The Betfair Hurdle, run over 2m at Newbury, has attracted a maximum field of 24 runners and the fact that the bookmakers bet 12/1 bar two shows what a competitive handicap it is (3.35pm Saturday).
Calipto (9/2) has undergone a breathing operation since narrowly beaten by Tiger Roll on his reappearance at Cheltenham in October and has delighted his trainer in his recent work. The son of Califet remains unexposed and, provided he’s fit and well after an absence of 112 days, must have every chance of capturing another major weekend prize for Paul Nicholls.
Activial (6/1) twice finished behind Calipto last season, including over course and distance last November, and appears to have work to do to reverse the form. However, he made a solid reappearance when third, beaten two lengths, behind Bayan in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot seven weeks ago and acts well on soft ground, so is certainly one to consider. Even so, it’s surprising that Harry Fry’s charge is quite so short in the betting.
Sign Of A Victory (12/1) proved no match for Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen and company in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day, but may be better judged on his previous victory at Ascot in November. On that occasion, he cruised clear in the closing stages to beat subsequent winners Dawalan and Baradari by half a length and 3¼ lengths, hard held. He’s 10lb higher in the weights this time around, but more of a worry is the fact he doesn’t always find much off the bridle and faces the prospect of properly soft ground for the first time in his career.
The lightly raced seven-year-old Fascino Rustico (14/1), who contested the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival as a five-year-old, when with Paul Nicholls, appears to have benefited from the transfer to Dan Skelton in November. The son of St. Leger winner Milan got off the mark for his new trainer at the first time of asking at Bangor-on-Dee last month and followed up in good style at Newcastle three weeks later. He takes a significant step up in class, but is well suited by soft ground and clearly going the right way.
Despite making an inauspicious start to his career in point-to-points and over regulation hurdles, On Tour (16/1) appeared to be improving at a rate of knots when last seen in November. Trained by Evan Williams (pictured), he steps up in class off a 7lb higher mark than when winning over 2m4f at Haydock, but the form of that race has worked out extremely well and he shouldn’t be underestimated.
Lightentertainment (20/1), from a yard usually more at home at Plumpton or Fontwell, gave trainer Chris Gordon a Cheltenham winner last time. He only has a 5lb penalty and could be suited by the way the race is run. He tends to get outpaced and then run on late, so a fast pace in testing conditions could see him staying on through beaten horses at the death.
- Plenty with chances, but there can be only one winner, so our Betfair Hurdle betting tips advice is to back ON TOUR each-way at a best price of 16/1 with Ladbrokes. Evan Williams’ seven-year-old is a strong-travelling type, who should be equally effective back at two miles, especially in what is likely to be a fast-run race for the conditions. While he is likely to contest one of the major novice events at Cheltenham, rather than the Champion Hurdle, he looks a decent bet to take this en route to the Festival.