Paul Nicholls won the Betfair Hurdle for the first time last year when saddling Zarkandar to victory and it appears that he will be going in mob-handed again in the hope of repeating this success.
Last year’s champion trainer is considering running seven of his yard, with Pearl Swan the shortest in the ante-post betting for the Betfair Hurdle at 10/1.
The horse is clearly highly regarded with Nicholls intimating that it will be entered into the Champion Hurdle and to lay down a strong challenge at Cheltenham, history dictates he will need to have an official rating of 160+.
Therefore, he must be considered a grave danger in any handicap where he will compete off a mark of just 146.
This is the mark he has been allocated for the Betfair Hurdle and is the same as when falling at the final flight of the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Although it is unlikely that he would have won, a finish in the first three was not out of the question.
Triumph Hurdle winner Countrywide Flame has improved to a mark of 158 this season and Pearl Swan could be open to similar improvement.
The obvious doubt is that he has not run since March because of a small injury and there are opinions that he may need the run at Newbury just to make him race sharp.
Of Nicholls’ other possible contenders, Dark Lover is 12/1 to win the Betfair Hurdle, but to do so he will have to overcome a 17lb hike in the handicap for his latest victory.
Caid Du Berlais and Celestial Halo have both shown that their strengths appear more stamina than speed and so a race over 2m is unlikely to suit.
Dildar has also climbed in the weights for finishing second last time and Ranjaan is hard to back ante-post because of his need for good ground.
This leaves Edgardo Sol at 25/1, who is almost always competitive and on a mark to be so again, assuming he lines up.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.