Friday, February 09, 2018

Newbury's Betfair Hurdle 2018

Native River, third in last year's Gold Cup, makes his seasonal debut in the Denman Chase at 2.25 and the current two mile champion Altior makes his seasonal debut in the Game Spirit Chase at 3.00 but both headline horses face just two opponents in their respective races.

In marked contrast 24 have been declared for the Betfair Hurdle at 3.35; Nicholas Godfrey penned a short history of Britain's richest handicap hurdle in last Sunday's Racing Post.

The going at Newbury is currently described as soft and the frost covers are in place.

In the last twenty years Nicky Henderson has won this five times (Sharpical 1998; Geos 2000; Landing Light 2001; Geos 2004 and My Tent Or Yours 2013) and Gary Moore three times (Heathcote 2007; Wingman 2008 and Violet Dancer 2015).

Tomorrow Henderson's five entries include two mares, Kayf Grace and Verdana Blue, while in the Weekender Gary Moore says of his runner Knocknanuss:

'He now goes for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and he definitely has the right profile for the race. This isn't a race for horses with big weights unless they're a future Champion Hurdle winner or something like that and, although he's gone up 11lb, he's still at the right end of the handicap and is going the right way.'

Trends over the past decade point to a five or six-year-old carrying no more than 11-2.

Earlier in the week I quite liked the chance of Magic Dancer at a price but Kerry Lee's charge failed to make the cut.

In compiling this brief preview I've concentrated primarily on the form of three races - the listed William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Ascot (04.11.17); the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham (19.11.17) and the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle at Ascot (23.12.17). A snippet in the Weekender points out the last-named race, better known as the Ladbroke, has never provided the winner.

The Alan King trained Elgin gives a key form line between the three races. He won the William Hill at Ascot off a mark of 140 (High Bridge third, Verdana Blue fifth) and the Greatwood off 145 (Misterton second, William H Bonney fifth, Nietzsche sixth, Jenkins seventh and Project Bluebook eighth) before finishing sixth behind Hunters Call in the Ladbroke (Silver Streak second, Verdana Blue third, Bleu Et Rouge fourth, Nietzsche tenth, Charli Parcs eleventh and Divin Bere fourteenth).

Elgin is now being aimed at Wincanton's Kingwell Hurdle next week but the handler still rates the chance of William H Bonney who looked the Greatwood winner two out but didn't get home. The horse ran a similar sort of race in the Imperial Cup at Sandown last March; Alan King states:

'...I hope we've done things right this time and I still think he can win a big one.'

For those interested, 28/1 is the current price.

Two have caught my eye.

The Harry Fry trained Misterton carries his fair share of weight - he was raised five for that run in the Greatwood - but he likes to race prominently which I think could be an advantage and he has finished either first or second in eight of his ten races to date.

At around double the price Nietzsche, third in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham last March (Divin Bere second, Project Bluebook fourth), has the right profile and looks entitled to finish closer to Misterton than he did in the Greatwood.

That day, much like William H Bonney, he was bang there two out but fell away as they raced up the hill. He has been placed in seven of his nine starts over hurdles and I think he holds place prospects here.

From a philosophical perspective 40/1 Nietzsche looks better value than 20/1 Misterton.

In a wide open event Nietzsche is the each-way suggestion with Betfair amongst those layers offering one fifth the odds six places.


Anonymous said...

10/1 the field suggests a wide-open renewal of the Betfair Hurdle.

My system output suggests Irish Roe deserves his place at the top of the market but that odds of 10/1 are probably a bit short.

The system has again rated Divin Bere much higher than his current BHA rating (156 v 144) and at odds of 40/1 (6 places 1/5 odds) I feel the need to try and recoup earlier losses (see 23-Dec-2017).

Paul Nicholls has not quite got my faith:
“It's good to have Divin Bere back at Ditcheat though he was a bit too keen on his return to action at Ascot in December before tiring late on. While he has come on for that run, and is in good form at home, I'm concerned that his current mark of 144 is a shade too high for him to be competitive in a seriously tough handicap like this.”

"He'll probably struggle a bit on the ground but I wanted to get him out and race ready for the spring. Those races on better ground may just play to his strengths a bit more and he was very good at Cheltenham and Aintree last year."

Those quotes sound like today might not be the day for Divin Bere. He is closely matched with Nietzsche on Fred Winter form [probably not the best renewal] but appears to have a bit more scope. The trainer’s suggestion that the ground will be against him might be right, but he ran well in France in much deeper ground and whilst he appears to cruise through his races he might just lack a turn of foot at the business end on better ground and today’s going might blunt a few of the faster finishers. I’ll forgive him his below par seasonal debut and give him another chance today.

Good luck


Anonymous said...

Betfair Hurdle (Handicap) (Grade 3) (Class 1) (4yo+)

Free Timeform race so I've included their ratings:

Timeform Rtg,TW RTG,Horse,% WC
160,167,IRISH ROE(IRE),11
157,169,DIVIN BERE(FR),9.73
155,162,POPPY KAY(GB),4.61
156,162,VERDANA BLUE(IRE),4.54
156,159,HIGH BRIDGE(GB),3.86
152p,161,KAYF GRACE(GB),3.85
156p,162,SILVER STREAK(IRE),2.9
156,161,COEUR BLIMEY(IRE),2.55
156+,155,MOON RACER(IRE),2.05
157,160,WILLIAM H BONNEY(GB),2.04
157,162,BLEU ET ROUGE(FR),2.03
157,161,CHARLI PARCS(FR),1.88


GeeDee said...

Thanks for your comments and ratings, TW. Looks wide open... ;)

Anonymous said...

Nietzsche ran best of the three that filled the minor honours in the 2017 Fred Winter but this was another dent in the form of that race.

I should have heeded Mr Nicholls advice regarding the going and Divin Bere who never got in it, was tailed off and eventually pulled up.


GeeDee said...

Agreed, TW. As you said, it didn't look the best Fred Winter last year - I fancied Dolos on the back of some comments Sam Twiston Davies made. Winner Flying Tiger has form behind London Prize, Buveur D'Air and Irish Roe this season but, all in all, it doesn't convince.

GeeDee said...

Nietzsche's fifteenth in the Betfair Hurdle, beaten over 45 lengths, left punters and philosophers alike with a sensation of Weltschmerz. James Best replaced Danny Cook on the selection who was sent off at odds of 33/1.

Held up at the back, he made some limited headway up the home straight but finished well-beaten on ground which was described as soft but looked desperate.

Coming from a midfield position Kalashinkov (8/1 jf)rifled past his opponents three out to beat Bleu Et Rouge (10/1) four and a half lengths, with Spiritofthegames (20/1) third, Coeur Blimey (14/1) fourth, Remulic (33/1) fifth and Lough Derg Spirit (20/1) sixth.