seven made a satisfactory return following an eight months break at Newbury fifteen days ago and races here off a pound higher. If turning up, ( also entered at Doncaster ) would be worth a second look.

Selection : Clan Des Obeaux

E.W. : Kings Odyssey and Guitar Pete

John Gray


Betfair Chase Tips (Grade1) 3m1 1/2f Haydock Saturday

Last week’s E.W. Selection, Starchitect, put up a brave effort to only go down by a neck to the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Splash of Ginge, in The BetVictor Gold Cup. The 10/1 shot looked the most likely winner before two out, but meeting both fences wrong, he just couldn’t get past the Naunton runner who revelled in the testing conditions. Neither was Starchitect’s cause helped by the overnight rise of 5lbs in the weights, putting him over the 11 stone mark, a barrier which has become increasingly difficult to overcome in this contest. However it was the Pipe horse’s best effort to date over fences, and he is one to bear in mind for The Caspian Caviar Chase over course and distance in a couple of weeks time.

Despite there being only seven runners declared for Saturday’s Grade1 Betfair Chase, it is the classiest field of chasers assembled so far this season, and any race featuring The Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Sizing John, the wonderful Cue Card and the rising star, Bristol De Mai has to be worth travelling a long way to see. Not that Saturday’s contest is by any means a three horse contest with none of the other four runners easy to dismiss, and with a £1000000 bonus on offer if any of the contenders can go on to win The King GeorgeV1 Chase on Boxing Day, and the Gold Cup itself, expect a hard fought contest at the weekend.

When trained by Henry De Bromhead, Sizing John was mostly campaigned at around two miles, and indeed he scored a Grade1 victory over the trip back in December 2014. However since Jessica Harrington assumed responsibilities, he has been trained as a stayer, and has won all of his last four races. The victory in Cheltenham’s Blue Riband was fantastic and connections showed great confidence in the horse, not to pull up stumps for the season, but go for the Irish equivalent at The Punchestown Festival five weeks later. He duly delivered, albeit narrowly, beating the tough Djakadam by a short head. He hasn’t been out since that stirring Punchestown win two hundred and thirteen days ago, but the talented Jessica Harrington knows how to get them fit first time up, and reports the horse to have had three trips out to racecourses, including a two mile workout over fences at Naas, and a mile and a half gallop at Punchestown last Sunday. Sizing John has won twice in the past after a similar break so a near peak performance can be expected on Saturday.

The all conquering Gordon Elliot runs his 9yo, Outlander. He is not the most consistent of animals and surprised many when winning a Grade1 Chase from Road to Respect at Down Royal three weeks ago at odds of 16/1, although it has to be said, that the favourite didn’t run his race, and the runner up looked unsuited by the right handed track. He is well held by Sizing John on Cheltenham and Punchestown running but it is worth remembering that this inconsistent type put in an excellent effort when beating the very useful, Don Poli at Leopardstown last Christmas. He seems to be at his best when the mud is flying so should have his conditions on Saturday.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Bristol De Mai did the Oddsguru followers a good turn when winning The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks ago. He responded bravely to maximum pressure from the saddle, and put up his best performance to date, getting home by 1/2L from stable companion Blaklion to whom he was conceding six pounds. As he usually needs an outing to bring him to peak fitness, further progress can be anticipated, and with the memory of his hugely impressive, twenty two lengths victory over the course, (3m soft) last January, still fresh in the mind, the upwardly mobile 6yo, looks the one to beat. (I hope some of you took our advice, (Badgers Ale Blog) and availed of the 4/1 on offer at the time.)

The evergreen Cue Card won this in 2013, 2015, and last year, and he seemed to be travelling as well as anything when tipping over at the fifteenth in The Charlie Hall. It was too far from home to draw any firm conclusions but the fact remains that it was the eleven years old, and rising twelve, Cue Card’s second fall in three races, and I just wonder if, after thirty eight races over fences, the old warrior is crying enough.

The step up in trip should help Garry Moore’s 7yo, Traffic Fluide and as he handles heavy ground is worth a second look but does need to find the best part of a stone.

