There is a real feast of jump racing tomorrow as Newbury racecourse stages its Super Saturday card. With two Grade 2 chases, the Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle and a Listed bumper to end the card, it certainly lives up to its name.
It is the biggest day of jump racing staged at Newbury during the season and the feature race, the Betfair Handicap is the most valuable handicap hurdle run in Britain each year with prize money of £155,000 of which £88,273 goes to the winner.
As the most valuable handicap hurdle run each year the race is always incredibly competitive and this year’s renewal is no exception with a maximum field of 24 runners going to post. The Grade 2 chases look equally as competitive and have added interest attached to them with both races boasting horses who have gone on to win at The Cheltenham Festival in the same year.
The Befair Hurdle was first run in 1963 at Aintree but was moved to Newbury the following year and has been at the Berkshire track ever since. Betfair is only the third sponsor of the race following on from Schweppes and The Tote. There has only been one back to back winner with Rosyth winning the inaugural running in 1963 and following up at Newbury a year later. Goes, trained by Nicky Henderson is the only other dual winner in the 44 renewals of the race by being successful in 2000 and 2004.
If you are thinking about having a bet in the race tomorrow a look at the recent statistics of the race might help you to whittle the 24 runner field down to something more manageable.
Since 2000 there has been 16 renewals of the Betfair Handicap as the cards in 2006 and 2009 were abandoned due to snow. In that time the favourite has only won four times – in the 44 renewals, eight favourites have won the event.
The race is generally won by horses aged five, six or seven years old. Since 2000, 13 of the 16 winners have fallen into this age group with 41 of the 44 winners overall within the same age band.
The weight carried by a horse in a handicap is clearly a factor which will effect its chances of victory. Since 2000 the heaviest weight to win the Betfair Handicap is 11–7. Taking the age of the horse and the weight carried we can now reduce the field from 24 to 15 runners.
Only two mares have won any of the 44 renewals of the race which reduces the field to 14.
Looking at the winners’ odds since 2000, 13 of the 16 winners have won at odds of 16/1 or less. In the history of the race only eight horses have won at odds over 16/1 although since 2007 three horses have done this. However, if we remove runners at current odds of over 16/1 we have just six runners to consider. As none of the six are currently trading as favourite they would all appear to have live chances in the race.
Looking at the form of the trainers who saddle the six shortlisted horses, Nicky Henderson stands out with 35% of his runners winning in the last 14 days. He has also won this race four times since 2000. The other five trainers have winning statistics of 0%, 9%, 22%, 17%, and 15% respectively over the same period. Jeremiah McGrath who is riding the Henderson runner has a 50% winning strike rate over the same period with five winners from 10 rides.
The Henderson-trained runner Lough Derg Spirit is a lightly raced six-year-old. The Bay Gelding has won two of his five starts over hurdles having won once from two point to point runs previously. He has won in Good and Soft ground. With the going at Newbury currently Soft, Good to Soft in places he should act on the ground without any problems. Jeremiah McGrath has ridden Lough Derg Spirit twice, winning once. Lough Derg Spirit’s biggest win to date was a Class 2 victory at Musselburgh in February last year. His last run came at Wincanton in November when he was second in the Grade 2 Unibet Elite Handicap.
He appears to be a horse on the up although he does not have any entries for The Cheltenham Festival to date. However, running for a yard in form under a jockey in form over a distance he has won over twice in going he should like the current price of 14/1 makes him an attractive each way bet.
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