Last Year's Winner: North Hill Harvey
- Harry Skelton
- Dan Skelton
- 11st 0lb
- Starting Price:
- Season Form Figures:
- Seasonal debut
- Previous Best:
- 1st - Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham (December 2015)
A handicap it may be but six of the last 15 winners have gone on to start in the first three in the betting for the Champion Hurdle four months later. In fact, three Champion Hurdle winners since 1997 contested this handicap with Celtic Shot and Rooster Booster completing the double whereas Make A Stand made dramatic improvement in the following months having only finished fifth to that season’s Champion Hurdle third, Space Trucker, in the 1996 renewal.
The Greatwood Hurdle has not matched that quality in more recent years but it has been a good race for trends followers and a decent race for punters with five winning favourites in the last 18 years and just four winners were sent off at any bigger than 10/1 since Mr Percy in 1997 and three of those were trained by Paul Nicholls. The second and third favourites fought out last season’s finish with North Hill Harvey defeating the Nicholls-trained Modus.
Rooster Booster and Khyber Kim have proven that real class tells in this handicap regardless of age being the only winners aged over six in the last 21 years as they went on to win and finish second in that season’s Champion Hurdle which demonstrates how hard a task it can be for the more exposed campaigner. Therefore the percentage call has to be ally yourself to a younger campaigner and five-year-olds have much the best record winning ten of the last 19 renewals from approximately one-third representation. Four-year-old hurdlers supplied the 1-2 two years ago after being responsible for the 1-3-4 four years ago so also respect last season’s juvenile crop. Basically, stick to four and five-year-olds.
Eleven of the last 16 winners were officially rated 140+ which is good going given they have been readily outnumbered to tune of approximately 3:1 during that time span.
The top weight has won four of the last 16 runnings and, even when unsuccessful, the best horse heading into the race has finished placed on six occasions in the last 11 years. Eleven of the last 16 winners were officially rated 140+ which is good going given they have been readily outnumbered to tune of approximately 3:1 during that time span, though surprisingly in retrospect, one of those that did not was the race’s classiest-ever winner, Sizing Europe, who was rated 137 at the time of his victory. A point not to be underestimated is that six of the last 13 winners ran at Grade 1 level on their most recent start underlining the class factor again. Last season’s winner, North Hill Harvey, was having his first run since he was fourth behind Buveur D’Air in the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree the previous spring.
No individual race stands out as a strong guide but three of the last 15 winners won at the previous spring’s Cheltenham Festival; Rooster Booster took the County Hurdle, Detroit City the Triumph Hurdle and Menorah entered the race as the reigning Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner. It is also worth bearing in mind that eight of the last 12 winners were handicap debutants over hurdles.
Philip Hobbs likes to aim his best hurdler at this handicap having won it with Rooster Booster, Detroit City and Menorah who all started at no bigger than 9/2 to win the Champion Hurdle later that season but also the respect the Irish having plundered this prize with Accordion Etoile and Sizing Europe in the last 13 years and they sent over the third and fourth two years ago.
All three of Paul Nicholls’s winners were relative surprises and he has also saddled the runner-up twice in the last five years. The Pipe stable won this race on four occasions between 1990-2001 and David then took the honours with Dell’Arca. Also note any Alan King-trained contenders. He may not have won this handicap but five of his last 12 contenders have placed and just three of those 12 runners finished out of the first six, though one of those was last season’s favourite, Winter Escape. Brian Ellison is another name to respect having trained the second, third, fourth and fifth in the last eight years as is Gary Moore who is noted for his big two-mile handicap hurdle record and has saddled a winner and two placed horses in the last decade.
At a glance summary
- Aged four or five
- Handicap debutants
- Contested a Grade 1 race last time out
- Officially rated 140+
- Won at last season’s Cheltenham Festival
- Trained by Philip Hobbs, Paul Nicholls, David Pipe, Alan King, Brian Ellison or Gary Moore
- The favourite
- Officially rated under 130
- Likely to start at a double-figure price (unless trained by Paul Nicholls)