Rescheduled Betfair Hurdle (Handicap) Grade3 Newbury

hurdle race newburyGood news for racing fans! Last week’s feature (below), The Betfair Hurdle, cancelled because of a particularly nasty strain of Equine Flu, has been rescheduled, and is to be included in a 9 race program at Ascot on Saturday. As the indications are that most, if not all, of the original field will be present.

Newbury hosts, one of the major betting heats of the Winter, when a maximum of 23 runners line up for The Betfair Hurdle at the Berkshire track at the weekend. First run in 1963 as The Schweppes Hurdle, the first five runnings were dominated by the legendary Captain Ryan Price who won four of them, including the first two with Rosyth, who remains the only animal to have won back to back renewals. Age has been a very significant factor, with younger horses dominating. There have only been 3 animals older than 7 collect in the entire history of the contest, the last being the 9yo Geos 15 years ago. Weight has also played it’s part, with only 2 animals, both subsequent Champion Hurdle laureates, Persian War, and Make A Stand, who have defied a burden of more than 11-6. There have been plenty of multiple winning trainers in the race, but with 5 wins, Nicky Henderson’s record is outstanding, which has to make the sole  entry from his Seven Barrows yard this year, Countister, of particular interest.

The ex French 7yo, a daughter of Smadoun, has had a rather unusual racing career. Campaigned mostly in minor NHF races in the French Provinces, (won twice) for her first 8 races, she changed stables in June 2016 and her form stepped up a gear. Again, campaigned exclusively in the same Genre, but this time in the top level metropolitan tracks, she won 3 of her 5 starts, two of them at Grade2 level, and was only beaten a neck in a St Cloud Grade1. Since her transfer to Seven Barrows in September 2017, she has raced 4 times over hurdles, winning twice, at Doncaster in December 2017 and at Sandown in February 2018. She was sent off a 16/1 shot for the Grade2 Dawn Run at The Festival, but could only finish a well beaten 5th, and hasn’t been seen since. She is all about potential, but on a point of handicapping, the horse she beat at Doncaster by 7L, De Rasher Counter, is now rated 139, which makes her mark of 133 on Saturday look lenient.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the race twice in the last 5 years, and runs both previous winners, Splash of Ginge and Ballyandy, but the stats are against them, so his third contender, Al Dancer, is preferred. Bred for the game, he is a half brother to the very successful French Hurdler/Chaser, T’zar’s Dancer, and has won all his 3 starts over hurdles. He impressed last time, easily winning a Cheltenham Class3, off a mark of 129. He won by 11L from the subsequent winner, Not That Fuisse, which  justifies the 12lbs rise to Saturday’s mark of 141, and it will be surprising if that is the limit of this exciting animals potential. A minor concern would be his lack of experience in such a large field, competitive handicap, but he jumps well, and wasnt discommoded in the 20 runner, Grade2 NHF race, at last year’s Aintree Festival, where he finished 4th.

The Devon yard of the Williams family, carried home the bacon 3 years ago when their 5yo Agrapart won, and they will be hoping for a repeat with another animal of the same Vintage, Monsieur Lecoq.

monsieur le coq

Punters’ palates could be distinctly agreeable on Saturday afternoon.

Having failed to make much impression in his first 4 starts, the penny seems to have dropped the last twice. He won a Flos Las Maiden by 7L in December, and 5 weeks later trotted up in a Sandown Handicap off a mark of 122. A rise of 10lbs looks fair, giving him a racing weight of 10-9 to be further reduced by Lizzie Kelly’s, very useful 3lbs claim.

Philip Hobbs has never won the Betfair, but will be hoping for a big run from his improving 5yo Zanzibar. He ran an excellent race 6 weeks ago winning by 1L from
Birds Of Prey, and had  Champagne Well (rec 6lbs and now rated 130) a further 1Lback in 3rd. A strict interpretation of the form makes Saturday’s mark of 135 look pretty fair and if this progressive type can overcome his inexperience, he could be involved at the business end.

Gary Moore has won 3 of the last 11 Betfair’s and has 3 contenders on Saturday, the best of whom may prove to be the 5yo Sussex Ranger. A winner of 3 of his 7 starts, he won a Fontwell Class3 by 4 1/2L off a mark of 130 conceding lumps of weight to Monday Club, 25 days ago, and looks well handicapped on 136, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-13. Mr Moore is a past master at placing horses in these big handicaps, and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see any of his runners involved where it matters, at the weekend.

