The Betfair Hurdle is one of the most exciting and well contested two mile handicap hurdles of the year and there are a few trends which can help us begin to form our idea of the winner as the race approaches. The race was won last year by the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Ballyandy and this year’s renewal looks to be every bit as competitive, read on for the trends and statistics which we feel are key.
There are a couple of horses which fit the trends for this year’s renewal but one that jumps off the page is Lough Derg Spirit. He is a six year old who is rated 138 and trained by Nicky Henderson, he was last seen when finishing second in the elite hurdle to the late London Prize and looks to have been laid out for this race by the champion trainer. The only trainer to have a winner rated below 134 in this race in recent times is Gary Moore, he has Maquisard here who doesn’t fit most of these trends other than the fact he carries a featherweight and runs for a respected stable, but he may be one to keep an eye on at an absolutely massive price.
As mentioned earlier, this race was won last year by Nigel Twiston-Davies but he is not back to defend his crown as he doesn’t have an entry at this stage. Nicky Henderson is mob handed however and looks to have five live chances of winning this great race for the sixth time, Jenkins has looked a reformed character since the application of headgear and is officially well in running under a penalty so must be respected under leading claimer James Bowen despite top weight. Verdana Blue is headed to the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham so will need a big performance if she is going to be anywhere near the principals in March and Lough Derg Spirit certainly has the right type of profile. Kayf Grace is a very progressive looking mare who has been aimed at this and comes here off the back off an impressive display so has to be feared while Charli Parcs has been a talking horse for a long time and could make a mark of 145 look lenient if putting it all together on the track.
Gary Moore has an interesting enough contender in Marquisard at the bottom of the weights but his best chance to win the race probably comes in the form of Knocknanuss. He has a nice weight of 10st 13lbs and was last seen a handicap with any amount in hand, he is up eleven pounds for that success but that puts him well in the center of the weights here and looks to have been the plan for a while, he is one to consider.
The last Irish trained winner of this race was back in 2005 when Essex took home the spoils for Michael O’Brien and Barry Geraghty, their challenge certainly isn’t overwhelming this year but Willie Mullins looks to win this for the first time with the JP McManus owned Bleu Et Rouge. He has a fair weight to shoulder but comes here off the back of a solid fourth to the handicap blot Hunter’s Call and that looked to be a prep for this, Mullins is operating at a 22% strike rate over the last two weeks which is encouraging and this seven year old looks to have a decent chance of placing at the very least.
The death of Richard Woollacott was a real tragedy and no one at Newbury on Saturday, no matter who they had backed, would be upset if his wife Kayley were to find herself in the winner’s enclosure with Lalor. He looks to have more than just a sentimental chance too, he was an impressive winner of a Grade 2 bumper at Aintree last season and has yet to be out of the frame over hurdles in three attempts including in a very hot looking contest at Cheltenham last time. A rating of 137 doesn’t look particularly harsh and the excellent Daryl Jacob gets the leg up, he has been towards to head of the antepost market for a while and could well do the business.
Donald McCain has been having the season of his life and that has not slowed down in the last two weeks, he is operating at a 30% strike rate and looks to have a proper chance with his novice Waterlord. He doesn’t tick all the boxes on the trends front but looks fairly handicapped of 135 and his trainer was adamant that he would be seen in a better light having been beaten in horrendous underfoot conditions at Haydock last time, he has been well backed in the last day or two and is definitely one to keep an eye on if the ground isn’t too bad.