Selection : Bristol De Mai

Danger : Sizing John

John Gray

Racing Tips BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase 2m 4 1/2f Cheltenham Saturday

Last week’s selection, Present Man, never put a foot wrong under an inspired ride from young Bryony Frost. In a sustained battle up the straight, the runner up, Final Nudge, looked the most likely winner, but under sustained pressure from the daughter of Jimmy Frost, who himself won the 1996 renewal on Coome Hill, the Nicholls 7yo kept finding and held on to give the Ditcheat yard their eighth success in the race, and indeed Oddsguru’s third consecutive winner. There promises to be plenty more to come from the brave Present Man, and with his excellent jumping a huge asset, is one to bear in mind for Aintree next April.

Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup at headquarters, has a very open look to it, but is a contest with some pretty strong trends, which might make finding the winner a little easier. Weight in recent renewals has been very significant. Historically, plenty of winners defied burdens in excess of 11-7 but in the last decade only last year’s winner Tarquin Du Seuil and the 2012 winner Al Ferof have carried more than 11st to victory. Age has also been a big factor, with animals aged seven or younger, winning eight of the last ten renewals. A proven ability to handle the idiosyncratic track has been a great pointer in the past so good previous form over Prestbury Park’s undulations should be noted.

One that fits the trends very neatly is the Paul Nicholls trained 5yo Romain De Senam. He was only beaten a head by Diego Du Charmil in the 2016 renewal of the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, demonstrating his aptitude for the course, and his ability to handle the demands of a big handicap. A winner of three Hurdle races he achieved a rating of 139 in that discipline. He has taken a little time to get his act together over fences but a step up in trip to around 2 1/2 miles has brought about definite improvement, and he has won his last two races, most recently, four weeks ago, at Stratford (2m 5f) off a mark of 139. This young French bred is progressing nicely, and could be the second five year old to win for the master of Ditcheat. ( Nicholls has won the race twice before with Al Ferof in 2012 and with the 5yo Caid Du Berlais in 2014).

The name Martin Pipe, is on this particular role of honour an amazing eight times, but to date, son David has only got up there on the one occasion, (Great Endeavour 2011). However they clearly know what is required down Nicholashayne way, and they field a live looking contender this year, the 6yo Starchitect. By Sea The Stars out of a Saddlers Wells mare, he is bred to win a Derby, but alas, all he could achieve on the Flat was a second in a Curragh Maiden. However he did much better over hurdles, winning three of his ten races, and achieving an eye catching rating of 150. He has won two of his seven starts over fences, last time, comfortably taking a Stratford Handicap, (2m3 1/2f Gd) off a mark of 140, sixteen days ago. He has never won at Prestbury Park but has run respectably on all his four appearances there. He races on Saturday on a mark 6lbs lower than his hurdles mark, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-11 and is well worth considering.

Having only won this once ( Tranquil Sea 2009) in the past thirty five years, it hasn’t been a great race for the Irish, but they do have a strong looking contender this term with Alan Fleming’s 7yo Tully East. Fourth of twenty two in a two mile handicap Hurdle at the 2016 Festival, he put up a superb performance in his only other course appearance when winning The Novices Handicap Chase at this year’s March extravaganza. Run over Saturday’s course and distance, the son of Shantou took it up after the last, and stayed on well to to beat Saturday’s opponent, Gold Present by 1 1/4L. The runner up, on 6lbs better terms has to be respected, but Tully East, who had a nice pipe opener over hurdles thirty one days ago, racing in the colours of a great supporter of the “Winter Game”,Barry Connell, is fancied to confirm the placings.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the race three times, including uniquely, with the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander, so his contender, the recent course winner, Foxtail Hill has to be considered. Having his first run for over six months he held on tenaciously to win by a neck from Saturday’s opponent Le Prezien(2miles Gd) three weeks ago. This bold front runner will be well suited by the extra distance on Saturday but it does seem a big ask in a contest like Saturday’s, for the 8yo to make all, off a mark seven pounds higher than he has ever won off.

The runner up, Le Prezien, meets Foxtail Hill on a pound better terms on Saturday, and this stoutly bred 6yo, who has run the top class, Yorkhill, to 2 1/4L in a Grade1 Aintree Hurdle (2m4f Soft), is also sure to be suited by the step up in trip, and looks a strong second string to the Ditcheat bow.

