Betfair Super Saturday on Saturday 9th February 2019, showcases some of racing’s biggest names alongside the stars of the future, with three Graded races on the card and some serious prize money up for grabs.
THE BETFAIR HURDLE
The highlight of the day is the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle, now the richest race of its type in the UK, boasts a prestigious roll of honour dating back to 1963 with recent winners including 2019 Arkle favourite Kalashnikov, three-time Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent or Yours and four-time Grade 1 winner Zarkandar. Two winners of the race – Persian War and Make a Stand – went on to win the following month’s Champion Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival.
The Betfair Hurdle is a Grade 3 National Hunt handicap hurdle race for horses aged four years or older. It is run over a distance of about 2 miles and ½ furlong, with eight hurdles to be jumped.
– Horse: Rosyth (2)
– Jockey: Josh Gifford (4), Mick Fitzgerald (3), AP McCoy (3)
– Trainer: Nicky Henderson (5), Ryan Price (4)
– Josh Gifford is also the only person to have won this race as a jockey and (later) as a trainer.
THE GIFFORD CONNECTION
Nick Gifford is hoping the weather stays dry, so he can run Didtheyleaveuoutto in the Betfair Hurdle as the Gifford family connection with Britain’s richest handicap hurdle stretches back to 1963 when his late father Josh rode the Ryan Price-trained Rosyth to land the inaugural running of the race.
It was the first of four wins in the saddle for Gifford Snr, the most successful jockey in the race’s history, who remains the only person to win it as a trainer as well following the success of Deep Sensation in 1990.
“Obviously the family connection needs no introduction with the success of Dad and Ryan, and Dad trained a winner of the race too,” said Gifford. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a runner in the Betfair Hurdle so it would be lovely to go there with a squeak if the ground allows us to do that.”
The JP McManus-owned novice Didtheyleaveuoutto has won two out of three starts over hurdles and finished fifth of six behind Mister Fisher at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Gifford, who trains in Findon, West Sussex, fears soft ground could prevent the horse running but said: “It will be down to JP McManus, Frank Berry and the team, but he has the entry and if the ground is suitable he will go. If the weather stays like this we will probably run him.
“The horse is in great form and I couldn’t be happier with him here. It appears he’s got a nice weight. I would love to run him, and it would tell us more come the spring which direction we should be heading in. It’s a lovely race for him. There will be plenty of pace, going left-handed will suit him slightly better and it would be a fantastic race to be involved with. I wasn’t born when Dad rode his winners, but I do remember Deep Sensation winning it.”
Ar Mest improved his chances of contesting the Betfair Hurdle for race specialist Gary Moore with a recent win at Newbury that earned him a 5lb penalty for next month’s running of Britain’s richest handicap hurdle. His second win of the campaign in the EBM Handicap Hurdle lifts him from the bottom of the weights for the £155,000 contest to 9st 13lb, with the penalty applied, that could put him on the fringe of making the cut.
Moore, who trains near Horsham in Sussex, has won the Betfair Hurdle three times (Violet Dancer 2015, Wingman 2008 and Heathcote 2007) and Ar Mest is one of four horses entered in the race. Sussex Ranger, Distingo and Not Never are his other entries.
“Ar Mest gets a 5lb penalty for that and whether that’s good enough to get in I don’t know,” said Moore. “I would probably give it a shot. He would be a definite one if he gets in and Sussex Ranger would be a definite one too. After that I wouldn’t be certain. Not Never is due to go to Ireland. I love winning any race and the Betfair Hurdle is worth £155,000 so I would love to win that. I’ve won it with horses of the same ability.”
CAN KELLY CLINCH A SECOND TRIUMPH?
Lizzie Kelly is relishing the prospect of having another chance to win the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle on her stable’s latest up and coming horse Monsieur Lecoq.
Kelly guided Agrapart, trained by her stepfather Nick Williams, to land Britain’s richest handicap hurdle at Newbury in 2016 (pictured top) and puts Monsieur Lecoq, who is owned and trained by her mother Jane, in a similar bracket.
After wins at Ffos Las and Sandown this season Monsieur Lecoq has risen to an official handicap mark of 132 and been allotted 10st 5lb in the big race weights.
Mohaayed has been set the top weight of 11st 12lb with Getaway Trump and Al Dancer, the sponsor’s joint favourites on 11st 1lb and 11st respectively.
Monsieur Lecoq will need 21 horses to defect in order to be guaranteed a start in the race, which has a maximum field of 24 plus two reserves, but he would have made the cut in each of the last two runnings of the race with that rating.
Monsieur Lecoq, who is trained in South Molton, Devon, was raised 10lb after his latest win when he comfortably landed a Class 2 handicap at Sandown by nine lengths.
“He is a nice horse and though slightly immature everything he does, he does quite easily so he is an exciting type,” said Kelly.
“When Agrapart won it, he ran and finished third in the Tolworth Hurdle which was the same meeting at which Monsieur Lecoq ran, so in terms of preparation it has been similar and with Kalashnikov winning as a novice last year he has the right type of profile.
“There is definitely more to come from him. He is not as forward as Agrapart. He very much knew his job at his age but at the same time he had run on the Flat at a younger age and had probably done a little bit more. This horse is more immature but will have learned a lot from his run at Sandown.”
