Check out our horse-by-horse guide to the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.
When: 3.35, Saturday February 11
First prize: £87,219
TV: ITV4 & Racing TV (Sky 426)
Last year’s winner who is 5lb higher in the ratings so needs to pull out a bit more improvement to defy top weight which won’t be easy given he’s eight now and vulnerable to less exposed types in this field.
Owner likes to target the race and trainer Willie Mullins has gone close in the past too so this second-season hurdler merits plenty of respect lining up on the back of a handicap debut third in a big field at Fairyhouse in early-December. Might have preferred some cut in the ground but that applies to the majority of them in fairness. Runs off 4lb higher than revised Irish mark.
Built on Fontwell comeback run to win well from the front in a competitive-looking handicap at Ascot in October and, according to the ratings, just about matched that level when third to superstar Constitution Hill in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Needs another career best to defy mark of 143 and he only beat a few home in this 12 months ago (lost a shoe), but could be dangerous if getting his own way out in front.
Was good on the Flat and made his name as a smart juvenile hurdler a couple of seasons ago. Has won nice handicaps on the level and over hurdles since then and he’s back on his last winning mark (141) in this sphere. He’s happy on decent ground too so can’t be ruled out with too much confidence.
Lightly-raced seven-year-old who defied a 374-day layoff when justifying favouritism in a handicap hurdle at Kempton over Christmas. That hinted at better to come and, on the face of it, a 5lb rise in the ratings doesn’t look too harsh. Has won on good ground in the past and he’s obviously in very good hands.
Has never won a handicap hurdle but 5/13 over the smaller obstacles overall and he looks to have finally been given a chance by the assessor, easing below mark of 140 for the first time in nearly two years (138). Trainer a master with such horses and this one caught the eye in fourth on seasonal debut when last seen at Kempton over Christmas. Also proven on all types of ground so interesting if getting a good gallop to chase; cheekpieces back on.
Has been novice chasing and doing pretty well at that discipline, finding only Boothill too good when last seen in December. Has been bumped up to 145 in that sphere now so comparatively well treated back over hurdles off 138 and drying ground through the week certainly won’t be an issue for this one.
Thriving six-year-old for the champion trainer. Second to Highway One O Two at Ascot on his seasonal return in October before winning a strong event on Cheltenham Trials Day late last month. Runs here under a 5lb penalty (1lb wrong as only due to go up 4lb) and a massive threat to all despite the fact he’ll find this two miles sharp enough if the ground remains on top.
Has evidently started out handicap life on a very low mark (117) and, after wins at Doncaster and Wincanton before the turn of the year, he’s now in at the deep end up in class running off a revised rating of 131. However, he’s looked to win pretty cosily since moving to Emmet Mullins (reduced visibility in fog last time) and no doubt he’s still got further improvement up his sleeve. Has been snapped up by JP McManus since his last run.
Easing in the ratings and he did record his most recent success at this track, but he doesn’t hold too many secrets and looks an each-way contender at best, rather than one for maximum faith.
Has been shaping up into a Betfair Hurdle type for a little while now and finally broke his maiden over obstacles when long odds-on at Lingfield late last month. Carries a 5lb penalty for that. Some rain possibly preferable but a strongly-run two-mile handicap will play to his strengths and he gets in here under a low weight.
Fascinating, lightly-raced grey from a yard with a record of going close in this a few times in the past. He produced a much-improved performance to win in good style on his seasonal return in an Ascot handicap in November but hit hard with a 10lb rise since and would have questions to answer if the ground came up a lot quicker than usual for the time of year.
Twice a winner on good ground earlier in the season but did shape like he might be ready for a step up in trip when beaten seven lengths by smart novice Rare Edition on soft at Kempton on Boxing Day. Introductory mark of 130 but might just be a little run off his feet in a race of this nature.
Son of Frankel for whom it really clicked when powering to a 12-length victory at Doncaster last time out. Manner of that success has resulted in an 11lb rise and he’s up considerably in class here but decent ground is obviously fine and he looks open to more improvement yet.
French Flat recruit who made it third time lucky over hurdles in a maiden at Fontwell in December 2021. Stepped up on comeback effort behind First Street and Teddy Blue here in November to win well at Fontwell on Boxing Day and a 7lb rise not insurmountable. Looks to be sitting on a big run as decent ground shouldn’t be an issue.
Not jumped a hurdle in public since September 2021 and his recent spin on the level around Kempton doesn’t exactly get the pulse racing ahead of his jumping return. Can only be watched in a race as hot as this. Tongue-tied.
Bumper winner who was quite highly tried over hurdles at the start of the season and appreciated a drop in class to win Hereford novice event before following up on handicap debut at Kempton last month. Raised just 6lb for that ultimately quite comfortable win, though the form could have worked out more favourably since. Looks capable of better still but no easy task in this company.
Another novice representing connections of last year’s runner-up I Like To Move It and it would be surprising if he’s shown him very best at this stage of the season. Looked quite promising at the start of the season too but he was very disappointing when beaten at odds-on last time (needed a fourth hurdles outing to qualify for this) and may require more of a stamina test to really shine.
Filey Bay is the obvious starting point and it would be a surprise if he couldn't rate a good bit higher yet following wins at Doncaster and in the fog at Wincanton.
He's not the only one, though, and looks a skinny price on the face of it, with preference for AUCUNRISQUE, who has improved over fences since last running over hurdles and looks well handicapped as a result.
Dan Skelton has already landed some of the major handicap prizes on offer this season and his Faivoir - a previous course winner - is back on a fair mark and shaped with promise on his only start this season when fourth behind No Ordinary Joe at Kempton. He's been called some names in the past but his strike-rate is strong and a big, well-run handicap might just fall his way some day soon. Cheekpieces are back on which suggests this has been the target.
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