Friday, February 09, 2024

The 2024 Betfair Hurdle

Twenty four are set to line up for tomorrow's Betfair Hurdle (3.15 Newbury) with the going currently described as heavy, soft in places; the Racing Post reports the track has taken 44.2mm of rain since Tuesday.

The quality of this year's renewal appears below par; the lowest official handicap rating of the past ten winners is 132 (Violet Dancer, 2015) who carried 10-09.

Runners with form on heavy ground include Ocastle Des Mottes, Iberico Lord, Spirit D'Aunou, Aurigny Mill, L'Eau Du Sud, Norman Fletcher, Knickerbockerglory, Faivoir, and Jilaijone.

Of those towards the top of the handicap Spirit D'Aunou hails from the yard that won this with Heathcote (2007), Wingman (2008) and Violet Dancer (2015); Caoilin Quinn can claim three.

Lookaway likes to race from the front and has been consistent all season - he finished second to Captain Teague over two and a half miles in the Challow last time while Under Control ran well following wind surgery to finish second behind Ashroe Diamond in the Yorkshire Rose Mares' Hurdle at Doncaster a fortnight ago.  

However they all appear to face a stiff task given underfoot conditions; in the past ten years 11-08 is the biggest burden carried to victory - by Al Dancer in 2019 and Glory And Fortune in 2022.

The Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November and the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot in December provide two key pieces of form.

Iberico Lord beat Lookaway in the Greatwood with Luccia third, Go Dante sixth, Knickerbockerglory seventh while L'Eau Du Sud pulled up and Onlyamatteroftime ran out four from home.

Five weeks later Luccia won at Ascot, reversing form with stablemate Iberico Lord (seventh), with Altobelli third, Moveit Like Minnie fourth,  Onlyamatteroftime sixth and Faivoir eighth. Unusually, the going at Ascot that day was good; Iberico Lord looked outpaced around the home turn and was eventually beaten just under eight lengths. 

After the race Nico De Boinville reported the gelding had stopped quickly but Nico is back in the plate tomorrow while riding arrangements for the other Henderson runners are as follows: James Bowen aboard Doddiethegreat; David Bass on Luccia; and Jonjo O'Neill Jr on Under Control.

Both Iberico Lord and Altobelli should appreciate the ground, a fact that has not escaped the bookmakers. The manner in which Iberico Lord stopped last time remains a concern.

Ocastle Des Mottes heads the market at the time of writing and is one of three Willie Mullins has sent across the Irish Sea. 

Having his first run for new connections the gelding should have no problem with heavy ground having won a four-year-old listed handicap hurdle at Compeigne last April and a four-year-old hurdle at Auteuil in June. With Warwick abandoned due to a waterlogged track, Daryl Jacob comes to Newbury to ride for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. 

The French form may not be easy to evaluate but he goes off 133, six pounds lower than his Irish mark - much to the annoyance of Nicky Henderson. His current price represents no value.

Arbitrarily, I've put some effort into those set to carry between 11-00 and 11-08.

Connections fit cheekpieces for the first time on Brentford Hope. 

This course and distance winner, rated 100 on the Flat, finished a two length third to Hansard in the Gerry Feilden (Our Champ fifth, Under Control last to complete). He'd have a better chance with better ground.

Go Dante beat Doddiethegreat at Cheltenham last time (Donnacha dead-heat third) but looks held on Greatwood form; the last horse older than seven to come home in front was Geos in 2004.

Harry Skelton rides L'Eau Du Sud for brother Dan. 

This one was pulled up in the Greatwood when last seen but was subsequently found to be suffering from ulcers. He's now three pounds lower than on British debut in 2022 and probably overpriced at 20/1.

Kamsinas beat Lookaway in a novice hurdle at Cheltenham in October; Fergal O'Brien's charge is weighted to reverse the form but the suspicion is the gelding prefers decent ground.

Altobelli brings strong handicap form to the table and appears feasibly handicapped.

Novices have a good record in the race and I've heard a few whispers for Norman Fletcher at a price as he clearly handles heavy ground; trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies won this race with Splash Of Ginge (2014), Ballyandy (2017) and Al Dancer (2019). 

I've watched a few replays - his hurdling has improved but, to my mind, it's still a work in progress and that puts me off. Last time out he was beaten by Bertie's Ballet at Haydock and that one finished eight and a half lengths second to Panjari at Musselburgh in the Scottish Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Musselburgh on Sunday.

I was impressed with the turn of foot Aurigny Mill showed when winning at Kempton last time - and so was the handicapper who raised him nine pounds. The worry is that, to date, Victor Dartnall's charge has raced exclusively on right-handed tracks.

To summarise...

The chances of Altobelli and Iberico Lord are respected in a race where Ocastle Des Mottes is a potential blot on the handicap.

L'Eau Du Sud is an outsider of some interest but I'm going to take a chance with Aurigny Mill. I'm hoping he can keep tabs on the leaders and then show a turn of foot racing on a left-handed track for the first time.

Aurigny Mill is the each-way suggestion, 14/1 generally at the time of writing, with both Sky and William Hill paying seven places. 


TW said...


Iberico Lord is the system's idea of the most likely winner and every chance he'll put that below par Ascot effort behind him back on testing ground, 13/2 too short for me though.

Aurginy Mill ticks all the boxes and it would be nice to see Victor Dartnall and Alan Johns scoop a big Saturday pot, I was tempted but he needs to prove he can cope with the step up in class.

My dart has landed in Knickerbockerglory. A mark of 137 may be beyond him and 8yo+ do not have a great record in a race suited to improvers. Negatives aside, he is likely to be suited by conditions, looks to need a break between races so 83 day absence can be seen as a plus, just looked big at 22/1 7 places 1/5 odds.

Good luck


GeeDee said...

Thanks for providing your ratings, TW; I'm pleasantly surprised to see Aurigny Mill right up there.

The Skeletons have certainly pulled off coups in handicaps of this nature in the past; both their runners appear to have gone under the radar here.

Good luck!

GeeDee said...

Editorial correction:

The Skeltons - rather than The Skeletons... :)

TW said...

Dan is anything but skeletonesque!

TW said...

To summarise...The chances of Altobelli and Iberico Lord are respected in a race where Ocastle Des Mottes is a potential blot on the handicap. L'Eau Du Sud is an outsider of some interest but I'm going to take a chance with Aurigny Mill.

Putting the hours in studying the race yield some positive notes and and on another day maybe you would have put up L'Eau Du Sud :-|


GeeDee said...

Your top-rated Iberico Lord wins with something in hand, TW, and place money won with Knickerbockerglory in sixth.

Well done!

GeeDee said...

A competitive handicap on paper quickly became a two horse race after the penultimate flight as L'Eau Du Sud went on but was collared by 11/2 chance Iberico Lord on the long run-in.

That was some ride by Nico De Boinville who was nearer last than first in the early stages but appeared to cross the line with something up his sleeve.

Go Dante (14/1) claimed third ahead of Doddiethegreat (18/1) while Miss Heidi Palin had a great spin aboard Faivoir (50/1) in fifth.

Knickerbockerglory (22/1) finished sixth, just over ten lengths behind the winner; Dan Skelton's three entries finished second, fifth and sixth.

Selection Aurigny Mill (22/1) raced in midfield but came under pressure rounding the home turn and was unable to respond; he was the last to complete, some 68 lengths behind the impressive winner.

GeeDee said...


The recorded SP for L'Eau Du Sud was 28/1.