Paul Nicholls who won with Zarkandar 7 years ago, runs two, Getaway Trump, and
Mount Des Alvoirs and while both are clearly talented, the former looks the more progressive. The 6yo has won 2 of his 4 starts over hurdles, and while he was beaten last time, in the Grade1 Challow Hurdle, there was no disgrace in going down by 2 1/2L to the exciting, 150 rated, Champ, over 2 1/2miles. In his previous race, the son of Getaway, racing over 3f shorter, gave the now 131 rated Tedham, 6lbs and an impressive looking 5L beating, all of which makes the Ditcheat runner look well handicapped on Saturday’s mark of 142 and very interesting back over two miles.

Selection : Getaway Trump
EW.           : Monsieur Lecoq

John Gray

The Ladywood Stud Hungerford Stakes Tips Group2 7f Newbury Saturday

First run in 1949, the Hungerford Stakes has been won by plenty of talented animals in its near seventy year history, not least the triple Group1 winning 3yo, Paco Boy in 2008. He was the first of four winners from the Classic generation in the past decade, and Tipperary Maestro, Aidan O’Brien, with three 3yo’s entered at the time of writing, will be hoping to keep the sequence going. The trio are headed by Gustav Klimt, followed by Fleet Review and St Patrick’s Day, and if the market is to be believed his best chance of landing a first Hungerford lies with the St James’s Palace Stakes runner up, Gustav Klimt.

Following that excellent effort in the St James’s Palace over a mile, the son of the all conquering Galileo (pictured), again ran well over the trip when finishing 3rd in the Group1 Prix Jean Prat, and 4th, (beaten 2L) in the Group1 Sussex Stakes 18 days ago.

galileo oddsguru

The great Galileo’s son Gustav Klimt has a great chance on Saturday

While he clearly gets the mile at the highest level, all of his three victories, (from 9 starts) have come at seven furlongs, and he put in an excellent effort in last year’s Superlative Stakes, winning despite interference, over the straight 7f at Headquarters. Beautifully bred, he is out of the speedy Danehill mare, Massaara, all of who’s three wins came at 6f, and may find the straight 7f at Newbury right up his street.

Although it can be a dangerous thing to say, neither of the other two Ballydoyle contenders make a huge amount of appeal. Fleet Review has never won beyond 6f and finished 14/20 in the 6 1/2f Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville 13 days ago, and St Patrick’s Day, despite being a full brother to the US Triple Crown winner, American Pharaoh, hasn’t exactly set the world alight in his two starts since leaving Bob Baffert to join the O’Brien operation.

The David Simcock trained Breton Rock won this back in 2014 and now as an 8yo, is attempting to become the first horse since Jimmy Reppin in 1969 to win the contest twice. A terrifically genuine and consistent animal, he showed the talent was still there last time when going down by a battling short head and a head, to Sir Dancelot and Suedois in the Group2 7f Lennox Stakes at Goodwood 19 days ago. Starting at 20/1 he kept on gamely to lead inside the final furlong, only to be collared close home, and now, rated a pound higher than for his victory over Gregorian in that 2014 renewal, has to be well worth a second look.

It can be argued that Sir Dancealot would have been an unlucky loser if not getting up in that Goodwood heat, as he met plenty of trouble in running, and his two previous runs strongly suggested that he is an improving animal. A win in the 7f Group3 Criterion Stakes at Newmarket in June was followed by an excellent 4th in the Group1 July Cup over an inadequate 6f the following month. Obviously well suited by 7f, and despite being 3lbs worse off with Breton Rock and D’Bai on Lennox Stakes running, David Ellsworth’s 4yo looks a danger to all.

The Dean Ivory trained Librisa Breeze has only won 3 of his 15 starts, but one of those was at the top level ( The Group1 Champion Sprint Stakes 2017), and he also boasts a second to Massaat in last year’s renewal. He was well beaten in the 6f Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, but the 6yo ran a much more encouraging race last time in The Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over 6 1/2f, finishing a staying on 4th. Saturday’s trip will suit and he handles most conditions, so is worth considering but he does seem to reserve his best efforts for Ascot.

michael stoute horse

Sir Michael sends out Dream of Dreams

The Sir Michael Stoute trained Dream Of Dreams has won 3 of his 14 starts, and ran well over the course last time, when finishing strongly, he was only a neck and a head behind Saturday’s opponent, Yafta and Projection in the Group3 6f Hackwood Stakes. Mostly campaigned at shorter than Saturday’s trip, both pedigree, (his half brother Fiftyshadesfreed was best around a mile and his half sister, the 2yo filly, Miss Serenity, seemed to stay 7f on her racecourse debut in July) and that run in The Hackwood would suggest that the step up in trip could suit.

