Saturday 13 February 2016

3.35 Newbury – Betfair Hurdle

As you might expect for Europe’s richest handicap hurdle race, the Betfair Hurdle has drawn a big, competitive field. Many hold strong chances especially the Paul Nicholls-trained Modus whose mark of 139 looks lenient.

If the ground were better – it’s currently soft (heavy in places) – I’d be having a pretty sizeable each-way bet in the shops, but I just can’t bring myself to back him given the conditions. He is so well treated it wouldn’t surprise to see him win, but my gut is saying to leave him.

The horse I’ll be having an each-way play on is ZARIB, a runner trained by Paul Nicholls’s former right-hand man Dan Skelton. Skelton is a young trainer going places and it’s big handicaps like this where he’ll probably sharpen his game in the early part of his career.

The selection is a lightly-raced 5-year-old whose mark of 134 looks fair. Bridget Andrews will take a further 5lb off his back today meaning, he’ll essentially be running off an official rating of 129. The son of Azamour already has plenty solid big-field handicap form in the book and the fact he is a course and distance winner is another plus.

Connections have applied first-time cheek-pieces today and if they have the desired affect I’m sure he’ll run well off a feather weight. He looks a solid each-way bet in a race bookmakers are offering five places home.

Advice

1pt each-way Zarib @20/1 (general – 1,2,3,4,5)

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