This weekend sees the Betfair Hurdle return to Newbury after it was run at Ascot last year due to the Equine Influenza outbreak. It’s a race that has had some very talented winners in the past including Make A Stand, Landing Light, Get Me Out Of Here, Zarkandar, My Tent Or Yours and more recently Ballyandy and Kalashnikov.
Both Get Me Out Of Here and My Tent Or Yours were owned by JP McManus whilst he has also had Bleu Et Rouge, Movewiththetimes, Alaivan and Waxies Dargle run good races in recent years.
This year he has 3 possible entries of which I want to focus on the 2 near the head of the market.
Never Adapt is the shortest of these and I think she will actually go off favourite here. Since coming over from France she has raced 3 times for Nicky Henderson. Starting out in a Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle she raced like an absolute nutjob. She was really keen on the way to post and she simply took off after the first hurdle and her chance of winning the race was arguably gone from an early stage. Despite this, coming to the 2nd last she looked like she was going to finish well beaten and was back to 5th turning into the straight. Under hands and heels she actually responded really well and ran back on for 3rd. Quel Destin who won this race is now rated 156. The runner was last seen racing in the UK off 139 before being sold to run in the USA.
Never Adapt was then not seen for 391 days before returning to Cheltenham for a 2m 179y handicap hurdle where she was sent off 5/1 joint favourite and again she was a nightmare. Instead of allowing her to go forward here, Barry kept her right out the back and she was far too keen for most of the race. Off the back of a 391 days lay off and racing keenly throughout she was always up against it and she still managed to run on well up the hill to get a never nearer 3rd having been 5th jumping the last and that should have blown away the cobwebs. The runner up that day Oakley had previously finished 3rd to Not So Sleepy at Ascot. Oakley is now 15lb better off with Not So Sleepy (Ben Jones took off 5lb from Oakley so effectively 10lb better off) whilst is now 7lb better off with Never Adapt.
29 days later Never Adapt was sent to Kempton for a handicap hurdle and she was very keen again and Barry again tried to settle her out the back of the field. Turning for home, his hold up tactics looked to have caught Never Adapt out as the front 3 kicked for home. Barry let out an inch of rein finally and she very effortlessly moved into contention in very impressive style. She jumped the last alongside the front pair and with one slap of the whip she quickened very impressively and won with any amount in hand. She was raised 10lb for that which may seem harsh but I think she won in the style of a horse well ahead of her mark and 10lb was fair enough.
With Not So Sleepy likely to stick to his usual front running tactics here, I think this race could be very well run as surely his rivals do not let him have an easy lead here and stick with him. This stronger pace could be exactly what Never Adapts needs to help her settle at the back of the field. Never Adapt reminds me of Get Me Out Of Here who often raced keenly through his races and needed to be waited with for as long as possible. Never Adapt has to date shown good strength in the finish and that should help with the long run after the last.
Ciel De Neige is the 2nd of the JP runners that I want to look at however I’m almost half hoping he misses the race and is saved for the County Hurdle where we are on at 33/1.
He , for me is very well handicapped and definitely one that can win a big handicap like this. He caught my eye when finishing 3rd on his first start for Willie Mullins in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham. He travelled well for a long way before getting caught behind a wall of horses and lost valuable ground on Band Of Outlaws and Coko Beach before running on well for 3rd. The runner up that day since won a Hurdle race as well as finishing 2nd in a Grade 2 whilst the winner Band Of Outlaws was tried in a Grade 1 afterwards and has finished 3rd in the Galway Hurdle off a mark of 145. Having finished 3rd he was subsequently bought by JP McManus.
Ciel De Neige returned this season at Fairyhouse where he finished a good 4th behind Janidil (who has only been beaten by Notebook since being trained by Willie Mullins), Buildmeupbuttercup who continues to run well in handicaps and Articulum who was running off a 16lb lower handicap mark over hurdles than what he is rated over fences. The first 3 had also run this season whereas Ciel De Neige was having his first run for 263 days. Given a very patient ride and going wide for a lot of the race he finished his race off really well to finish a never nearer 4th and demonstrated off this mark he could certainly go close in a good handicap.
On his next start he ran at Limerick and arguably his jockey made a bit of a mess of it. Sent off 1/4 he came there travelling well and was looking at going down the inside before his gap was closed and he was asked to switch and got the hurdle wrong and lost a few lengths. Under a ride he gained and closed all the way to the line after the last but needed an extra stride or 2 to get up. Unfortunately for him the line came too soon and he on paper looked disappointing. As such however his handicap mark has not been changed from 135 with a stronger pace and a better ride I think he can go very close here.
I think both this JP pair are well handicapped still and can both go close if they are both declared which I think they will be as JP likes to have multiple runners in this race.
2 others that are of interest to me include Oakley who we have mentioned above who is 7lb and 10/15lb better off with 2 horses who are 13/2 and 8/1. Oakley therefore at 12/1 could well be a very good e/w bet here. He hit the front at Cheltenham last time out and was only run down by RatingTheRaces TOP Rated Repetitio whilst he was asked to do the donkey work at Ascot and try and close down Not So Sleepy which left him vulnerable to being picked off late on by Lust For Glory (who has since finished 2nd at Cheltenham behind Back On The Lash).
At a monster 50/1 Remiluc (who I posted in the Premium Forum yesterday) would certainly be overpriced. He finished 5th in this race off the same 139 mark that he can run off on Saturday when arguably kicking for home too soon. He led and went a couple of lengths clear after the 3rd last before being caught by some smart horses. Kalashnikov won the race (went on to finish 2nd in Supreme and is now rated 20lb higher over fences), Bleu Et Rouge (highly tried in Grade 1’s afterwards), Spiritofthegames (5th in County afterwards and rated 10lb higher over fences) and Coeur Blimey (connections arguably don’t know what they are doing with him).
A more conservative effort this time round and going for home later could well see Remiluc run a big race here. After finishing 5th here he went on to the Cheltenham Festival and ran a great race for 2nd where he jumped the last arguably still in the lead and was only run down by Mohaayed.
He was then in the process of running a big race at Plumpton in the Sussex Champion Hurdle when unseating at the last and was then not seen until last month where he was given a very different ride to normal. Dropped out the back he was never put in the race and that was surely just a fitness run after his 643 days off the track and the handicapped very kindly dropped him 5lb for this run. Returning to Newbury off the same 139 and given his usual tracking the leaders ride , I can see him running much better than his 50/1 (you can even get 66/1) odds suggest.
Remiluc is also a possibility for the County Hurdle at Cheltenham and if he does skip this race and go straight there he could be very interesting. His form at the 2 tracks is very good with it reading P31225 at Newbury and 0212 at Cheltenham!