Calipto heads market as maximum field declared for Betfair Hurdle

A maximum field of 24 is set to face the starter for the £155,000 Grade Three Betfair Hurdle (3.35pm), which headlines a superb seven-race card at Newbury on Betfair Super Saturday, February 7.

Calipto (Paul Nicholls/Sam Twiston-Davies) is 11/2 market leader with Betfair Sportsbook for Britain’s richest handicap hurdle. The five-year-old underwent a wind operation after his second to Tiger Roll at Cheltenham in October and will be sporting a hood for the first time.


Fellow five-year-old Activial (Noel Fehily) is next best at 7/1 after a good third in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot in December. His trainer Harry Fry also saddles Jolly’s Cracked It (14/1, Nick Scholfield), who chased home L’Ami Serge in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown Park on January 3.


Sign Of A Victory (12/1, Barry Geraghty) carries top-weight of 11st 12lb as trainer Nicky Henderson bids for a sixth victory in the extended two-mile contest. The Lambourn handler also runs Haydock Park scorer Vasco Du Ronceray (25/1, Peter Carberry).


Fascino Rustico (10/1, Harry Skelton) has been a revelation since joining Dan Skelton, winning a pair of novices’ hurdles decisively, while On Tour (16/1, Evan Williams/Paul Moloney) drops back in trip after three victories at around two and a half miles.


Another contender on a winning streak is the bottom-weight Lightentertainment. The Chris Gordon-trained se

ven-year-old has won on five of his six recent most starts and notched up the hat-trick when getting up late to deny Dell’ Arca in a two mile, one furlong handicap hurdle at Cheltenham on January 24.


Lightentertainment, a 16/1 shot with Betfair Sportsbook, is the mount of regular rider Tom Cannon.


Gordon said today: “I did not think Lightentertainment would get in but he has and we must take our chance.


“It was a good performance at Cheltenham. He got a little bit tapped for toe coming down the hill but Tom (Cannon) was not hard on him, let him find his feet and he came home really well.


“In an ideal world, I wish it was over a furlong or two further on Saturday. I’m sure they will go a real good gallop in a race like that and we know our horse will be doing his best work at the finish.


“The betting tells you how competitive it is but our horse is really healthy and it would be great if he can run into a place.”


David Pipe is going for a first Betfair Hurdle triumph and relies on the lightly-raced Balgarry (14/1, Tom Scudamore), while the John Ferguson-trained Pine Creek (14/1, Jamie Moore) is seeking compensation after being just touched off by Bayan in the Ladbroke Hurdle last time out.


Yorkshire-based John Quinn took the spoils with Recession Proof in 2011 and has two unexposed contenders in Chieftains Choice (16/1, James Reveley) and Forced Family Fun (40/1/1, Dougie Costello), who both scored last time out.


Wicklow Brave (20/1, Ruby Walsh) is flying the flag for Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins. The six-year-old was a classy novice last season but has disappointed in two starts so far this season.


Other notables include Aso (20/1, Venetia Williams/Aidan Coleman), a Grade Two victor last time out, and Ballybolley (20/1, Daryl Jacob), who represents last year’s winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.


Barry Orr of Betfair said today: “The main protagonists all stand their ground and we are 11/2 Calipto as he bids to keep the Paul Nicholls Saturday show on the road. He looks virtually certain to go off favourite but, with a full complement of 24 runners, this year’s renewal is competitive as ever so we are offering five places to each way backers.”


Betfair Hurdle – Betfair Sportsbook prices:

11/2 Calipto; 7/1 Activial; 10/1 Fascino Rustico; 12/1 Sign Of A Victory; 14/1 Balgarry, Jollys Cracked It, Pine Creek; 16/1 Chieftains Choice, On Tour, Lightentertainment, Goodwood Mirage; 20/1 Aso, Wicklow Brave, Ballyboley, Ebony Express; 25/1 Amore Alato, Cheltenian, Vasco Du Ronceray, Arzal; 33/1 Bordoni, Swing Bowler, Violet Dancer, Sleep Haven; 40/1 Forced Family Fun

Each-Way Terms: 1/4 Odds, 1-2-3-4-5


Denman On Parade


The legendary Denman, winner of the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup, will be on parade at Newbury on Betfair Super Saturday.


Now a 15-year-old, the former Paul Nicholls-trained chaser will parade before racing and will also lead the runners down to post in the £50,000 Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase (2.25pm), the race he won prior to his memorable Cheltenham victory.


This was one of five successes for Denman at Newbury, with two coming in the Hennessy Gold Cup (2009 & 2007), both times under top-weight.


Splash Of Ginge Band


A year on from Splash Of Ginge’s win in the 2014 Betfair Hurdle, his owner John Neild will also be in attendance. Known as one of the more enthusiastic and flamboyant owners in racing, not many people know that he is also an accomplished musician.

He will be joined by two friends, who are professional musicians, to become the official ‘Ginge Army’ band, and will be playing in the Champagne Hall after racing.


Going & Weather


Andy Clifton, Head of Communications at Newbury Racecourse, said today: “The last 24 hours have been largely dry and the going remains Soft all over. There has been some light sleet and drizzle, but nothing of any significance.


“The forecast up to Saturday is for overnight temperatures to go down to minus one degrees before rising to five or six in the daytime, although it will feel colder with the wind chill.


“The course has been covered since last Thursday (January 29) and the covers will remain down until Saturday morning. The Flat course, which has not been covered at all, would have been raceable today.


“The current forecast indicates that the meeting is in no danger at all and we are all set for a fantastic afternoon of top quality Jump racing on Betfair Super Saturday.”


Tickets will be available on the day and there is currently limited space available in the Hennessy and Racegoers restaurants.