We face the possibility of big fields around the country in the coming days as trainers look to get their horses out before Cheltenham having missed last weekend, but in the case of the Betfair Hurdle we have a more bijoux set-up and that could prove to be lucrative for us.
The protagonists in this field are tightly bunched overall but with one exception, and while his price isn’t exactly the steal of the century it still gives us a great chance to net some very tidy profit all being well. Here are the big five in the contest as we see it:
Coming into this on a four-timer for the season means Al Dancer has naturally been placed highly in the market, but we should not let the price put us off.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ six-year-old has proven to be versatile, tough and with no little talent thus far in scoring at Carlisle, Ffos Las and Cheltenham over 2m – 2m1f on both good and soft ground. He stayed on so stoutly at jumping’s HQ last time to win by a wide margin, but returning to the minimum trip on softer ground should suit him so well right now and another career best can be expected.
Despite the 11-length winning distance, we can upgrade Al Dancer’s latest win significantly as it was achieved effortlessly in the end so despite being raised from 129 to 141 in the handicap he should take the world of beating under Sam Twiston-Davies.
Despite improving a fair bit to run a good second to Champ over an extended two-and-a-half mile trip last time out, Getaway Trump’s best distance may still be this one although his easy win at Exeter was achieved in heavy ground which brought stamina into play so nothing is concrete yet on that score.
Paul Nicholls knows his onions so in terms of the race distance we simply trust the trainer, but even in putting his best foot forward once again this horse is one of at least four who look to be just about level on adjusted weights with all of them perhaps vying for places should Al Dancer be fully fit and well enough to do himself justice.
Despite only being a five-year-old Alan King’s horse has had plenty of experience and so while he is still improving, it seems we can see his short-term limitations a little clearer and they may just stop him from being good enough at the weights to win this.
Two excellent handicap runs at Listed and Grade 3 level recently saw Lisp run second but while those runs show him up to be just the type to run well in this contest, they also show that others out there are better handicapped.
Having gone up another 5lbs for finishing runner-up over this course and distance in December, we can’t say he’s being given the very best chance of success by the assessor but is a rock solid yardstick and so a place could be on the cards.
Mont Des Avaloirs
Probably the Nicholls second-string here but not out of the race by any means; Mont Des Avaloirs is on a four-run losing streak and hasn’t scored in a race of this magnitude.
He isn’t handicapped too badly by the looks of things though and his third to Global Citizen in December with Lisp just a short-head ahead of him reads well and he is now 5lbs better off with that one.
The only negative would be that he may arguably want the ground a little softer but with 5lb claimer Lorcan Williams taking the weight off he may be able to outrun his price.
Given that on the balance of things this horse is probably no worse off at the weights than at least three or four others, he could be a cracking each-way bet for a quality yard.
Having not liked the very heavy ground at Sandown in December, his profile only really shows us two progressive runs at Chepstow and Taunton where he won pretty easily meaning he may yet prove to have been given a reasonably lenient handicap mark.
Zanza is potentially overpriced for this one and is probably the each-way value in the race given that there are question marks regarding the handicap ratings of Lisp and Getaway Trump, but all things considered this is probably AL DANCER’s race to lose assuming the 64-day gap between races doesn’t prove too big.