Selection : Tully East

E.W. : Starchitect

John Gray

Badgers Ales Trophy Handicap Chase 3m1f Wincanton Saturday

What a progressive animal last week’s winner of The Charlie Hall Chase, Bristol De Mai is! He came to the second last absolutely cruising, but, not getting it perfect, he seemed to idle as his stable companion Blaklion, in receipt of 6lbs rallied, and came with a strong looking challenge. The 6/1 shot responded in the gamest fashion, and was comfortably in charge at the line, leaving followers of The Oddsguru blog on good terms with themselves. He looks to be a horse very much on the up, and antepost backers could do worse than take the 4/1 available for his next assignment, The Bet Fair Chase at Haydock, run over the course and distance where the Twiston-Davies gelding, cruised home by 22l from Otago Trail last January.

Paul Nicholls has won The Badgers Ale Trophy seven times, and indeed was very unlucky not to make it eight, when his contender, Southfield Theatre, toppled over at the last with the race at his mercy in last year’s renewal. He fields three runners, including the unlucky Southfield Theatre this time, and none of them can be easily dismissed. The aforementioned has only run the once since his unfortunate fall, finishing tailed off behind Theatre Guide at Cheltenham in December, but in his favour he is only 3lbs higher than last year.

The second Ditcheat runner, is the 6yo Mr Mix who boasts a 100% record on the track from his two course appearances, and he gained that second course win in workmanlike fashion over 3m2 1/2f at the venue thirteen days ago (Class3 Handicap good). That was only his fourth outing over fences and he had last year’s Badger Ales Victor, Gentleman Jon six and a quarter lengths back in third. This young French bred was rated on 141 over hurdles but has clearly found his metier steeplechasing, and if turning up on Saturday has to be seriously considered off a mark of 144.

We can assume that the third of the Nicholls contenders, Present Man, will be as ready as the master of Ditcheat can get him, as he is owned by the Chairman of the sponsoring brewery, Mark Wood, who would dearly love to repeat his victory in 2010 which he won with the Nicholls trained Meanus Dandy. Present Man only got as far as the second fence in last years renewal where he unseated claimer Jack Sherwood, but put up an excellent effort next time under the same rider winning a solidly run Novices Chase at Ascot by 1 3/4L from the useful Dark Flame. By Presenting out of a Strong Gale mare he was always going to be a chaser so rated 7lbs above his hurdles mark of 135, he looks well treated. Sure to have benefited from a nice pipe opener twenty days ago, winning a 2m5f Kempton Novices Hurdle under Bryony Frost, he looks one for the shortlist.

The Fergal O’Brien trained Master Dee also holds an engagement at Aintree at the weekend but if running here has to be of interest. Not the most consistent of jumpers, the fact that he has never finished out of the first three in all ten races over fences, speaks volumes for his powers of recuperation. He put in an excellent effort last October to beat the now rated 155, San Benedetto at Ascot, and he put in another decent performance last time, finishing third in a 2m5 1/2f Market Rasen Handicap which is working out well. The runner up, Guitar Pete, won by seven lengths at Wetherby last Friday, and the fourth home, Play The Ace won at Stratford on Thursday, all of which makes Master Dee look a well handicapped animal on a mark of 145. Saturday’s trip is a slight concern but he was only beaten a neck over the distance in a Warwick Chase, and has won a three mile point to point and a three miles and half a furlong hurdle race.

Neil Mulholland was unlucky to have the 2014 renewal taken off him when The Young Master was disqualified on a technicality, but perhaps compensation awaits with his 7yo, Pilgrims Bay. Well suited by going right handed, the 7yo put in his best effort last term when winning a valuable Grade3 Kempton Handicap (3mGood) last February off a mark of 130. He disappointed at The Cheltenham Festival but as he has never won going left handed can be forgiven. Saturday’s mark of 140, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-9 looks fair, and he could be the one to put the smile back on his excellent trainers face.

