Betfair Hurdle (Handicap) (Grade3) (Class1) 2m1/2f Newbury Saturday

newbury betfair chase

Willie Mullins saddles the handily weighted Ciel De Niege

One of the major handicaps in the calendar, The Betfair In recent years has become the preserve of the unexposed, younger hurdler, and the last 13 renewals have been won by either a five or six year old. Nicky Henderson with 5 wins is the most successful handler, (last win came with JP McManus’s My Tent Or Yours seven years ago) but the best recent record belongs to Naunton trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, who has won 3 of the last 6 runnings, including last year with the 6yo Al Dancer, and he looks to have another strong hand this year with Stolen Silver and Sir Valentine.

The former, a French bred 5yo son of the good NH stallion Lord Du Sud, has won 2 of his 4 starts over timber and put in a career topping effort last time when getting up in the last stride to win the Grade2 Rossington Main Novices Hurdle at Haydock 3 weeks ago. Hanging left before 2 out on the heavy ground he seemed outpaced, but rallied strongly inside the final 150yards to claim the scalp of the 142 rated Edwardstone. He has been given a mark of 148 for Saturday giving him 11-7 to carry which looks tough for a 5yo but is clearly improving and would be well suited by plenty of rain.

Nigel’s second string, the 7yo ex flat racer, Sir Valentine, with just 4 starts over hurdles is pretty unexposed. He looked destined for second place when falling at the last when making his debut over the smaller obstacles last October, but 27 days later looked much more the finished article when winning a Novice Hurdle over Saturday’s course and distance in quite taking style. His next 2 efforts were more workmanlike, finishing 2/13 in a Wetherby Novices, (Soft) and stepped up to Grade3 level finishing 3/13 to Saturday’s market leader, Not So Sleepy in the Sandown mud 7 weeks ago. He finished
13 1/2L behind the winner, who clearly revelled in the heavy ground at the Esher Track, but Sir Valentine is 17lbs better off on Saturday, and given the likely more suitable going at the weekend, needs considering off his low weight of 10-3.

Legendary owner, JP Mc Manus’s record in the race in the last decade reads an impressive 2 wins and 3 seconds, so clearly The Betfair is a heat very much on his radar. He has 3 entered at the 5 days declarations and of the three the one that catches the eye is the Willie Mullins trained Ciel De Neige. A 5yo, French bred son of Authorized, has failed to catch the judges eye in any of his 6 starts, (3 in his native France) but making his debut for his new connections, Mullins and McManus, in last year’s Fred Winter off a mark of 132 at The Cheltenham Festival, he ran an excellent race to finish 3/21. Racing for the first time over English style obstacles he was only 3 3/4L behind the 139 rated winner, Band Of Outlaws, and but for a mistake 3 out would have finished closer. The winner went on to land the Galway Hurdle and is now rated on a mark of 149 which makes the Mullins horse look very well treated on 135 on Saturday. Shrewdly, Ciel De Neige was put away for the season after Cheltenham and hasn’t damaged his mark by finishing 2nd (almost collided with railings and mistake 2 out, finished strongly, just denied) in a modest Limerick Maiden 6 weeks ago.  With the nice racing weight of 10-8 he has to be of serious interest.

Philip Hobbs has yet to win a Betfair but with 3 entered, including the top weight,
Gumball, he is clearly intent on improving his record. Gumball, with the steadier of 11-12 will have his work cut out and preference is for the 7yo, Oakley. A winner of 2 of his 7 starts, the son of Oscar has made steady progress this term, and ran his best race to date when finishing 2nd in a Cheltenham Class3 last time. (Dec13 2m1f Soft)
Ridden to take it up after the last, he was headed in the final 100yds, and found the concession of 23lbs to the neck winner Repetito just too much. Saturday’s opponent, the Nicky Henderson trained Never Adapt, (Racing in the Green And Gold Mc Manus livery) was a further 1 1/2L back in third and meets Oakley on a pound worse terms. However it was Never Adapt’s first run for 391 days and he landed a Kempton Handicap 4 weeks ago for the Seven Barrows handler so it could be close between them.

The Harry Fry trained 6yo, Lightly Squeeze hasn’t beaten much in his last 3 races but couldn’t have done it more easily, and was particularly impressive last time winning a modest Plumpton Handicap by 14L. Harry must have been quietly hoping that the 5lbs claimer would have put the brakes on a bit earlier as the son of Poet’s Voice was landed with a whopping 17lbs hike in the weights for his facile victory. An ex flat racer, he failed to failed to trouble the judge in any of his 4 starts over hurdles for his previous handler but since joining the Fry operation his record stands at 3/6 and with Welsh Ace, Sean Bowen, doing the steering on Saturday it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see him involved at the business end.

If connections Champion Hurdle ambitions are to be realised, the Hughie Morrison trained, Not So Sleepy, will need to win Saturday’s race off his mark of 144. Rated 94 on the flat (4th in last year’s Cesarewitch) the son of Beat Hollow is a latecomer to the jumping game and he never jumped a Hurdle in public until January last year. However his score is now 3/5 in his new discipline  and he got his connections collective pulses racing, with two impressive Ascot victories in his last two races, winning a Class2 Handicap off a mark of 122 in November, and even more eye catchingly, landing the Grade3 Class1 Betfair Exchange Trophy by 9L in the Berkshire mud 29 days later off a 5 lbs higher mark. Clearly a talented animal, but he does seem to need the mud flying to produce his best, and with a dry week forecast he may struggle to defy his 17 lbs higher mark, and a waiting brief is advised.

