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bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle (Grade Two) Class One
The 3m Bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle can be a key indicator race for the major long distance hurdle races throughout the season. Three previous winners of this race lined up in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in their next run (one of the three won, two placed) while four winners were later seen in the Sun Bets’ Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham in March of the following year (one of the four won, none placed). Past results suggest that previous hurdle form is key. Ten previous victors of this race had already won three times over the smaller obstacles. Paul Nicholls and Nigel Twiston-Davies both have good records in this race, Nicholls has been victorious on three occasions, whilst Twiston-Davies has picked up the prize on two occasions. Below is our expert preview for the 2017 Bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle.
Due to his previous good form in this race, it seems only natural that we start with Paul Nicholls’ Silsol. The German gelding looks set to return from injury at the scene of his victory from 12 months ago, but only if the ground is soft.
Since his win at this course, the seven-year-old has been off the track, meaning he would be unraced for a year, should he take his place in this race. On his last outing, Silsol found himself engaged in a battle with Hennessy Gold Cup winner, Native River, and Ryan Hatch’s charge Ballyoptic. The latter mentioned horse, Ballyoptic, looked to be travelling the best of the three, responding to urges from his jockey. However, the final fence brought the race to an end, bringing him and jockey to the ground. Jack Sherwood, Silsol’s jockey, was strong at the finish, continuing his good strike rate with the horse, driving him clear of Native River by 2 ¾ lengths.
After the race, Sherwood described him as “my favourite horse”. Nicholls stated “now we won’t even consider going back over fences – we’ll just stay in those sort of long-distance hurdles”. After his victory, Silsol earned quotes of 25/1 in places for the 2017 Sun Bets’ Stayers Hurdle. As mentioned above, his injury prevented him from making that race. However, an injury free season, starting with a good run in this race, could see things turn out differently this year.
Another trainer with a good record in this race is Nigel Twiston-Davies. At the time of writing, he has three possible avenues into this contest. Twiston-Davies has suggested that Calett Mad, The New One and Wholestone could all target the race. However, it would be surprising to see all three line up.
Former National Hunt Challenge Cup challenger, Calett Mad, would be a surprise addition to this long distance hurdle. More known for racing over the larger obstacles, the five-year-old could ply his trade over hurdles this year, due to his lofty handicap mark over chase fences. Previously touted as a future Grand National horse, he clearly has the staying attributes for this race. However, stat backers will be worried by the fact that he has never won over hurdles. He was last seen at Ayr, when second in a Novices’ Chase.
Held-up out the back for most of the race, he started to make steady progress through the field and found himself with his head in-front after the second last. A bold leap at the last fence seemed to put the race to bed. However, strong travelling Label Des Obeaux managed to get up in the final strides to deny the Daryl Jacob ridden gelding. He was impressive that day, coasting by his rivals with ease. Tackling hurdles, with smaller obstacles in his way, may be the perfect route – for now at least.
Twice Grade 1 winner, The New One, could return to action in this Grade 2 contest before embarking on a season in the chasing division. The multiple Champion Hurdle challenger is at home over the smaller obstacles. However, he has never been tested at distance. The closest he has ever raced at a distance similar to this was last time out at Sandown.
In the 2m5f contest, he travelled well from the front, before quickly fading at the second last. A step up in trip doesn’t seem to be the obvious answer. However, this could just be a tune up race for what is ahead. It’s not certain that the King’s Theatre gelding will take his place in this race, with the Kempton Hurdle has also suggested as a possible first run of the season. Either way, it will be interesting to see what lies ahead for him this season.
With a match-up unlikely, Twiston-Davies’ plans for The New One could all hinge on where he decides to send 2017 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle third, Wholestone. The staying division is nothing new to the six-year-old, with two of his wins last year coming over the 3m trip. Twiston-Davies has suggested that if Wholestone can compete in the long distance hurdle division, he may stay there. If not, novice chasing could lie ahead. He looked to be in with a good chance of landing the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle as he travelled strongly around the bend. However, his run started to fade as he battled up the hill with Monalee and eventual winner, Penhill. It will be interesting to see the route that connections take with this horse. His first run should clear things up.
Taquin De Seuil looks set to embark on a season geared towards a crack at the 2018 Sun Bets’ Stayers Hurdle. Described by his trainer, Jonjo O’Neil, as “not well handicapped over fences”. The ten-year-old impressed when switched back to hurdles in his last two races of the season. On his penultimate start, his staying ability was highlighted as he powered on gamely up the Cheltenham Hill. On that occasion, he found one too strong in the Jessica Harrington-trained Supasundae. The rivals’ paths were soon to cross again, in the Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree. On their second meeting, the son of Voix Du Nord stayed on into fourth place, as Supasundae was narrowly beaten by Yanworth. The Sun Bets’ Stayers Hurdle has never been won by a horse older than nine, so stat backers wouldn’t fancy Taquin De Seuil. However, a win in this race would be a statement of intent.