The above mentioned Yafta has won 4 of his 8 starts, and that victory in The Hackwood was a career best performance. The Richard Hannon trained 3yo has never won beyond 6f but his two attempts at Saturday’s distance have resulted in very solid runner up placings. His dam, The very useful Swiss Dream, won 6 of her 21 starts, three of them at Listed level, but never raced beyond 6f. However the way she won her penultimate race, (Newmarket 6f Listed Soft) before being retired to the paddocks, strongly suggested that she would have stayed further. All in all the step back up in trip should suit the Hannon runner.

D’Bai, from the hugely successful yard of Charlie Appleby was only beaten 1 1/2L when finishing 5th behind Sir Dancealot in the Lennox at Goodwood which has to make him of interest, but his subsequent 6th in The Prix Maurice de Gheest 13 days ago where he finished behind Librisa Breeze tempers enthusiasm.

Selection : Gustav Klimt (if abs. Sir Dancealot)

E.W. : Yafta

John Gray

Oddsguru Preview Betfair Hurdle (Handicap) 2m 1/2f Newbury Saturday

This high class Handicap was first run in 1963 and two winners, Persian King (1968) and Make A Stand (1997) went on to victory in hurdling’s Blue Riband at the Cheltenham Festival the following month. Significantly, they are two of only three horses, (the third being the Martin Pipe trained Copeland in 2002) to have carried more than 11-6 to victory in the entire history of the contest. Weight continues to be a very significant factor, with twenty of the last thirty one winners, crossing the finishing line with less than 11stones on their back. However, with seventeen of this year’s contenders set to carry more than eleven stone, that particular stat may not be quite so significant this time round, but certainly, the seven contenders, set to carry more than 11-7 seem up against it. Nicky Henderson, with five previous winners is the most successful handler, and at the time of writing has five entries. However, with three of them carrying 11-9 or more, the two to concentrate on would seem to be, Kayf Grace 11-4, and Lough Derg Spirit 11-2 .

A lightly raced 8yo mare, Kayf Grace has won four of her eight races, two of her five Bumpers, including the Grade2 at the Aintree Festival in 2016, and two of her three Hurdle races. Last time, on her first venture into Handicap company, she readily won a Kempton Class3 off a mark of 132. Despite the form not working out, she has been raised to a stiff enough looking mark of 140 for Saturday, so perhaps Henderson’s best chance of bringing a sixth trophy home to Seven Barrows, lies with the two years younger, Lough Derg Spirit.

A winner of two of his five starts over timber, the son of Westerner has only had the one run this term but that was a more than credible effort, finishing second to the ill fated London Prize, to whom he was conceding 3lbs, in Wincanton’s Elite Hurdle last November. Only raised a pound he looks well treated and is worth considering.

With his superb record of three wins in the last ten renewals, anything Garry Moore fields has to be of interest, and his contender this year, knocknanuss has plenty to recommend him. Having won a Maiden Point To Point and a Bumper in Ireland, the 8yo joined the Moore yard two years ago. Taken along very steadily by his astute trainer, the lightly raced 8yo has won two of his four starts over timber, including last time, when winning quite impressively from Notre Ami off a mark of 124 at the end of December. The runner up hasn’t done much for the form in the meantime but Knocknanuss could only beat what was put in front of him and, although raised a severe looking 11lbs for Saturday, he still gets to race with 10-13 on his back and could give Garry a fourth success.

The Donald McCain trained 7yo Novice, Waterlord, (six of the last eight winners of The Betfair have been Novices) was a tad disappointing when only finishing fourth in The Rossington Main on very holding ground at Haydock three weeks ago, but had looked an animal going places in his two previous races. He beat a horse who had won last time out, by fifteen lengths at Haydock (2m Hvy Dec30 17) and a fortnight earlier, beat Linksman (Bangor Hvy) by eleven lengths, and that horse went on to win next time out by twenty six lengths. The son of Cape Cross was a triple bumper winner for previous handler, John Ferguson, all on good ground so doesn’t need heavy, and indeed will probably improve further for a return to a decent surface. Racing off a mark of 135, (five of the last six winning Novices won The Betfair, off a mark between 134 and 137 ) giving him a racing weight of 10-13, he looks well treated for this his handicap debut.

