Stellar Season To Continue For Nicholls On Saturday
Having enjoyed a stellar season to date, trainer Paul Nicholls is now gunning for another big prize at Newbury on Saturday via the Betfair Hurdle, where he aims current 5/1 favourite, Calipto.
A dual winner over C&D last winter, prior to an unlucky fourth in the Triumph Hurdle, this 5yo reappeared with a creditable 1/2l defeat behind Tiger Roll in October, but has since had a breathing operation.
Reportedly flying at home, Nicholls is expecting a big run on Saturday, and punters have already taken note.
Calipto also beat another of Saturday’s main rivals, Activial (7/1), over 3l in one of those aforementioned C&D wins last winter, and the pair will resume rivalry off identical terms. Actival showed his wellbeing with a 2l third in the highly competitive Ladbroke at Ascot prior to Christmas (2m, good to soft), although a 6lb higher mark doesn’t make things easier.
With four of the last seven Betfair Hurdle winners having returned at 50/1, 33/1, 14/1 and 12/1, there is plenty of value around, including the likes of Fascino Rustico (12/1).
Dan Skelton’s 7yo is 2-2 in novices this season and deserves to take his chance, as does fellow 12/1 chance, Sign Of A Victory, although Nicky Henderson’s top-weight will have to defy recent history if lumping that sort of weight to victory…
Of the last 10 Betfair Hurdle winners…
9 carried 9st2lb or lighter
9 had five handicap hurdle runs or less
9 had a maximum of one handicap hurdle win
8 were 5-6yo’s
8 won during their last three runs
N Henderson and G Moore both won it twice
Henderson has several entered, including his 5yo, Dawalan (16/1), and the 6yo, Vasco Du Ronceray (25/1), who both arrive having won last time out, though respective weights of 11st10lb and 11st6lb means they will need to improve if successful.
One with a kinder weight is David Pipe’s 8yo, Balgarry (12/1), who has 11st, and showed via a 3l second in a decent Sandown handicap last month that he has the form to be involved, while Harry Fry’s 6yo, Jolly’s Cracked It (14/1), recorded a career best when runner-up in a Grade 1 last month (beaten 14l). Having won his previous two hurdle races, Jolly’s Cracked It has a good profile for this event.
But what of that man, Willie Mullins?…who once again raided British shores to land a big prize last weekend. Mullins has several entered via Lucky Bridle (16/1), Daneking (16/1) and Wicklow Brave (20/1), and it will be interesting to see his final plans and jockey bookings for clues.
Gary Moore is another trainer that can’t be ignored having won this race twice down the years, and his Violet Dancer (33/1) would be interesting each-way option having been a close second in a decent handicap over Christmas.
It’s hard to ignore the form of Paul Nicholls runners in the big races this winter, and his Calipto looks to have been lined-up for this. He remains unexposed and a breathing operation may see him turn up at Newbury as a well-handicapped horse.