Race Time: 1.50pm Meeting: Newbury Day: Saturday 28th November Full Race Name: bet365 Handicap Hurdle Class Two
An intriguing race to start the day as a decent field seem set to assemble over this unusual two and a quarter mile trip including a few chasers dropping back to the smaller obstacles. Nicky Henderson provides us with one of those as he sends Ma Filleule here looking for her first victory since April 2014 when she won the Topham Chase Handicap at Aintree. She has had a run this season which may yet be relevant, with a sixth of eight to Blue Buttons in a Listed race at Wetherby over a totally inadequate two miles, and she could run a big race here even if she seems sure to be better suited by further for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, trainer Paul Nicholls won this race last year with the classy Silsol and we are rather hoping that he relies on Ibis Du Rheu this season out of his two early entries. Rated 131 he looks just the sort to improve with age after just the four career starts including the first two in France after which he was moved to Ditcheat for his new connections. Clearly he must have been showing plenty at home for them to throw him in at the deep end for his British debut at Cheltenham when last of six to Peace And Co (who went on to win the Triumph hurdle) before finishing fourth of six to Fox Norton (won twice over fences since), and off a rating two pounds higher than he has today. They obviously think he is a fair bit better than we have seen so far, and at the weights he must surely have every chance of success.
Somerset trainer David Pipe may not be in among the winners as often as he would like lately but is still ticking along quite nicely, and he sends Heath Hunter her who used to be thought of as a potential Champion. Four wins in his first five races marked him down as well above average but he went off the boil after that (or the handicapper had him in his grasp), with some below par efforts with the exception of a win at Ffos Las on heavy ground and some decent enough pales that ensured his ratings remained on the high side. He has had a run this year when well beaten over fences but returns to the smaller obstacles today and could be a force to reckon with at his best – but we cannot be certain he can repeat that any more.
Only one horse declared scored last time out in the current season, and that honour belongs to the Venetia Williams trained Dubawi Island who took a Class Three handicap over further at Ludlow at the beginning of the month. Rated 128 that day, he ran on strongly to beat Here’s Herbie by three lengths, but therein lies the issue – will he be as effective dropped back three furlongs. If enough front runners stand their ground there could yet be a furious early pace which would play in to his stamina laden hands, but we suspect it would be more likely that he runs on through beaten horses, and all we have to do come race day is calculate if we think that will get him in to the frame, or not.
To round things off, Harry Fry has hit top form of late and he will run Sir Ivan here looking for yet another success. A first time hood is fitted, presumably to help him to concentrate, and if that works he could well improve a few pounds which would leave him potentially ahead of the handicapper, even if his running on third at Wetherby suggests this trip could be on the short side for him.