CeeBee previews the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday and has a number of big price picks in the shape of Kalkir, Mad Jack Mytton and Ivan Grozny.
The Betfair Hurdle (Schweppes or Tote Gold Trophy for the old romantics) is full of likeable handicap hurdlers. So full in fact that my immediate thoughts are small plays at big prices. Let’s go through some of them:
Blazer – won with, at a guess, 15lbs in hand last Saturday. He only gets a 5lb penalty so is clearly well-in. The 7 day turnaround and large step-up in class are the obvious negatives. He’ll take all the beating, but at 7/2 we’ve possibly missed the boat.
Modus – is a well handicapped unexposed novice. The likely heavy ground and lack of big field handicap hurdle experience are possible negatives, but eventually he’ll prove to be better than his current mark of 139. No surprise that Geraghty picked Blazer having won on him last weekend, but if there’s an overreaction to that choice and this lad drifts significantly he’ll be worth a second look.
War Sound – connections think he’s a champion hurdle horse. As such, racing off 148 he must enter calculations. For me his Swinton win was in a poor field and he has plenty to prove yet at 7/1 in a field as hot as this.
Sternrubin – has won 3 on the bounce including the Ladbroke. He’s also a CD winner. He goes hard from the front but it’s often to the detriment of the chasers if they try to keep close tabs on him. Eventually the handicapper will catch up with him (like what his rivals will be trying Saturday). At 8/1 the market isn’t missing him.
Starchitect – was ridden very aggressively when 4th in the Fred Winter. He can be better than that. A move from McCain’s yard should be positive, but it’s not like Pipe is having a great season. They’ve had 9 beaten favourites in the last 14 days.
Zarib – was a ‘never nearer’ 6th in the Ladbroke. When 5th in the Fred Winter he was far too keen. He’s capable of putting it all together one day. The 5lb claim coming off his back will help also. The very fancy prices have disappeared but I think he’d be an ok 16/1 e/w bet. Whether he’s tough enough off the bridle has yet to be seen.
Don’t be put off by big prices either. Recent winners include: Violet Dancer 20/1, Recession Proof 12/1, Wingman 14/1, Splash of Ginge 33/1 and Heathcote 50/1
Waxies Dargle – is 40/1 on ground he’ll like and others may not appreciate. He was a single figure price when finishing third in the Greatwood only 3 starts ago.
Montbazon – is 50/1 yet was placed in the County Hurdle off this same mark. He nearly won a Supreme too and Alan King has been the Saturday hero this season.
But the three that jump out at me currently are:
Mad Jack Mytton 28/1
The Jonjo O’Neill yard has been very quiet through December and January, but there have been small signs of a rival lately. Anyhow it’s not terribly uncommon in recent years that he’s had quiet spells. Hopefully Mad Jack Mytton can kick start the spring at Jackdaws.
This fella has been out of the places in just 2 of his 10 career starts. He finished his novice campaign with two easy wins in March and April. When he returned last October he finished runner up to Superb Story at Wetherby. Dan Skelton’s 4yo is now rated 18lbs higher having finished 2nd in the Greatwood next time. Mad Jack is now just 8lbs higher than his mark that day.
Mad Jack wasn’t good in the Greatwood, never in contention it just wasn’t his true running. He did however bounce back with another runner-up effort, this time behind Solstice Star. Solstice Star has since gone up 21lbs having won again on Trials Day. Mad Jack is just 5lbs higher than that mark now.
Jonjo’s 5yo has bumped into two seriously well handicapped horses this season. He’s definitely still on a workable mark, clearly copes in competitive 2m handicaps and when last seen was in fine form. Heavy ground is a concern but he’s handled soft before so at 28/1 I’m happy to play.
Kalkir was second in the Betfair/Pierse hurdle at Leopardstown four weeks ago. It’s the closest thing we have to the Irish version of this race. 2nd of 23, beaten by a smart sort and the front three pulled well clear. There’s a lot to like about the form. I don’t see why a reproduction wouldn’t go close in the Newbury Betfair.
David Mullins replaces Jacques Ricou on board. David is still claiming 3lbs which is a nice boost. Kalkir got a fairly aggressive ride in Leopardstown making a mid-race move to go 2nd when still roughly 5f from home. The other 3 of the first 4 home were all given hold up rides. Kalkir gets a slight mark-up on how the race played out tactically. It was also his first start in 9mts. There could easily be more in him.
Ivan Grozny 40/1
Ivan Grozny Tsar was known as Ivan the terrible. Hopefully this Ivan Grozny won’t be so terrible on Saturday! He is very lightly raced with just 6 hurdle starts to his name. He’s also quite unexposed in handicaps, his last run behind Kalkir and Henry Higgins was just his second handicap hurdle. It was also his first start in 20mts. He ran far better than his finishing position suggested last time in Leopardstown. He pulled ferociously hard early on, unsurprisingly on his first start for 20mts, and gave himself no chance of getting home. He was still tracking the leaders travelling well when turning into the home straight only to blow-up. Fitness-wise he could come on for that effort and (more importantly) if he settles better there could definitely be a big race in him.
This guy beat Kitten Rock and Clarcam in a 4yo hurdle, he’s decent. Jockey bookies suggest he’s well down the pecking order but that often means nothing in Willie’s yard.
0.5 points each way Kalkir at 25/1 with Coral
0.5 points each way Mad Jack Mytton at 28/1 with Coral
0.5 points each way Ivan Grozny 40/1 with StanJames, Ladbrokes, Coral