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Betfair Hurdle Entries 2015
Thu, Jan 15th, 2015

The weights are revealed today for Britain's richest handicap hurdle, the £155,000 Grade Three Betfair Hurdle, which is staged at Newbury on Betfair Super Saturday, Saturday, February 7.

Snake Eyes (9st 8lb) is one of three 12/1 co-second favourites in the ante-post market with Betfair Sportsbook but his supporters will have an anxious wait to see if he makes the cut.

Owned by J P McManus, the lightly-raced seven-year-old is 57th in the weights for the Betfair Hurdle. There is a maximum permitted field of 24 for the extended two-mile contest. Snake Eyes won for the first time when taking a Listed handicap hurdle under A P (Tony) McCoy at Sandown on December 6.

Nicky Henderson, trainer of Snake Eyes, has nine entries in total. The pick of the remainder include Grade One Christmas Hurdle fourth Sign Of A Victory (11st 1lb - 14/1), plus Vasco Du Ronceray (10st 9lb - 20/1), an impressive winner at Haydock in November, exciting juvenile Top Notch (10st - 16/1) and Dawalan (10st 8lb - 20/1), last seen out when successful at Aintree in December.

Harry Whittington, based at Sparsholt Firs close to Wantage, previously operated a satellite yard for Nicky Henderson before taking out his own training licence in September, 2012.

Whittington is considering the Betfair Hurdle for the exciting Arzal (10st 5lb - 25/1). The French import finished second in a maiden hurdle on his British debut at Chepstow in November and later in the same month upset 2/9 favourite West Wizard when recording an impressive seven-length victory in a novices' hurdle at Kempton Park. The five-year-old was last seen out at the same venue on Boxing Day when beaten just over nine lengths in third behind the well-regarded Jollyallan.

Whittington reported: "The Betfair Hurdle is an option for Arzal. It has been a good race for novices in the past.

"We are just trying to settle him better at home as he has been a bit exuberant in his races so far and is still a big baby.

"If we can get him to switch off, we might take our chance in the Betfair Hurdle. We just need to get him to settle better and grow up a bit.

"He showed his exuberance last time at Kempton but it was still a cracking run.

"To give ourselves a chance in a big handicap like the Betfair Hurdle, you do need a horse to settle so you can be where you need to be. It could be that 10st 5lb is a nice weight to carry."

Champion British Jump trainer Paul Nicholls, successful two years ago with Zarkandar, has two leading contenders in Calipto (10st 9lb - 9/1 favourite), who is unbeaten at Newbury and the useful novice Emerging Talent (10st 2lb - 14/1).

Betfair spokesman Barry Orr commented this morning: "A growing liability on the Paul Nicholls-trained Calipto has resulted in his price contracting from 14/1 to 9/1 clear favourite, while we have pushed Snake Eyes out to 12/1.

"It is already a decent betting contest and another entry attracting ante-post support is the John Quinn-trained Chieftains Choice (10st) - we've seen some clever money for him at 25/1, he's now 16/1.''

Heading the weights on 11st 12lb is the Willie Mullins-trained Diakali (14/1). A Grade One winner in France in 2013, the six-year-old was last seen out when fourth in the French Champion Hurdle in June. Mullins, Ireland's champion Jump trainer, is also responsible for Arctic Fire (11st 7lb - 12/1), third in the Grade One Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas. Mullins, who also has nine entries in total, could also run Daneking (10st 4lb - 14/1), successful in a valuable handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse in April and Clondaw Warrior (9st 7lb - 14/1), who took fourth behind the Philip Hobbs-trained Garde La Victoire (11st 6b - 16/1) in the Grade Three Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November.

Fascino Rustico (9st 10lb - 12/1) is co-second favourite with the sponsor but is another who faces a close call to make the cut as he lies 56th on the list. The seven-year-old, owned by John Hales and trained by Dan Skelton, was an eye-catching winner in novice company at Bangor on January 6.

Other leading contenders include Pine Creek (10st 10lb - 16/1) and Activial (10st 9lb - 14/1), who finished second and third respectively in the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle at Ascot. Harry Fry, trainer of Activial, could also run Jolly's Cracked It (10st 6lb - 14/1), who was runner-up in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on January 3.

There is a scratchings stage for the Betfair Hurdle on January 20.

Newbury's Betfair Super Saturday also features the £50,000 Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase, a leading trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the £50,000 Grade Two Betfair Price Rush Chase over two miles and a furlong.

History

Staged over an extended two miles, the Betfair Hurdle is always one of the most competitive handicap hurdles of the entire season and has an illustrious history dating back to 1963.

