Betfair Hurdle preview, plus three to follow on another big Saturday of racing
Another outstanding renewal of what is usually one of the season’s most competitive handicaps, and a glance through the field suggests very few of this year’s contenders can be completely ruled out.
Horses from the Emmet Mullins stable always have to be respected in races like this, so it’s no surprise to see his unexposed hurdler Filey Bay heading the market. He certainly has the right profile for a race of this nature, but whether the balance of his form entitles him to be quite so short is certainly up for debate.
Rubaud and Icare Allen are next in the market, and both have obvious claims for their powerful stables, but Paul Nicholls’ supposed second-string Hacker Des Places could be the one to concentrate on. There’s no telling where his ceiling might lie after a career-best effort at Cheltenham a fortnight ago, and a 5lb penalty here shouldn’t be enough to prevent another big run.
There has been plenty of money for Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Master Chewy in the days leading up to the race, and with his yard winning 3 of the last 9 renewals, he’s another who’s entitled to maximum respect. Master Chewy looks every inch a chaser for the future, but he certainly looks capable of get involved from the foot of the weights.
In the hunt for some each-way value among some of the bigger priced contenders, the progressive Deere Mark could put up a bold showing from down the bottom of the weights. Sam Thomas’ six-year-old just managed to qualify for this race with an impressive victory at Kempton last month, and while this clearly demands more, it would be no surprise were he to turn out much better than a mark of 125.
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Three to follow from Newbury, Uttoxeter and Warwick
Newbury 14:25 – Hitman
Although he comes with risks attached after being pulled-up in the King George on Boxing Day, there’s enough in his favour to suggest Hitman can bounce back in Saturday’s Denman Chase at Newbury.
While the majority of his wins have come on soft ground, some of his best runs have actually come in defeat on better ground, so providing the dry forecast materialises, conditions should be perfect for Paul Nicholls’ seven-year-old.
Eldorado Allen is a quality performer on his day, but giving 6lb to his market rivals won’t be easy, and with Fanion D’estruval finding winning difficult of late, Hitman looks the most likely winner for a yard with an excellent record in this race.
Uttoxeter 14:45 – Mister Coffey
Although a somewhat frustrating performer, Nicky Henderson’s Mister Coffey has always shown plenty of ability. He was a good second on Welsh National day at Chepstow when returning from an absence, so off an unchanged mark, he could be ready to strike.
The booking of top Irish amateur Derek O’Connor catches the eye, and points to a tilt at the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham. If he’s going to be a serious contender at the festival, then he’ll want to be winning a race like this off a mark of 140.
Warwick 15:48 – Bubble Dubi
While Bubble Dubi is still a maiden after five starts under rules, his form behind some smart types suggests he’ll be winning races before too long.
Stuart Edmund’s six-year-old wasn’t beaten far by the smart Rare Edition in a Southwell bumper, and followed that up with a respectable effort behind subsequent Grade 1 winner Tahmuras on his hurdles debut at Chepstow in November.
Bubble Dubi hasn’t quite finished off his races as expected so far, but with a likely strong pace to aim at here, he could prove very well treated off an opening mark of 113.
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