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THE Betfair Hurdle at Newbury is normally one of the most competitive events of its kind throughout the national hunt season, but this afternoon’s renewal at 3.35 looks less so.
Nicky Henderson has entered five runners which tends to suggest that he has no idea which is his best chance.
However, I fancy that his Lough Derg Spirit is his best option and he has the look of a horse that has been laid out for this big prize whereas several of his team look as though this is very much an afterthought.
His second in the Elite Hurdle was a cracking performance and I make him the biggest danger to top-weight High Bridge (nap).
Ben Pauling’s yard had a horrible time at the turn of the year, but now literally everything he is sending out is running out of their skin at the moment.
Two from two over this course and distance, in theory he is up against it on these revised terms with Charlie Parcs.
I actually thought that the top weight would get a bit more than a 3lbs penalty for that success, but bearing in mind he is still improving and loves the track I fancy he can land the nap ahead of the Henderson horse and Project Bluebook.
The Denman Chase at 2.25 sees Native River return to the track for the first time since finishing third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. But I suspect he will not be cherry-ripe here and, even though he could run a few pounds below his best form and win, I suspect he will find it hard to give the weight away to Cloudy Dream.
The Game Spirit Chase at 3.00 sees another high-profile comeback from the prolific Altior, but he too may not have things all his own way and Politologue (nb) may have his measure.
He has steadily come up on the rails in the two-mile division and he looked a genuine grade one horse at Sandown last time out.
I suspect if Altior blows out here that the Nicholls’ ace will become the new favourite for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham and I would actually have him as favourite here over his main rival in the market place.
Moonlighter is strongly fancied for the valuable bumper that ends the card at 4.40 and he could turn out to be something very special.
There is a really good flat card at Lingfield with the all-weather championships around the corner and My Target (2.55) has finally been given a chance by the handicapper.
Set to race off 98, the son of Cape Cross is 5lbs below his last winning mark and simply wasn’t suited by the run of the race last time out at Newcastle. I think he can bounce back here and take care of the likes of Poet’s Society and veteran Forceful Appeal.
Later on, Bayre can finally return to winning form in the mile-and-a-half event at 3.30, while Brother Tiger may defy top-weight in the concluding sprint handicap at 4.35.
At the evening card at Wolverhampton, don’t miss out on Royal Birth finally returning the minimum distance in the 7.45.
This is, as you would expect, a really hot prize but I fancy that off a mark of 98 he may be able to come from off the pace down the wide home stretch and take the scalps of both Poyle Vinnie and Boom The Groom.
Finally, have a look in the 8.45 at Captain Revelation’s claims. I fancy that this return to the Tapeta surface will suit him so much better than Fibresand and a plummeting mark from 83 down to 61 also adds to the argument. I would agree with the point that 7f may suit him better, but this is clearly his best chance for a very long time in what looks a very weak race.
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