Kelly’s 2016 victory completed a memorable winter coming just two months after she became the first female jockey to ride a Grade 1 winner over jumps on Tea For Two in the 2015 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.
“I remember everything about the day I won on Agrapart,” she said. “He had a light weight and I had to work quite hard to get down to the weight.
“We were quite adamant that we wanted to be out in front or near the front. There was a standing start but because he had come out of the stalls earlier in his career he understood the idea of jumping and running. That worked in our favour.
“I remember a jockey beside me telling me that I shouldn’t push too early when I was getting down to push turning in because it’s a long way home he was saying. But I knew the horse very well and I continued.
“It was a fantastic day. It was my first big winner after winning the Grade 1. It couldn’t have been more different going from a three mile chase to a two mile hurdle. Agrapart is such a lovely horse.
“It’s really exciting to get another chance to ride in the Betfair Hurdle. The horses we train at home are of a high quality and to be able to ride in races like this is a privilege.”
Kelly has a closer connection to Newbury than most having spent the summer working in the racecourse marketing department.
“I was a marketing assistant,” she said. “I’ve done a degree in event management. I was always very keen on the marketing side of things. It was a massive learning curve, even by being in a completely different environment like an office.
“It was a great way to spend the summer when we don’t have very many runners. It was a brilliant opportunity. Newbury took a bit of a punt on me because I had never done anything like it before and I thought it was fantastic.”
TWISTON-DAVIES ON TRACK
Nigel Twiston-Davies is using a tried and trusted formula in the pursuit of a third success in six years in the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle.
The Gloucestershire trainer hopes Al Dancer, who is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles, can repeat the success of his 2017 winner Ballyandy who claimed Britain’s richest handicap hurdle while still a novice.
Al Dancer has been installed joint second favourite by Betfair Sportsbook, behind Getaway Trump.
Twiston-Davies has also included his former race winners Ballyandy and Splash Of Ginge, who won the race in 2014, plus Ballymoy and Mr Antolini among a total of five entries.
Al Dancer, owned by Walters Plant Hire Ltd, has registered wins at Carlisle, Ffos Las and at Cheltenham where he won a handicap by 11 lengths and for which he has been raised 12lb to an official rating of 141, since beginning hurdling this season.
Last year’s winner Kalashnikov was also rated 141 when he captured the prize for Newmarket trainer Amy Murphy while still a novice.
Nigel Twiston-Davies said: “We do try to have runners in the Betfair Hurdle as it is a nice race to win. Al Dancer is being aimed at the race. It’s become a good race for horses that have not quite been caught [by the handicapper].
“John Neild wanted me to enter Splash of Ginge. If it became very soft he could run and we could possibly run Ballyandy as well so we could have two of our former winners there as well.”
Al Dancer would be the probable mount of jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, son of Nigel, who steered Ballyandy to his win at Newbury.
“He’s a novice who has done well so far this season,” said Sam Twiston-Davies. “Going into a handicap like this would be good experience for him. The long term dream is that he will be good enough for the Supreme and the Betfair Hurdle will tell us exactly where we are with him.
“He’s a clean jumper, a good traveller, a bit like Ballyandy was which is kind of where the line of thought has come from. My Tent Or Yours was another who won the Betfair Hurdle as a novice. It’s a route that has worked out well for a lot of horses.
“The bigger field will do him good and will help him progress again. He will learn a good bit from it but at the same time I like his profile. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that the ground is all right and everything goes in his favour on the day.”
BETFAIR SUPER SATURDAY
The Betfair Hurdle is part of Betfair Super Saturday which, aside from the Betfair Hurdle, also features the £50,000 G2 Betfair Denman Chase, and the £50,000 G2 Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase over an extended two miles.
First run in 2000, the Betfair Denman Chase is a notable trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with steeplechasing legends Kauto Star, Denman (after whom the race was renamed in 2012) and Native River all going on from Newbury to win the sport’s flagship race five weeks later.
Trainer Paul Nicholls has won the Denman Chase a record eight times and one of the current favourites – Getaway Trump – for this year’s race is trained at Ditcheat. Another potential runner is Clan Des Obeaux, who clinched a tenth King George VI Chase win for Nicholls on Boxing Day.
The Betfair Exchange (registered as the Game Spirit) was last year used as a stepping stone by Altior who went on to win the 2018 Champion Chase at The Cheltenham Festival.
With 70% of last year’s winners running at The Festival, Betfair Super Saturday is a great chance to see the stars in action before they head to Cheltenham.
ORDER OF RUNNING
|13:15||The Read Paul Nicholls Exclusively at Betfair Novices’ Hurdle Race Class 3||2m ½f|
|13:50||The Betfair Bet In-Play Handicap Hurdle Race Class 2||3m|
|14:25||The Betfair Denman Steeple Chase Grade 2||3m|
|15:00||The Betfair Exchange Steeple Chase (registered as the Game Spirit) Grade 2||2m ½f|
|15:35||The Betfair Hurdle Race Grade 3||2m ½f|
|16:10||The Betfair Each Way Edge Novices’ Limited Handicap Steeple Chase Class 3||3m|
|16:45||The Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange Bumper Listed||2m ½f|