The Betfair (Handicap) Hurdle is the big handicap race on what has been named “Betfair Super Saturday” at Newbury. What a card to enjoy with Gold Cup aspirants lining up in the Grade 2 Denman Chase as well as reigning Champion Chaser Sire de Grugy aiming to book his ticket back to defend his Queen Mother Champion Chase Crown in the Grade 2 “Game Spirit” chase. However, there is no doubt whatsoever that the 155k Betfair Hurdle is the most competitive race on offer and a big challenge for punters to “nail the winner”!
Calipto and Activial head the market as the only two priced shorter than 10/1. The market is saying that both have much better chances of bagging this prize compared to the rest. I understand the logic in that Calipto competed in Grade 1 races as a juvenile and could be leniently treated off 143 on his handicap debut. Paul Nicholls has given Calipto a break since running last October at Cheltenham with a spring campaign in mind. He arrives here off a similar racing programme to Zarkandar who duly won this race back in 2012 carrying the same colours as Calipto. He’s priced too short, more on potential and the recent Saturday record of trainer Paul Nicholls with questions to answer regarding his toughness in the heat of battle.
I much prefer Activial and marked him down for this race having watched him finish fourth to Bayan in the Ladbroke hurdle back in December. On that occasion race fitness, a slight stumble over the second last and running a bit too free prevented him from winning “the Ladbroke”. The handicapper has raised Activial 6lbs to 143 but that may not be enough to prevent this proven soft ground performer from winning. He’s a big player and with some bookies paying out on the first five home looks a good each way bet to nothing at 7/1. This race is just his fifth hurdle start and he is progressing and on an upward curve having just turned five years old. Activial with regular rider Noel Fehily on top is our banker bet in the race where well fancied runners have a great record.
The major bookmaker chains are paying out on the first five home with a field of 22 runners declared. We love the “5 places” bookie concession here at Bet Alchemist and it gives us a chance to take a chance on a much bigger priced runner. Having taken a long look through the form book the final shortlist comprised of On Tour, Violet Dancer, Amore Alato, Swing Bowler & Bordini.
On Tour is very interesting dropping back in trip especially considering he travels so easily during his races. The fast pace on soft tacky ground will suit him perfectly as the winner will need stamina and plenty of it to win. However, at 14/1 and arriving from a hit and miss Evan Williams yard he’s left out. Violet Dancer is a former flat horse and an out and out two miler who will struggle to last the trip on soft or worse ground.
Swing Bowler finished fast for fifth last year off a 1lb higher mark. She has a good chance of placing but would have been a bet if David Pipe had put up a good claiming jockey to lessen the load. Bordoni is returning from a winter break and similar to Violet Dancer would prefer better ground. We will pass on him but keep him in mind for later in the season.
And so we are left with Amore Alato who can give Lizzie Kelly another big Saturday winner. Lizzie is great value for her 7lb claim with proven ability to handle the big occasion as seen when she won the “fixed brush” hurdle riding Aubusson. She has won 7 of the 21 hurdles races contested this season, an impressive strike rate of 33%. But of course you cannot win without the horse and I was very impressed with Amore Alato on his seasonal debut just failing to hold off Snake Eyes at Sandown. Yes, Snake Eyes let the form down subsequently in the Boylesports hurdle at Leopardstown but I am prepared to leave that go as Snake Eyes not running his race.
Of course, Amore Alato did fail to win under champion jockey McCoy at Sandown in early January and that is a concern. As a consistent performer he ran a lifeless race that day and may have had some bug or other. Yes, the questions to be answered mounting but I have tracked this horse since he won at Kempton over Christmas 2013 beating Fascino Rustico and Sgt Reckless on the day. The key is Amore Alato is a galloper and to show his best needs to race prominently and run the speed out of the faster horses. Lizzie Kelly excels riding that sort of race and her 7lb claim allows Amore Alato to complete off 133 today. At a big price and with 5 places on offer Amore Alato should give us a big run and something to shout at!
Selection A – 1 Point *EW Activial Newbury 15:35 8/1 Boylesports, William Hill & Betfair Sportsbook all paying 5 places
Selection B – 1 Point *EW Amore Alato Newbury 15:35 28/1 Betvictor else 25/1 generally use bookie paying 5 places
Compare odds available on race at http://www.oddschecker.com/horse-racing/newbury/15:35/winner
Best of luck,