Betfair Hurdle preview: Warren Greatrex believes Boite can surprise
Saturday 11 February 2017
Watch interviews with Warren Greatrex and Paul Nicholls, get in-depth analysis of the big handicap of the weekend from The Betting Lab and read what other connections have to say ahead of the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.
By Racinguk.com staff
Warren Greatrex believes Boite has the attributes to become the latest surprise winner of the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.
Europe’s richest handicap hurdle has been won by horses sent off at 33-1, 20-1 and 16-1 in the past three years, so those who dismiss Boite on account of the fact he is 40-1 may be advised to think again.
The seven-year-old, who will be ridden by the trainer’s son, Thomas, faded when running over 2m4f at Newbury on New Year’s Eve, but had previously won in emphatic fashion at Wetherby.
"He won really well at Wetherby and then I ran him at Newbury over two and a half miles,” Greatrex told Racing UK. “Leighton Aspell rode him as it was the day Gavin (Sheehan) got injured and he had a lot of weight for a not very big horse.
"Leighton advised us to go back to two miles in a strong-run race with less weight on his back so I thought this looked perfect.”
He added: “I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet . He has not had many runs over hurdles and I think there’s plenty of improvement in him.
“He’s a 95-rated Flat horse now after winning at Goodwood very impressively. We thought he wanted better ground but he seems to appreciate soft ground the older he’s getting. At a big price, I could see him running well.”
Paul Nicholls has two much more prominent in the betting in Movewiththetimes and Zubayr.
Movewiththetimes has been popular in the ante-post market and is one of the most unexposed contenders in the race, which was first staged in 1963 when backed by Schweppes and is Britain's richest handicap hurdle.
"He has had a nice break since Wincanton. He's got a mark of 136 and if you have a novice on a mark like that, you would hope they are better than that," said the champion trainer.
"It's a hard job running in a race like this for him as he lacks experience as he has only had three runs over hurdles.
"They go at a good, fast, furious gallop so they have to be at their best jumping-wise, but he is a horse we really like."
Of Zubayr, he added: "Zubayr started off at Wincanton on ground that was probably too quick in the Elite Hurdle. He ran a good race but was just flat out all the way and probably paid the price and fell at the last.
"He was fifth at Sandown with 11st 12lb. He was only beaten 11 and a half lengths that day, but I don't think he was at his best.
"He has had a nice break since then. I just think he is a horse that will be better in the spring. He did a nice piece of work with Movewiththetimes last week. You could hardly split them."
Evan Williams is putting his faith in the handicapper as Clyne hopes to take advantage of a lenient mark.
The weights were announced before Clyne ran a blinding race against The New One at Haydock, for which the official assessor raised him 5lb.
Given that was also his first defeat in five races, the seven-year-old proved once again he is on a steep upward curve.
"Things have worked out well around his form and we thought it was worth a crack at this race," said Williams.
"There are so many horses, novices, that have not been exposed. It will be very difficult to win the race. The handicapper has already told us he's better than his mark. That's what we're hanging on to.
"The reality is the best-treated horse in the race will win."
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyandy won the Champion Bumper last year, but has failed to get his head in front in three outings over hurdles, albeit in good company.
Sam Twiston-Davies is hoping the return to a big field is in his favour after his father described a handicap mark of 135 as "a gift".
"Nige gets a little excited at times, but the handicapper has given him what he feels he is worth," said the rider.
Messire Des Obeaux masters Ballyandy in the closing stages of a thrilling Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle. pic.twitter.com/svAoPPweom— Sandown Park (@Sandownpark) December 2, 2016
"He seems well at home, has schooled well and I hope he is up to it. I think the pace of a big field will suit him, he has the experience of the Champion Bumper to fall back on."
Beltor was once a promising juvenile for Robert Stephens and finally looks to be on the way back after two good runs at Kempton, one of which was on the Flat.
"He won nicely at Kempton and then he was a good third back there over hurdles when he was in front at the last and looked unfortunate not to win," Stephens told At The Races.
"He looked very exciting as a juvenile, but the following season in the Fighting Fifth he chipped a bone in his knee and had to have surgery. His work is still very good, he's got plenty of ability,
"It's just taken a while for him to get his confidence back and he seems to be coming back this year.
"There might be a nice handicap in him off a low weight and he could win a nice Flat race as well."
Song Light ran well in the Greatwood Hurdle for Seamus Mullins and has been another for money this week.
"Song Light is fit, well and raring to go," said Mullins. "We have had the Betfair Hurdle in mind for some time. He was due to go to Ascot before Christmas but had to miss that. We decided to wait as there wasn't much else suitable for him.
"I thought his run at Cheltenham was very good. He travelled well but just wasn't on the right stride at the last. He does seem to enjoy Cheltenham as he has been placed there before.
"I think he can run a big race on Saturday. My only concern would be really testing or heavy ground as he didn't run well on that sort of ground at Sandown (in 2015). Soft or good to soft ground will be fine."
The Philip Hobbs-trained Wait For Me was a top-class bumper horse but it still has not clicked for him over hurdles, as Richard Johnson explained.
"Hopefully he will run well. If he can reproduce his County Hurdle form from last year it would give him a great chance," said the champion jockey.
"At the moment he probably still needs to improve on what he has done so far.
"From his bumper form we know he is a decent horse, but he has not quite got it all together.
"I was bit surprised he was favourite last time, but he is definitely a horse that should have a decent chance."
Alan King would have preferred another week with his recent Cheltenham winner William H Bonney.
"He breezed very well on Tuesday. I'm happy with him," King told Racing UK.
"In an ideal world I would have loved another week. We haven't got it, but I'm happy enough to let him take his chance. The prize money is huge."