Peter Atkinson’s tough mare, Irish Roe, has won seven of her eleven starts under rules, four of them over hurdles, but she put in her best performance to date a fortnight ago, when she ran the 152 rated Maria’s Benefit to 3/4L in a Doncaster Grade2 Mares only Hurdle. The handicapper has raised her to 145 but she is able to race on Saturday off her old mark of 134, in this early closing event. The one concern would be her ability to reproduce that Doncaster performance, just two weeks later, but she has won back to back races a fortnight apart in the past.

The Alan King trained 7yo, William H Bonney, has only won three of his eleven starts over timber, none of them at Class1 level, but his top trainer remains optimistic, that one of these valuable handicaps can be landed by this son of Midnight Legend. He certainly looked the most likely winner of the Class1 Grade3 Greatwood Hurdle at the second last (Cheltenham Nov19), but faded after the final flight to finish sixth. He was disappointing three weeks later at Sandown but has had a nice nine weeks break, (Mr King feels he goes best fresh) and with 10-12 on his back could get involved.

Despite taking a strong hold for most of the contest, the Evan Williams trained Silver Streak put up an excellent effort for a 4yo to finish second in the Class1 Grade3 Ladbroke in December off a mark of 130. He had plenty of Saturday’s opponents behind him that day, and if settling better, must have a very solid chance off a mark only 3lbs higher. He will also have the benefit of the talented Michael Bastyan’s 5lbs claim giving him a lovely racing weight of 10-6.

Selection : Waterlord

E.W. : William H Bonney Silver Streak

John Gray

Betfair Hurdle Tips Newbury Saturday

First run in 1963 under the banner of the drinks firm, Schweppes, a sponsorship that continued until 1986, it was the most valuable handicap hurdle in the calendar. That racing legend, Captain Ryan Price, won four of the first five runnings, but alas achieved a lasting notoriety when his Rosyth, ridden by Josh Gifford, won the 1964 renewal. Having won the inaugural race the previous year, Rosyth trotted up, following four unplaced efforts, resulting in Price being warned off, and Gifford getting a six weeks suspension. Further controversy followed the 1967 win of Price’s Hill House, who tested positive for a banned substance. It was subsequently discovered that the horse himself was manufacturing an excess of steroid, (Cortisol) and kept the race. Let’s hope that skulduggery and dodgy pharmaceuticals play no part in Saturday’s renewal, and the best horse on the day crosses the line in front. Whichever animal it proves to be it is unlikely to be carrying more than 11st6lbs, as only two horses, both future Champion Hurdle winners, Persian War, ( 11st 13lbs 1968,)and Make a Stand (11st7lbs 1997) have managed it. Indeed only four winners have carried more than eleven stone since 2000. Good recent form is a prerequisite as out of the last seven winners four had been successful last time out, and the others had managed a top three finish. In recent renewals it has been a good contest for the younger unexposed contender with four novices winning in the last six years, and nine of the last ten winners being aged five or six.

Read last year’s Betfair Hurdle preview here.

Willie Mullins, who has never won the race, is mob handed at the time of writing with eight entries. The one that stands out for me is the J.P McManus owned ex French 5yo gelding Blazer. Probably purchased with a chasing career in mind, his two attempts at the larger obstacles demonstrated some serious flaws in his jumping technique. A return to the smaller obstacles in a Leopardstown handicap last weekend revealed an extremely well handicapped horse, as he won with his head in his chest off a mark of 125 in a contest run in a decent time for the conditions. Only 6lbs higher on Saturday, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st4lbs he looks really well treated. He does need three to come out for him to get a run, but with the Mullins legion all above him in the handicap, this shouldn’t be a problem, and it will come as no surprise to see J.P Collecting the winners trophy for the third time.

Paul Nicholls runs the 6yo Modus in the same colours as Blazer, and having won over course and distance, certainly enters calculations. However he disappointed last time on heavy ground at Taunton and the suspicion remains that he will prove a better performer on a surface faster than we are likely to see on Saturday.