Charles Egerton, who gave up training in March, sent out two winners of the Betfair Hurdle with Mysilv in 1995 and Decoupage in 1999. One of Egerton's former horses is Seedling (14/1 with Betfair Sportsbook), who joined Upper Lambourn handler Warren Greatrex this season.

Under Greatrex's care, the six-year-old has flourished and won on all three of his starts. His most recent victory came at Cheltenham on December 12 in a novices' hurdle over two miles and a furlong, which was preceded by two facile successes at Plumpton. Seedling is part-owned by Christopher Spence, a former chairman of Newbury Racecourse.

Greatrex said: "The Betfair Hurdle is definitely a race we are looking at with Seedling. Novices have a good record in the race, he has run well around Newbury in the past and is improving.

"I have spoken with Charles Egerton, who won the race twice, and he thought it was definitely worth making an entry and having a look at the race.

"Seedling has been great this season. His last run at Cheltenham was very good and I would say that there is more improvement to come. The big field wouldn't worry him as he has run in big-field novices' races around Newbury before and that didn't seem to bother him. He is pretty straightforward.

"He has form on soft and has won on heavy but I think he would probably be a slightly better horse on good ground. He is a good-moving horse who would appreciate better ground but he can cope with soft ground no problem."

No trainer can boast a better record in the Betfair Hurdle than Lambourn-based Nicky Henderson, who has sent out five winners of the race. His most recent scorer was My Tent Or Yours in 2013, enabling him to overtake the record of Captain Ryan Price.

The master of Seven Barrows has nine entries in 2015, including Sign Of A Victory (12/1), successful in a competitive handicap hurdle at Ascot in November before taking fourth in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.

Henderson's entries also include Hammersley Lake (20/1), who was runner-up over three furlongs further in a handicap hurdle at Newbury in November, impressive Haydock scorer Vasco Du Ronceray (16/1), the Grade Two winner Royal Irish Hussar (20/1) and Snake Eyes (10/1 co-favourite), owned by J P McManus and the cosy half-length winner of Listed handicap hurdle at Sandown on December 6. Aintree victor Dawalan (16/1) plus exciting juvenile Top Notch (16/1), Rolling Star (20/1) and Cool Macavity (25/1) complete Henderson's contingent.

Another trainer with nine entries is Ireland's champion Willie Mullins. His selection includes the Grade One winner Diakali (12/1) as well as Grade One-placed Arctic Fire (10/1 co-favourite), Daneking (14/1), who landed a valuable handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse in April, facile Limerick winner Lucky Bridle (20/1) and Clondaw Warrior (14/1), who was third in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November.

There are 11 Irish-trained contenders in total and Tony Martin has entered Blair Perrone (10/1 co-favourite), who caught the eye with an impressive defeat of Silver Concorde in a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown on December 27. Jessica Harrington, successful with Spirit Leader in 2003, has made an entry for Rock The World (20/1), a lightly-raced seven-year-old who took second in a Leopardstown handicap hurdle over Christmas. The latest Irish-trained winner of the Betfair Hurdle was Essex in 2005.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls won the Betfair Hurdle with Zarkandar in 2012 and has two entries to choose from. Calipto (14/1) has twice been placed at Grade One level and is unbeaten in two starts at Newbury, while Emerging Talent (12/1) looks a most promising novice.

Garde La Victoire (14/1) has already scooped a major prize this season, having won the Grade Three Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November. The six-year-old is one of three entries for Philip Hobbs along with 2011 Champion Bumper hero Cheltenian (20/1) and Hello George (20/1), who kept on to take sixth in the Ladbroke at Ascot shortly before Christmas.

Get Me Out Of Here (20/1) won the Betfair Hurdle in 2010 for owner J P McManus and trainer Jonjo O'Neill and was narrowly beaten in 2012. The 11-year-old is entered once again along with stablemate Goodwood Mirage (20/1).

John Ferguson has been enjoying a fabulous season from his base near Newmarket and has made a quartet of entries including the Ladbroke runner-up Pine Creek (14/1) and Galway Hurdle fourth Bordoni (25/1).

Harry Fry's string has been in red-hot form this season, boasting a strike rate of almost 30 per cent. The Dorset handler has entered Activial (14/1), successful in Grade Two company last season and third on his reappearance at Ascot, and Jolly's Cracked It (14/1), who was runner-up in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on January 3.

Weights for the Betfair Hurdle will be revealed on January 14.

The maximum permitted field size for the Betfair Hurdle is 24 runners.

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