Selection: Present Man

E.W. : Master Dee (if abs Pilgrims Bay)

John Gray

Betfred Summer Plate Handicap Chase 2m 5 1/2f Market Rasen Saturday

Following last week’s stellar program on the flat, this week’s offering are of a considerably lower order, so let’s take a look at one of the Summer Seasons top jumping events, The Betfred Summer Plate.

Paul Nicholls has failed to hit the back of the net with any of his eleven contenders over the past decade, although three of them have been placed. However this year his 7yo son of Turgeon, the French bred, Alcala, looks a likely type to fill in this particular gap in the Master of Ditcheat’s C.V. A winner of three of his seven chases, he looked an improved animal when comfortably taking a Newton Abbot, Class3 handicap (2m5f Gd/Sft) at the beginning of June, off a mark of 135, and confirmed that good impression when, taking the step up to Class2 level in his stride, he comfortably defied a seven pounds higher mark, again at Newton Abbot, (2m5f Gd/Fm) twelve days later. He kept on well to deny the 2/1 fav, Brother Ted by 4 1/2L, and had the useful Midnight Cowboy another length back in third. This was an excellent effort by the French bred,
(they have a good record in the contest), who has won going right handed, so with proven ability in a large field, Alcala off his new mark of 147 is definitely worth considering.

Nicky Henderson’s 7yo, Days of Heaven is another very much on the up. A winner of seven of his fifteen starts, he has won his last three chases, showing progressive form on each occasion. He won at Kempton (2m good) off a mark of 136 in March, at Stratford, (2m 3 1/2f good) off 142 in May, and last time, fifty five days ago, he won off a mark of 148 at Haydock (2m4f good). Clearly progressive, the slight reservation about his prospects on Saturday is the trip.He doesn’t seem to have had much petrol left in the tank at the end of his races, and might just be found out by the extra 1 1/2f in a race always run at a pretty frenetic pace, particularly off his new mark of 151.

Henryville, trained by Henry Fry finished 4L behind Days of Heaven in that Haydock heat 55 days ago, and now meets his conquerer on 4lbs better terms. As a four times winner at the trip there are no stamina doubts about the Fry horse, but his new mark of 152 giving him top weight of 11-12, looks a big ask so Henry’s best chance of collecting on Saturday, may lie with his second contender, the ex Irish 8yo, Art Of Payroll. Trained in the Emerald Isle until recently joining the “Fry” operation, he was rated on a mark of 128. He won a beginners Chase over 20f at Down Royal at the beginning of May, his first win from twelve attempts over the larger obstacles, (placed seven times). His record isn’t exactly awe inspiring but he did have the well supported favourite 24L back in third at Down Royal, and will be well suited by Saturday’s trip, so with his nice weight of 10-09 and in the hands of ace trainer Fry, is well worth considering.

Jonjo O’Neill runs his 2014 winner, It’s A Gimme, and the 10yo races off a mark of 134, only 2lbs higher than for that victory. He hasn’t won since, but showed that he was no back number when finishing second at Stratford off a mark of 133 six weeks ago, and it would come as no surprise to see him in the mix again. However the same owner/trainer combination, O’Neill and McManus, are also represented by course winner, I’dliketheoption, and this 6yo son of Presenting has plenty to recommend him. He took some time to get into a rhythm over the course 9 weeks ago, (2m3f good) but the further he went the better he got and finished strongly to win by 3 1/2L and 22L from Voix d’Eau and Yorkist. As a son of Presenting he will enjoy the likely good ground and looks nicely treated on a mark of 132 giving him the light weight of 10-06 to carry.

Owner McManus, has a third string to his bow with the 8yo Cup Final, another son of Presenting. Previously trained by Nicky Henderson, he is now in the hands of Ben Haslam and he demonstrated his wellbeing when going down by a nose to Midnight Shot in a two and a half mile Novices Chase at Hexham thirty three days ago, where the pair were 17L clear of the third horse. With a win in a 24 runner Punchestown handicap on his C.V. Saturday’s large field should hold no fears. As three of his four wins have been achieved going righthanded, and there are no stamina doubts, this lightly weighted animal, (10-06), is another well worth considering.

