Betfair Hurdle tops a bumper day of Channel 4 action

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Saturday promises to deliver an action-packed day of racing despite weather concerns across the UK.

The pick of the action comes from Newbury and Warwick, where the Channel 4 cameras will air the day’s best racing, culminating in a much-anticipated Betfair Hurdle.

Here we preview the day’s big races:

13:50 @ Newbury

Rydon Pynes is getting plenty of attention ahead of his handicap debut after turning impressive bumper form into a win over timber at Exeter last time out.

This race represents a step up in class for the six-year-old Martin Hill-trained gelding but jockey Hadden Frost is expected to get the most out his charge here.

Competition will come in the shape of Upswing with AP McCoy on board the fellow six-year-old. Jonjo O’Niell’s horse picked up back-to-back wins at the back end of last year and the step up in trip should suit on a first outing of 2014.

14:05 @ Warwick

Willie Mullins’ six-year-old charge Glens Melody is the pick of the bunch here with the Fiona McStay-bred mare winning five of her last seven outings including the Listed Warwick Mares’ Hurdle last month.

She had the beating of Prima Porta and Mischievous Milly then, so expect L’Unique to continue a decent run of form for Alan King’s stable.

The five-year-old failed to live up to past glories at the back end of last year but with King’s horses in fine fettle at present the French mare comes into consideration here.

14:25 @ Newbury

Concerns that the heavy ground will be the breaking of Al Ferof look wide of the mark given the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding’s past performances.

The nine-year-old, under Daryl Jacob for this outing, came up trumps in the 2012 Paddy Power Gold Cup in similar conditions and a lack of serious competition should see him safe again here

With the ground discounting the threat of Vino Griego and Walkon, competition will come from Katenko, who narrowly missed out among a solid field at Haydock only last month.

14:40 @ Warwick

Brick Red looks the value bet here after winning two of his last three outings. Venetia Williams’ stable are in great form at present and the seven-year-old impressed enough when beaten by Festive Affair and Dark Lover at Newbury recently to warrant consideration here.

The chestnut gelding is likely to need to beat Balder Success to claim the win though with Alan King’s charges in similar fettle and the six-year-old the only winner over track and trip in the field.

15:00 @ Newbury

Desert Cry will take some beating if Jason Maguire can get the best from the eight-year-old as he did at Wetherby and Exeter over the festive period.

However, with Donald McCain’s charge pulling up on two of his last six outings the horse’s quirks mean that preference is for Paul Nicholls’ Dodging Bullets.

Bred by Frankie Dettori, the six-year-old goes in search of a fourth success in a row under Daryl Jacobs.

If the fluid jumping on show during that hat trick of wins is evident here it’s the six-year-old’s to lose.

15:35 @ Newbury – Betfair Hurdle Handicap

Second favourite and Greatwood Hurdle winner Dell’ Arca – a 6/1 shot for the race – should be given serious consideration after narrowly losing out in The Ladbroke at Ascot as should Willie Mullin’s Smashing at 12/1.

The five-year-old goes in search of a hat trick of wins after impressing against a handy pack at Limerick at the end of last year.

The French gelding has been well treated off a mark of 143 on its handicap debut and should compete here but Cheltenian is the one to back.

Although largely untested at this level, the 2011 Champion Bumper winner tempts off a workable mark and has the backing of Richard Johnson who is relishing the chance to partner Phillip Hobbs’ unexposed eight-year-old at Newbury.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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James Curtis

After studying for a degree in journalism and gaining his NCTJ, James contributed to a wide range of papers, online publications and broadcasters including the South London Press, Press Association and Sky Sports News before joining the Ladbrokes News team.