CeeBee previews the Pertemps Network Hurdle, formerly known as the Swinton Hurdle and likes Arzal and The Plan Man at the prices.
15.25 Haydock – 2m Swinton Hurdle
There I was thinking the national hunt season had finished!!
Haydock’s Swinton Hurdle today is as usual too good a jumps race to be working through in mid-May. The standard is set by Cheltenian who carries top weight here after winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr three weeks ago. Up 7lbs for that, arguably weak race, he’ll need to improve some to go in again. Is that level of improvement likely aged 9? I fear not. Finishing fast behind him in Ayr was Handiwork. He missed the break (needs to be ridden prominent over 2miles), got trapped wide and jumped poorly before the saddle slipped. A list of excuses and he was only beaten 3L however he’s up 2lbs and doesn’t have the talented Sean Bowen claiming 3lb so is in effect up 5lb for finishing 4th. With the overnight price being slashed as I type I’ll wait for him to step up to 2m4f before he’ll carry my cash.
Arzal heads the betting. I tipped him for both the Betfair Hurdle and County Hurdle this year so clearly think plenty of him. In Newbury he was hampered in the back straight, dropped to last, and then stayed on well past most to finish an eye-catching 6th. It was an effort that promised much more and interestingly he runs off 3lbs lower here. He went for the Imperial Cup rather than County Hurdle next but ran no sort of a race. He was beaten after a mile. Put a mark through it. He bounced back from it with a faultless victory at odds on in a Chepstow novice hurdle. All his form suggests this current mark of 136 is definitely workable. His run behind Sempre Medici has looked better as the season has gone on and even West Wizard whom he defeated earlier in the year won recently. The Betfair hurdle was more competitive than this. That day Cheltenian was giving the unlucky Arzal 2lbs when he beat him 11L, now he must give the improving 5yr old 17lbs.
Ballyglasheen beat Barizan in this last year and both return bang out of form and on similar marks. Usually the sort of profile I’m attracted to in a handicap hurdle, especially Barizan having won in 2013 (beating Mr Mole interestingly) also. This time however I don’t think either will bounce back to their best.
Sleepy Haven has CD winning form from December but he’s been well beaten on his last 3 starts. Court Minstrel was poor over fences the last few times and remains on what looks a stiff mark.
The Plan Man is my second selection here. The handicap hurdles at Cheltenham were dominated by Irish horses and the Irish challengers at Aintree were very competitive also. Based on how Cheltenian was beaten in the Betfair and County before winning at Ayr it suggested the UK 2m handicap hurdle division was very weak this year. The Imperial Cup being dominated by outsiders was another indicator. The sole Irish raider here deserves the utmost respect. He unseated early at Punchestown but prior to that he finished 4th in very competitive handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse. The winner won a better race since at Punchestown and both the 2nd & 5th both ran great races at Punchestown also. Having been off for six months before that effort he could easily improve plenty for it although a similar effort would nearly be enough here I feel. He’s lightly tried in handicaps and in addition the yard is in decent form. Tony Martin had a double on the last day of Punchestown and another double in Down Royal during the week.