Philip Hobbs’s 7yo War Sound has been prominent in the betting despite not having been seen since his facile win in Haydock’s Swinton Hurdle last May. While an 8lbs rise for his Haydock effort looks reasonable, it does leave him with a burden of 11st7lbs to carry on ground that is more than likely going to be pretty deep, and combined with a lack of recent match practice, Hobbs’s other runner, the progressive Sternrubin may prove the better option.

The 5yo has won his last three races, including a win over course and distance last November, where he had Saturday’s opponent, John Constable 4L back in second. Last time, he put up a very brave performance in the Ladbroke at Ascot eight weeks ago, where having made all, he was headed after the last, but battled back to gain a share of the spoils on the line. However he is up another 8lbs at the weekend, and as no Ladbroke winner has gone on to win this he does seem to have it all to do.

The aforementioned John Constable is of considerable interest. A 5yo entire horse by Montjeu, he was previously trained on the flat by Aidan O’Brien, where he achieved a rating of 92, and was effective up to 2miles. Now with top Welsh handler Evan Williams, he won his first two races over hurdles pretty easily, last January and April. He reappeared in November in that race with Sternrubin at Newbury, and as it was his first run after a nine month break, he acquitted himself pretty well, finishing 4L behind the Hobbs horse. He meets Sternrubin on 12lbs better terms on Saturday, so at least on paper, must have serious prospects of turning the form around with the Hobbs contender.

Selection : Blazer.

E.W. : John Constable.

Lockinge Stakes Betting Tips 1m Group1 Newbury Saturday


Integral is a beautifully bred 5yo mare by Dalakhani out of the Group1 winning mare, Echelon and we fancy her to go very close.

I hope you were on when Jamie Spencer, brought home the bacon on our selection, Speculative Bid, in last weeks Victoria Cup, at the very rewarding odds of 10/1. On paper at least, Saturday’s Newbury Group1 does seem a slightly easier contest to solve, so here’s hoping we can keep the ball rolling. Since the race was elevated to the top tier in 1995, some strong trends have been evident, not least that fifteen of the last nineteen winners, boasted winning form at Group1 level coming into the contest.

Four year olds have had the best of it in the same period, winning twelve times, with five five year olds, and two six year olds obliging. Considering how few females have contested the race over the past decade, their record has been outstanding. They have won three of the last ten renewals, and significantly , two of them have been trained by Sir. Michael Stoute. Perhaps even more significantly, they have all run in the same colours as Saturday’s entrant, Integral, the red white and blue of Chevely Park Stud.

Integral is a beautifully bred 5yo mare (by Dalakhani out of the Group1 winning mare, Echelon). She had already won two Group1 races against her own sex in a highly successful campaign as a four year old, when coming up short in the Group1 Queen Elizabeth II stakes against the colts. Excuses can be made, as she was unsuited by the testing ground,and may have been over the top anyway. It is very significant that Chevley Park have kept her in training as a 5yo, and considering Sir Michael’s skill with older horses this mare looks the one to beat at the weekend.

Richard Hannon’s 4yo Night of Thunder, the shock winner of last years controversial 2000gns, when coming home 1/2L in front of the brilliant miler, Kingman, failed to hit the back of the net in any of his subsequent four races, but did post some very good efforts. His last run was particularly noteworthy, finishing a slightly unlucky second to the high class Charm Spirit, in the Q.E11 stakes last October. He hasn’t been seen since, but this need not be a problem, as only three of the last ten winners had had a previous run. Top rated, and coming from a yard that has provided three of the last five winners, Night of Thunder must have every chance of getting involved on Saturday.

The highly talented David O’Meara, saddles the 6yo gelding Custom Cut, and like his sire Notnowcato, appears to be improving with age. First off,winning a modest Cork handicap three years ago from a lowly mark of 75, He was rated 117 when comfortably disposing of Here Comes When in a Group2 at Sandown on his reappearance in April. He had that good yardstick Top Notch Tonto, 4 1/2L further back at Sandown, strongly suggesting that further progress had been made over the winter, so his odds of 12/1 at the time of writing represent some value.

Whatever ailed the 4yo Oasis Dream colt, Mooharib who hung so badly when finishing third in this years Lincoln handicap, his very capable trainer Marco Botti ironed out before his next appearance. He absoloutly hosed up in a listed race at Ascot, four weeks after Doncaster, cruising up to the leaders, quickening clear, and then eased back to beat Hors de Combat with consummate ease. Another rapidly improving animal, it isn’t too difficult to see him being involved at the weekend.