Selection : Alcala

E.W. : I’dliketheoption

John Gray

Betting Tips Swinton Handicap Hurdle

Pertemps Network Swinton HandicapPertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle 2m Haydock Saturday – Paul Nicholls has yet to add a Swinton Hurdle to his outstanding C.V. but went close last year with the 5yo, Set To Go who finished second to Paul Webber’s Gwafa. He tries again with two likely looking types, the 5yo Zubayr, and the year older High Secret, and both have plenty to recommend them. The former looked an unlucky loser of The Scottish Champion Hurdle three weeks ago, where despite meeting the last all wrong, he was only beaten a short head. Only 4lbs higher on Saturday compensation may well await.

The year older Novice, High Secret, is a very solid performer on the flat, winning six of his seventeen starts at distances from 12f to 17f. He finished a close 4th in the 14f sixteen runner handicap, The Old Borough Cup over the course in 2015, strongly suggesting that Saturday’s large field should hold no fears. He is beginning to look just as talented over the smaller obstacles. He has won two of his four starts, and last time put up a noteworthy performance when finishing 4th in an Aintree Grade1. The handicapper hasn’t exactly been generous giving him a mark of 141 and a racing weight of 11-9 but the 6yo has plenty of pace and will be well suited by a fast run contest at the weekend. I feel that there will be plenty more to come from this very genuine animal in his new discipline and is shortlisted.

Last years Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Ch’Tibello, could only finish third in last years renewal, but Master Trainer Skelton looks to have a very strong hand this time with his three 5yo’s, Optimus Prime, Red Tornado, and Mohaayed.

dan skelton swinton

Trainer Dan Skelton has a strong trio for Saturday’s race

The former, a six figure purchase from France where he was a dual winner over hurdles, including at Listed level looked as if he might justify his purchase price when finishing a close second in a Huntingdon Class2 on his debut for the stable. However he disappointed at Musselburgh three months later when pulled up but we got an idea of what he might be capable of next time in the very valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury seven weeks ago. Fitted with a tongue strap for the first time he was travelling strongly coming to the second last only to be badly hampered by a faller. It is hard to say what the probable outcome may have been but it is fair to say that he would have at least been involved in the finish. He comes here a fresh horse and racing off the same mark as Newbury has to be considered.

Stable companion Mohaayed is a very likeable type who always seems to run his race but unfortunately pays the price. He has gone up 2lbs for finishing 2nd in last months Scottish Champion Hurdle and is 3lbs higher than his mark in the County Hurdle at The Festival where he finished 7th. He deserves to win a decent prize but looks handicapped to the hilt.

The talented Welsh trainer, Evan Williams has won this twice in the last five years so certainly knows what is required and is represented by the 10yo, Court Minstrel, and the 6yo John Constable. The former races off a mark of 144 making him joint top weight with 11-12 but he did win the Chepstow Silver Trophy off a 5lbs higher mark in 2015. He has failed to hit the back of the net in his subsequent ten races but ran well last time, beaten only 4 3/4L in the County Hurdle when finishing 10th. He races on Saturday off a 1lbs lower mark and is worth a second look.

John Constable fell at the last having been headed at Aintree last time and off a 5lbs higher mark on Saturday is hard to fancy.

Nicky Henderson won this twice with Eradicate in 2010 and 2012 and with the 6yo Peace And Co has a very well handicapped animal to go to war with. The French bred son of Falco looked destined for the top when winning the 2015 Triumph Hurdle but was a bitter disappointment in his second season. However the Handicapper has taken note and dropped him from a high of 159 to Saturday’s mark of 144. Following a 13 month break he reappeared in the Scottish Champion Hurdle three weeks ago, and ran a race full of promise. He travelled really well throughout and despite losing a shoe finished 6 3/4L behind in 10th. His owners  Munir and Souede are great supporters of the Winter Game and have had a great season. Peace And Co might just put the icing on the cake.