The Evan Williams trained 6yo, Mack The Man is another whose form is on a strong upwards trajectory and he took the step up in Class in his stride when winning a Sandown Class1 last time off a mark of 122. (Dec7 Heavy). In his previous race he had beaten Saturdays opponent Lightly Squeeze giving him 6lbs and meets Harry Fry’s contender on 7 lbs better at the weekend. However don’t read too much into this as Light Squeeze has clearly improved in the meantime. Nevertheless Mack The Man looks really well handicapped on a mark of 130, giving him a lovely racing weight of
10-3.

Selection.      : Ciel De Neige.     If abs Mack The Man

EW.                 : Oakley.             Lightly Squeeze
John Gray

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.

william-h-bonney

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)

Betting Preview Betfair Hurdle Newbury Saturday

Betting Preview Betfair Hurdle Newbury Saturday

The winner of his last three races, and trained by the Welsh maestro Evan Williams, the 7yo On Tour, is definitely of interest.

Known as the Schweppes Hurdle since it’s inception in 1963 until 1986, it’s early years were dominated by the legendary Captain Ryan Price, and his equally famous jockey Josh Gifford, who won four of the first five runnings.

Historically weight has been a serious issue, with only ten contestants since 1980 managing to carry more than 11st. While Persian War lumped 11st13lbs in 1970 to victory, only Make a Stand, ( 1997 ) the subsequent Champion Hurdle winner, and Copeland ( 2002 ) have managed to win carrying 11st7lbs.

However it is worth noting that two of the last three winners,Zarkandar ( 2012 ) and My Tent Or Yours, (2013 ) did break the 11st barrier. Age has also been significant with eight of the last ten renewals going to a 5yo or 6yo. Gary Moore has been the most successful trainer over the past ten runnings, with two wins, Heathcote 2007, and Wingman 2008. Messrs Twiston-Davies, Henderson , Nicholls, Quinn, and O’Neill, have hit the target once, and the Irish have collected twice. Good recent form is important with four of the last six winners having won their previous race. The other two were placed.

Top weight Sign of a Victory, from the Henderson yard, looked a world beater, when cruising home at Ascot in November of a mark of 139, but then flopped in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, trailing in 31L behind the brilliant Faugheen. While excuses can be made, (first run for eight weeks) it is difficult to envisage him being the first since the great Persian War, to carry top weight to victory on Saturday. Hendersons second string Vasco de Ronceray looked a progressive type when winning easily at Haydock in November off a mark of 135. Raised to a mark of 143 on Saturday he is set to carry a challenging looking 11st 6lbs, but in the care of N Henderson, is worth a second look.

The winner of his last three races, and trained by the Welsh maestro Evan Williams, the 7yo On Tour, is definitely of interest. A winner of a small handicap at Stratford in October ( 2ml 3f ) off a mark of 122, he had no trouble defying a 9lbs rise at Haydock ( 2ml 4f ) in a much better race four weeks later. Raised another 7lbs for Saturday, giving him a racing weight of 11st 1lb he looks well handicapped. His ability to stay beyond Saturday’s distance is a further plus. One for the shortlist!

The Paul Nicholls trained 5yo Calipto, is favourite at the time of writing, but to date has been dissappointing. There have been valid excuses, as in the Triumph Hurdle, he did seem to be travelling best of all, when his stirrup leather broke at the second last, and he finished fourth, 8 3/4L behind Tiger Roll. Despite starting favourite at Aintree three weeks later, he finished third, 4L behind the Triumph 3rd Guitar Pete. He again failed on his reappearance, beaten 1/2L by Tiger Roll, from whom he was receiving 8lbs. Diagnosed with a breathing problem, he has had surgery, so it remains to be seen if this solves the problem, and elicits some improvement. The jury is out!

Winner of last year’ss Adonis Hurdle at Kempton Park, the Harry Fry trained 5yo Activial, has many of the requisite credentials for this. He ran a fine race in the highly competitive 18 runner Ladbroke at Ascot before Christmas, where despite stumbling, and losing his momentum at the second last, he got himself together, and only went down by a couple of lengths. He has been raised another 6lbs for Saturday, giving him a weighty looking 11st 6lbs to shoulder, but coming from this yard, must be seriously considered.

Dan Skelton’s lightly raced 7yo Fascino Rustico was in the process of running a very promising race of a mark of 126 at Ayr last April, only to tip over at the second last. Not seen again until January this year, he has won both his races, novice’s hurdles, at Bangor and Newcastle, with his head in his chest. Confidence fully restored, now racing off 135, it would be no surprise to see him involved on Saturday.

David pipe’s pair of 8yo’s Balgarry and Swing Bowler are worth a second look. Having only his second run for nearly 34 months, Balgarry ran with great credit to finish a good second in a cl2 Sandown handicap off a mark of 132, four weeks ago. Raised just 5lbs for Saturday, this very lightly raced animal has plenty more improvement in him, and looks well handicapped on 11st. Having finished third to My Tent Or Yours in 2013 and fifth to Splash of Ginge last year, Pipes very useful mare is clearly well equipped for the demands of the race, and with a nice racing weight of 10st 12lbs is considered.

If getting a run,( needs a few to drop out above him in the handicap at the time of writing ) Garry Moore’s Violet Dancer, who was second in a Lingfield A.W. handicap two weeks ago, would be worth a second look.

Selection: On Tour.

E.W. Balgarry.