One of the few winners at Group1 level in Saturday’s contest, the 4yo Toormore, the second Hannon runner, needs considering. His Group1 success came as a two year old in the 7f National stakes at the Curragh which He won easily and ended the season crowned Europe’s top two year old. His 3yo career started very promisingly with a facile win in the Craven stakes from the top class The Great Gadsby, but was subsequently most disappointing until showing signs of a revival in the Q.E.11 at the end of the season. Here,starting at 25/1, He took a fierce hold, and still fighting Kieran Fallon for his head was dropped to last two furlongs out. He ran on and despite having too much to do finished a very respectable third, beaten 1/2L and 1/2L by Charm Spirit, and his stable companion Night of Thunder. He has clearly had his problems, but coming from this yard it would be no surprise to see a reformed character on Saturday.

Selection: Integral

E.W. : Toormore

Racing Betting Tips: Novices Handicap Hurdle Newbury 3.45pm Saturday

Andrew Balding's Shirocco gelding Storm Force Ten, rated 83 on the flat, looks well treated off a mark of 123.

Andrew Balding’s Shirocco gelding Storm Force Ten, rated 83 on the flat, looks well treated off a mark of 123.

After the frenetic pace of last weeks Cheltenham Festival, (hope you got on our selection, Moon Racer, in the Wetherby’s Champion Bumper) racing this week is of a more pedestrian nature. Newbury stages some competitive looking racing, not least the Doombar Novices Hurdle at 3.45, while North of the border, at Kelso the Brewers John Smith sponsor a valuable and intriguing novices handicap chase at 3.25. Paul Nicholls is the only trainer represented on Saturday to have won the Newbury contest over the past decade, although both Alan King, and Venetia Williams have had runners placed. The Nicholl’s contender this year, Celestino, has been generally dissappointing and as he is 5lbs out of the handicap at the time of writing is passed over.

The Alan King trained Gimme Five is of considerable interest. Rated 67 on the flat, he has won two of his five starts over hurdles, both times on good ground. Last time out ( Huntingdon 2m1/2f gd Oct 5 ) he made most of the running and had to be kept up to his work to win by 3/4L. In his previous race ( Fontwell 2m21/2f ) he may have been a tad unlucky as he lost a shoe, when going down by 3/4L to the useful Vosne Romanee. Both the Fontwell race and his ability to stay 2miles on the flat ( 2nd btn 3/4L Lingfield 2m Feb 2. ) would suggest that he will be well suited by Saturday’s step up in trip. With the benefit of the Lingfield pipe opener in Febuary, he is Definitley one for the shortlist.

Andrew Balding’s Shirocco gelding Storm Force Ten, rated 83 on the flat, looks well treated off a mark of 123. Last time out ( Cheltenham 2m1f soft 24 Jan ) he finished a running on 4th behind Peace and Co, Karezak, and Zarib. Although 12 1/2L behind the winner, the very useful Zarib, was only 1/2 in advance at the line. As Peace and Co went on to victory in the Triumph, and Zarib won his next race the form looks rock solid. On a point of handicapping Zarib finished a good 6th in the Fred Winter at the Festival of a mark of 133, suggesting that the Balding horse is well in here off 123.

Philip Hobbs’s Golden Doyen, was going well behind the leaders, when coming down in the Fred Winter, eight days ago. He races off the same mark,141, on Saturday and so, on the form of his penultimate race ( 17Jan Ascot 2m soft ) where he was a staying on 2nd to the Triumph runner up, Top Notch, combined with the strong likelihood of being suited by the extra distance at the weekend he is another to consider.

Seamus Mullins runs his 72 flat rated Ultimate off a mark of 123 and promises to be a decent recruit to jumping. A winner of two of his three starts over hurdles he put up a fine performance last time out. ( Sandown 2m1/2f gd/sft 7th Mar.) where staying on strongly up the Sandown hill he beat Libeccio 4L with the well backed favourite Princess Ombu (rec15lbs) a further 2 3/4L back in third. He races on Saturday off a mark only 5lbs higher than Sandown giving him a nice racing weight of 10st 8lbs. Another to consider!

Selection: Storm Force Ten.

E.W. : Ultimate.

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.