22 go to post in Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Betfair Super Saturday

A field of 22 is set to line up in Britain’s richest handicap hurdle, the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle (3.35pm), at Newbury on Betfair Super Saturday, February 13.

Ireland’s champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins has five runners in the extended two-mile contest, headed by the J P McManus-owned Blazer (Barry Geraghty, 10st 4lb, 7/2 favourite with Betfair) who makes a quick reappearance following a comfortable success on his return to hurdling at Leopardstown on February 6.

Dicosimo (Danny Mullins, 11st 9lb, 14/1), Kalkir (David Mullins (3), 11st 6lb, 14/1), Ivan Grozny (M P Fogarty, 11st 4lb, 33/1) and Buiseness Sivola (Sam Twiston-Davies, 11st 1lb, 20/1) are Mullins’ other starters as he seeks a first Betfair Hurdle victory. Mullins has yet to have a horse placed in the race from 11 runners.

McManus’ famous silks are also set to be carried by 6/1 second favourite Modus (Paul Nicholls/Nick Scholfield, 10st 12lb), a very useful bumper performer and successful on two of his three starts over hurdles this season. McManus has five runners in total with Waxies Dargle (Noel Meade/Jonathan Moore (5), 11st 1lb, 33/1) Matorico (Jonjo O’Neill/Richie McLernon, 10st 9lb, 33/1) and Champagne At Tara (Jonjo O’Neill/Aidan Coleman, 10st 2lb, 33/1) lining up as well.

Heading the weights on 11st 12lb is last year’s runner-up Cheltenian (Philip Hobbs/Tom O’Brien, 20/1). Philip Hobbs is triple-handed in the Betfair Hurdle, with his other hopes being War Sound (Ciaran Gethings (5), 11st 7lb, 8/1), who will be making his first appearance since winning the valuable Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock in May, and Sternrubin (Richard Johnson, 11st 1lb, 7/1) who scored over the course and distance in a Listed race in November before dead-heating in a Grade Three contest at Ascot the following month.

The Betfair Hurdle has had its fair share of big-priced winners over years, with 50/1 shot Heathcote (2007) and 33/1 chance Splash Of Ginge (2014) both scoring in the last decade. Baby King (Tom George/Paddy Brennan, 10st 1lb), a 33/1 chance with Betfair, scored at Haydock in November but has been beaten twice since, most recently finishing third when starting favourite at Wincanton last month.

Gloucestershire-based George said today: “Baby King loves heavy ground and the more rain, the better for him.

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“He won first time up at Haydock and then we stepped up to two miles and three furlongs (back at Haydock), which was probably too far for him. We probably shouldn’t have run him last time at Wincanton, as the track was too sharp for him under top-weight.

“Newbury should suit him well and he has a nice racing weight. He travels very well and they haven’t always been going quick enough for him in his races but in the Betfair Hurdle we should hopefully be able just to drop him in. I think it is the sort of race that should really suit him.”

Betfair spokesman Barry Orr commented today: “The Betfair Hurdle has been a great betting heat with Dicosimo, Affaire D’Honneur, Starchitect and War Sound all coming in for significant support but it’s last Saturday’s winner, Blazer, who has us most concerned.

“Punters have latched on to him, even when it appeared unlikely he would get a run, and have been backing the Willie Mullins-trained runner almost to the exclusion of everything else in recent days.

“With Barry Geraghty opting for him over Modus any doubt as to who will go off favourite in the race has dissipated.

“A fascinating sub-plot to the race is the Mullins versus Nicholls trainers’ title battle. It won’t be lost on either that the Betfair Hurdle is the richest handicap hurdle in the UK and a first place pay-out of over £88,000 would be very welcome for both sides.”

The Betfair Hurdle forms part of a spectacular seven-race card at Newbury on Betfair Super Saturday, February 13. Declarations for the other six races will be made tomorrow.

Betfair Hurdle, Betfair bet: 7/2 Blazer; 6/1 Modus; 7/1 Sternrubin; 8/1 War Sound; 12/1 Affaire D’Honneur, Forest Bihan, Starchitect; 14/1 Kalkir, Dicosimo; 16/1 Zarib; 20/1 Agrapart, Buiseness Sivola, Cheltenian, Mad Jack Mytton; 25/1 Flying Angel; 33/1 Baby King, Champagne At Tara, Ivan Grozny, Matorico, Montbazon, Waxies Dargle; 50/1 Chieftains Choice
Each Way 1-4 Odds 5 PLACES.