Selection : High Secret
E.W.          : Peace And Co

Racing Tips Betfair Hurdle Newbury

racing-tips-betfair-hurdle-newburyBetfair Hurdle (Handicap) 2m67yds Newbury Saturday – Historically, in a race first run in 1963 as The Schweppes Gold Trophy, an experienced handicapper was usually the order of the day, but recent renewals have seen the Novice division very much to the fore, with less experienced animals dominating.  Novices have collected five of the last seven runnings, and indeed, of the last six to pass the post in front, only Gary Moore’s Violet Dancer had previously run in a handicap. Weight as ever has been a significant factor, with seven of the last ten winners, carrying less than eleven stone. It is worth mentioning however that the three successful animals carrying above this level, Essex (11-6), Zarkandar (11-1) and My Tent Or Yours (11-02) were all well backed favourites, starting at odds of 4/1 or less. Nicky Henderson has been the most successful handler with five victories overall, but only one of those has come in the last ten renewals, while Gary Moore has hit the back of the net three times in the same period.

From 6lbs out of the handicap, it’s difficult to see the Moore yard collecting for a fourth time with their 6yo Krugermac, but Henderson certainly has a live contender with his 5yo Consul De Thaix. He has only had the five starts, and has acquitted himself well on the last two occasions, finishing second in both races, to genuine Champion Hurdle aspirant, Brain Power, and he also demonstrated last time, that the demands of a large field competitive handicap, were right up his street. Held up in midfield, in the 19 runner Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle at Ascot in December, he stayed on well to snatch 2nd in the shadow of the post. Only 5lbs higher at the weekend there should be plenty more to come.

Having won with Splash Of Ginge three years ago, Nigel Twiston-Davies knows what is required, so last year’s Champion Bumper winner, Ballyandy, is worth considering. The 6yo Twiston-Davies contender, made his hurdles debut at Perth in September, and, but for clouting the second last obstacle, must have gone very close to beating the current 2nd favourite for the Supreme Novices, Moon Dancer. He put up another good performance two months later when finishing 3rd behind the same horse at Cheltenham in November, and last time got to within 1/2L of subsequent Challow Hurdle winner, Messire Des Obeaux over 20f at Sandown ten weeks ago. He showed his ability to cope with a big field when winning the Champion Bumper, and has been given a generous looking mark of 135, leaving him with a nice racing weight of 10st10lbs. Having won the valuable Bumper on this card last year, he should like the track, and all in all seems to have plenty going for him on Saturday. One for the shortlist!

Last year the Oddsguru went for the JP McManus-owned gelding, Blazer.

Welsh maestro, Evan Williams, has never won a Betfair Hurdle, but this upwardly mobile trainer has a strong candidate with his improving 7yo Clyne. Prior to running in Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial, this son of Hernando had won his four previous races, improving from a mark of 115 to his current mark of 143, and showed that rating fully deserved when making The New One pull out all the stops in that Haydock contest. Well suited by a flat left handed track on testing ground he could find conditions ideal on Saturday.

If the Alan King trained, William H Bonney turns out again, only fourteen days after a convincing win at Cheltenham, take note.


Trainer Alan King will be hoping for a Bonney bonanza

He had the favourite for that Prestbury Park heat, Wait For Me, 3 3/4L back in fifth, and meets him on only 5lbs worse terms, so should confirm the form with the Hobbs runner. A winner of three of his six starts over hurdles, it won’t come as any great surprise if this “gun slinger” is involved at the business end on Saturday.

Represented by the 5yo Zubayr, and the 6yo, Movewithetimes, the master of Ditcheat, Paul Nicholls, is finding it hard to split them. However with the outstanding recent record of handicap debutants/novices in mind, perhaps the one to concentrate on is the JP McManus owned Movewithetimes. A winner of the first of his three races over hurdles at Fontwell in October, he found all the trouble going twenty five days later, when finishing 5th, 3 3/4L behind the winner, Moon Racer at Cheltenham, (Ballyandy 3rd, 1L ahead of Movewithetimes). He won his last race, a Wincanton Novices comfortably six weeks ago, and is reported in good order. Considering that he was hampered on two occasions in the closing stages of that Cheltenham contest, meeting Ballyandy on 3lbs better terms for that one length deficit makes him look a well handicapped horse, and being a big strong type should be well suited by Newbury’s expansive galloping track.

Selection: Movewithetimes

E.W.         : Clyne (if abs Ballyandy)