Jumps Season - At The Races

Betfair Hurdle

    Newbury, Saturday 11th February 2017.
  • Stats Guides

Last Year's Winner: Agrapart

Agrapart
Jockey:
Lizzie Kelly (5)
Trainer:
Nick Williams
Age:
5
Weight:
10st 5lb
Starting Price:
16/1
Season Form Figures:
5213
Previous Best:
1st - Novices' Hurdle, Aintree (Dec 2015)

Since Europe’s most valuable handicap hurdle was first established back in 1963 where it took place at Aintree, just three horses have won that were aged older than seven so very much concentrate your thoughts on the up-and-coming brigade.

We have to go back to the second of Geos’s successes in this race in 2004 to find the last winner aged older than six, though the 2006 and 2009 editions were lost due to frost and snow respectively.

Five of the last six winners were novices and three of those had only run three times over timber beforehand. Two of those successful novices were owned by J P McManus and then went on to finish second in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Although not officially a novice in 2012, Zarkandar was having just his fourth start over hurdles when successful at the age of five. The overall performance of five-year-olds since the mid-nineties has been particularly eye-catching being responsible for over just under half of all win-and-place positions (32-56) going back to and including 1995 which is some achievement given they are at a considerable numerical disadvantage and they filled five of the first six places last year after filling five of the first seven places in 2014.

Five of the last six winners were novices and three of those had only run three times over timber beforehand.

The best guide is the two-mile handicap hurdle run at Sandown on the Tingle Creek Chase card which has featured six of the last 19 winners with Make A Stand (another winning novice) and Spirit Leader completing the double. The Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown has also been a notable guide as five of the last 19 winners finished in the first half-dozen in Ireland's most prestigious handicap hurdle.

Another race to keep a close eye on is the two-mile handicap hurdle at Cheltenham two weeks prior to this contest as both Landing Light and Copeland won that contest in successive years just after the turn of the century before following up here and Heathcote was also unplaced in that same Class B 0-145 handicap before he won here 14 days later at 50/1. The Gerry Feilden over the same course and distance almost two months earlier has also been a decent guide of late.

Gary Moore is a dab hand at preparing horses for valuable two-mile handicap hurdles with the Betfred Hurdle likely to be at the top of his hit list. Heathcote (2007), Wingman (2008) and Violet Dancer (2014) have taken this prize in the last decade for the West Sussex-based trainer so his entries deserve the highest respect.

Nicky Henderson remains the main man however, winning this event on five occasions since 1998 and his Punjabi was also runner-up in 2008 despite top weight. With regards to weight, in addition to Punjabi, Rooster Booster also carried top weight into second place but just Persian War has carried over 11st 7lb to victory in the race’s history. All three were Champion Hurdlers which tells us how hard it is to carry a big weight in this race. The two winners successful off 11st 7lb were both trained by Martin Pipe.

As for the quality of a contender’s previous run, only one of the last 16 winners failed to finish in the first five on their most recent outing and, although we have had two shock winners 50/1 and 33/1 in the not-so-distant past, it has generally paid to look to the fancied horses as nine of the last 15 winners could be found in the top five in the betting.

At a glance summary

Positives
Five-year-olds
Novices
Contested the two-mile handicap hurdle at Sandown on Tingle Creek Chase day
Contested the two-mile handicap hurdle at Cheltenham two weeks earlier
A top-six finish in the Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown
Trained by Nicky Henderson or Gary Moore
Negatives
Aged 7+
Carrying over 11st 7lb
Unplaced last time out

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