Betfair Hurdle: Crucial Festival clue?
Ian Ogg looks at the last four renewals of the Betfair Hurdle to see whether the race has any bearing on the Cheltenham Festival.
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The strength of the Betfair Hurdle has been well advertised in recent years with My Tent Or Yours and Get Me Out Of Here both going on to finish second in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (beaten half a length and a head) while Recession Proof and Zarkandar finished fifth in the Supreme and the Stan James Champion Hurdle respectively.
Punters are alive to that, the bookmakers are alive to that which all makes it very hard to profit from (ignoring the fact that all four horses lost) but you would expect a race as prestigious as Saturday's to work out so I've decided to take a look at those last four renewals to see if we can learn anything ahead of this weekend for, as Confucius said, "study the past if you would define the future."
2013 - 21 runners, soft, 4 minutes 10.70 seconds
My Tent Or Yours (5/1 fav) pulled five lengths clear of Cotton Mill (9/1) with Swing Bowler (8/1) third and Dark Lover (16/1) fourth.
Cotton Mill was sent off the 8/1 joint-favourite for the County Hurdle but was beaten when falling at the last; Swing Bowler was sent off at 7/1 in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle but finished 15th of 19 while Dark Lover finished third of six in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on his only subsequent outing.
Of the remainder, 10 runners had their next start at the Cheltenham Festival with five running in the County Hurdle, and others in the Grand Annual, Martin Pipe, Coral Cup, Fred Winter and the Supreme.
The best finishing position was achieved by ninth home Caid Du Berlais who finished second in the juvenile handicap at 20/1.
Manyriverstocross (10th) fared best of the County quintet in finishing third at 25/1 while Petit Robin (fifth) finished fifth in the Grand Annual at 12s.
The sixth, seventh and eighth home, Village Vic, Cash And Go and Princeton Plains, were sent off at 8/1, 10/1 and 14/1 in their respective races but could finish no closer than seventh.
2012 - 20 runners, good-to-soft, 3 minutes 52 seconds
Zarkandar (11/4 fav) was driven out to win by a length and a quarter from Get Me Out Of Here (14/1) with Raya Star (12/1) a short-head away in third and Sire De Grugy (14/1) almost two lengths adrift in fourth.
Get Me Out Of Here went on to finish second in the Coral Cup (6/1 jt-fav); Raya Star 13th in the County Hurdle at 8/1 (but did win Scottish Champion Hurdle the following month); Sire De Grugy won just four days later at Taunton (5/2 jt-fav) before finishing third in the Imperial Cup (10/1).
Of the remainder, 12 runners had their next start at the Cheltenham Festival with five running in the County Hurdle, and others in the Champion Hurdle, Martin Pipe (two), Coral Cup (two), Neptune and the Supreme.
Darlan finished second in the Supreme at 7/1 having fallen at Newbury when looking sure to play a leading part in the finish.
Sixth home Sailors Warn fared best of the County quintet in finishing third at 16/1, just in front of Via Galilei (11th) who was fifth at 33/1. The fifth home, Olofi, was sent off at 13/2 for that contest but could only finished 16th.
Third Intention (10th) finished eighth in the Coral Cup at 20/1 but he had run previously in the National Spirit which he won as the 11/10 favourite.
2011 - 15 runners, soft, 3 minutes 52.96 seconds
Recession Proof (12/1) edged out Bothy (8/1) by a short-head with a length and a quarter back to Notus De La Tour (10/1) with The Betchworth Kid (16/1) a further short-head away.
Bothy went on to finish second in the Coral Cup (12/1) while Notus De La Tour was 14th in the County at 20s and The Betchworth Kid 11th in the Imperial Cup at 12s.
Of the remainder, eight runners had their next start at the Cheltenham Festival with five running in the County Hurdle, two in the Coral Cup and one in the Martin Pipe.
Get Me Out Of Here and Nearby, eighth and 10th respectively, went on to finished second and third in the County Hurdle at 7/1 and 66/1 with the fifth home, Soldatino, only 11th at 11/1.
Solix (seventh) finished fifth in the Coral Cup at 25/1, two places in front of Walkon (11th and 3/1 fav at Newbury) who was sent off at 7/1.
2010 - 23 runners, good-to-soft, 3 minutes 49.27 seconds
Get Me Out Of Here (6/1) won going away by a length and three quarters from Ronaldo Des Mottes (14/1) with six lengths back to Manyriverstocross (6/1) and three parts of a length to Mamlook (11/2 fav).
Ronaldo Des Mottes had his next start in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle (seventh at 10/1); Manyriverstocross was seventh in the Neptune (11/1); Mamlook was 10th in the Coral Cup at 18s.
Of the remainder, 10 runners had their next start at the Cheltenham Festival with four running in the County Hurdle, three in the Coral Cup, two in the Martin Pipe and the other in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle.
Spirit River (17th) went on to win the Coral Cup at 14/1; he was still travelling well at Newbury when making a bad mistake three out and would have finished closer but for that.
The remainder made little impact in Gloucestershire with Songe (11th) faring best of those in the County in finishing 10th at 50/1, four spots in front of 14/1 chance Any Given Day who had finished seventh at Newbury.
As we all know, the Cheltenham Festival is hugely competitive and it's unreasonable to expect any particular race to have a large impact on events in March.
With Get Me Out Of Here, My Tent Or Yours and the late Darlan all going on to finish second in the Supreme this race has received plenty of coverage and that's a significant return, albeit one that has failed to reward win-only punters.
The most notable results are the poor returns of the prominent finishers in the County Hurdle and it's here that punters may be able to get an edge with both Cotton Mill and Raya Star turned over at single figure odds.
It's also significant that, of the placed horses, only Bothy and Get Me Out Of Here made the frame at Cheltenham with the longer trip of the Coral Cup, arguably, bringing about sufficient improvement to counter any rise in the weights.
Only Spirit River won a race at the Festival but with a further five horses placed (in addition to the ones already mentioned) at odds of 20/1, 25/1, 16/1, 7/1 and 66/1 and three more finishing fifth (a placing that can bring reward as the bookmakers compete for business) at 12/1, 33/1 and 25/1 then it's clear that Saturday's race is worthy of close inspection when it comes to assessing the form in six weeks time.