Charlie McCann looks ahead to Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle
Twenty horses were entered for The Betfair Hurdle at Newbury at the five-day stage earlier in the week although the antepost market leader Sutton Place was a notable absentee. Trainer Gordon Elliot did advise At The Races viewers at Punchestown on Sunday their recent Naas winner was not a confirmed runner and he is one that connections feel could go to the very top over fences in time.
The two-mile handicap hurdle is one of the big betting races of the jumps season and is invariably won by a progressive young hurdler often representing one of the top yards. At the time of writing BetVictor are betting 5/1 co-favourites of three with the JP McManus owned pair Movewiththetimes and Consul de Thaix vying for favouritism with last year’s Champion Bumper winner Ballyandy.
Movewiththetimes who has won two of three career starts over timber is trained by Paul Nicholls whose string bounced back to form with a bang over the weekend with five winners at Musselburgh.
The son of Presenting didn’t have the best of passages when beaten at Cheltenham in a Grade 2 on his penultimate start, but he certainly didn’t disgrace himself on ground likely to have been softer than ideal. It should be noted that the 6-year-old has a similar profile to the owner’s previous winners of this prestigious and valuable handicap Get Me Out of Here (in 2010 off a handicap mark of 135) and My Tent Or Yours (in 2013 from a mark of 149). Movewiththetimes can race from a mark of 136 at Newbury.
Nicky Henderson has saddled the winner of this event five-times in his illustrious career and he has two entries’ including Consul de Thaix who has been raised 5lbs for finishing runner up behind stablemate and Champion Hurdle contender Brain Power at Ascot in December. The French import will jump a fence in time and may need further than the minimum trip to be seen at his most effective; he is overlooked on this occasion.
Ballyandy is still a maiden over timber but has experience of big fields having won the 23-runner Champion Bumper at Cheltenham back in March and is the each way recommendation for Nigel-Twiston-Davies.
The selection was beaten less than a length when runner up to subsequent Grade 1 winner Messire Des Obeaux (giving 7lbs) at Sandown last time when he looked a non-stayer over that two-and-a-half-mile trip on soft ground.
At the time it looked a disappointing effort given he had previously looked to be crying out for a step up in trip when beaten by leading Supreme Novices’ Hurdle candidate Moon Racer at both Perth and Cheltenham over the minimum trip. He has a bit to find with Movewiththetimes on his Cheltenham run but that was a slowly-run affair and the hope is that there is a proper gallop at the Berkshire track this weekend. Ballyandy cruised into contention between the last two at Sandown only to lose out by half a length and the hope is that a true test at two miles will see him in a better light at Newbury.
The hope is that Sam Twiston-Davies, who has ridden the horse in seven of his nine career starts, is available to ride for his father given his retained yard (Paul Nicholls) only have Movewiththetimes (Barry Geraghty) and Zubayr entered with the latter likely to be partnered by Nick Schofield.
Twiston-Davies (Sam) knows the horse inside out and back to front and there is every possibility that Ballyandy is much better than his current mark of 135. The selection liked to race prominently in his successful bumper career and I would be surprised if Ballyandy wasn’t in the van or just behind at Newbury given his style of running.
The Twiston-Davies stable won the corresponding event with Splash Of Ginge back in 2014 and I would be very disappointed if the selection didn’t make a bold show. It is true that the Champion Bumper field of 2016 were hardly a vintage crop, with runner up Battleford the latest to disappoint at Thurles last month, but at 5/1 with BetVictor I would be surprised if the six-year-old was out of the frame (first four) and it is Ballyandy for Betfair glory for me.