Even though Calipto runs in the Betfair Hurdle off the same mark from which he was a beaten odds-on favourite last time, there is no denying that he has strong claims in one of the most competitive and valuable handicap hurdles of the season.
Trainer Paul Nicholls is buoyant on Calipto’s chances and a recent breathing operation is expected to have a positive impact on a horse that competed in Grade 1 company on more than one occasion last season.
The key to uncovering a Betfair Hurdle winner is to find an unexposed entrant capable of bigger things. Zarkandar, My Tent Or Yours and Splash Of Ginge are the most recent winners.
Calipto fits this criteria and is clearly well handicapped. However, the soft ground expected at Newbury will not be in his favour and there have to be doubts as to how much he finds off the bridle.
There do look to be better bets at present than the 5/1 available on Calipto for the Grade 3 contest. However, they don’t include Sign Of A Victory, who is another that surely wants good ground, or Fascino Rustico, who arguably looks more a stayer than a 2m superstar.
Here are our three leading offerings for the Betfair Hurdle, with Ladbrokes top price on each of the trio.
The fact that On Tour holds entries in the three big novice hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival (the Supreme Novices, the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett) suggests that trainer Evan Williams believes his seven-year-old is far better than an official rating of 138 would indicate.
He also beat fellow Betfair Hurdle entrant Dawalan last time, with the Nicky Henderson horse competing off 132 and On Tour just 1lb lower.
Dawalan has since won off 142 and re-opposes On Tour on 8lb worse terms than when previously beaten at Haydock. Dawalan is also 16/1 for the Betfair Hurdle, I know which I think is the better bet at the prices.
If the ground was likely to be firmer at Newbury, this would look a cracking each-way bet, but there is still enough juice in the odds to gamble that Hawk High can run to close to his best in conditions softer than ideal.
It is hard to ignore the level of form that Hawk High showed when beating Garde La Victoire earlier this season at Aintree, albeit on good ground and if he can replicate this run, last season’s Fred Winter Cheltenham victor may be thrown in off a mark of 146.
Swing Bowler has performed more than credibly in this race in the past, finishing third to My Tent Or Yours in 2013 (off 134) and a fast-finishing fifth last year (off 136) having got bumped three out and then evading Far West after that horse fell at the last.
Some disappointing runs this season have seen Swing Bowler’s mark drop back to an attractive 135 here and as David Pipe’s second string behind Balgarry, there is the possibility of 7lb claimer Mikey Ennis taking the ride.
There is every reason to believe that the lightly-raced eight-year-old mare could have been laid out for this again.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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