Betfair 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!
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.
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.
E.W. : Clyne (if abs Ballyandy)