Champ among super seven for Betway Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury tomorrow

Poetic Rhythm (right) wins the Betway Challow Hurdle in 2017, giving trainer
Fergal O’Brien his first Grade 1 winner.

Impressive course and distance winner Champ, plus G2 scorers Coolanly and Alsa Mix, feature among a tremendous field of seven for the £45,000 G1 Betway Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury tomorrow, Saturday, December 29.

The afternoon will also mark the end of an era as departing Clerk of the Course Richard Osgood officiates at the track for the final time – 99 years after the first member of the Osgood family joined the racecourse staff.

The day will be marked with the first race being renamed in his honour as the Betway ‘Farewell to Richard Osgood’ Juvenile Hurdle with a special presentation to be made ahead of the first race. Since first joining the Newbury team in 1979, almost 40 years ago, Richard has never missed a day’s racing.

Run over an extended two and a half miles, the Betway Challow Novices’ Hurdle is Newbury’s only Grade 1 contest across the National Hunt season and boasts a superb roll of honour that includes the 2005 winner Denman, who went on to land two runnings of the now Ladbrokes Trophy (2007 & 2009), plus the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Other famous names to have landed the Betway Challow Hurdle include the 2002 Grand National winner Bindaree, as well as King’s Road, Diamond Harry and Barters Hill.

All seven runners this year head into the race on the back of victories, including Champ (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty). The six-year-old returns to novice company after completing a hat-trick of wins with an imposing display against seasoned opposition in a valuable handicap hurdle at the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival on December 1.

Last year’s renewal of the Betway Challow Hurdle produced one of Newbury’s moments of the season when Poetic Rhythm handed his trainer Fergal O’Brien a first G1 success.

The Gloucestershire handler is represented this time by Coolanly (Paddy Brennan), who readily took a G2 novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham in November. The second-season novice also showed a high level of form last season, including when fifth in the G1 Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National Meeting.

O’Brien said: “The Betway Challow Novices’ Hurdle looks a very good race this year with seven in-form runners.

“We are looking forward to running Coolanly. He did not do anything wrong when he won at Cheltenham and deserves to take his chance on the back of that.

“I don’t think slower ground will be a problem. He seems fairly versatile actually and I think he will handle most types of ground.”

Alsa Mix (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson) is unbeaten in three starts under rules, with the six-year-old mare having followed up a Worcester bumper victory last term with two hurdle wins this campaign, including a comfortable success in the G2 Winter Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown Park on December 7.

Kateson (Tom Lacey/Tom Scudamore), runner-up in a G2 bumper at Aintree in April, also boasts a 100 per cent record over hurdles. The son of Black Sam Bellamy followed up victory at Chepstow on November 7 with an easy success over the same course and distance as the Betway Challow Hurdle at the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival later the same month.

Tom Lacey, who trains in Herefordshire, commented: “Kateson came out of his win at Newbury in good form and the plan has always been to come back for this race.

“He won well at Newbury as he had to give away a penalty and you see very few horses managing it – you need to be an above average horse to give away a penalty in a novice hurdle at Newbury.

“Kateson is a soft-ground horse and he is bred to want soft ground. He is certainly the best of my novices at the moment.

“Whatever he achieves over hurdles is a bonus. Once he gets over fences, he could be anything, so we have a lot to look forward to.”

Brewin’upastorm (Olly Murphy/Richard Johnson) has also created a striking impression over hurdles, having won decisively on his only start over the smaller obstacles at Huntingdon on December 9.

Nestor Park (Ben Pauling/Nico de Boinville), a five-length winner at Warwick in November, and Getaway Trump (Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden), who scored by the same margin at Exeter on December 7, complete the exciting line-up.

Betway sponsors the entire programme at Newbury tomorrow, with a seven-race card getting underway at 12.05pm. Other highlights include the Betway Heed Your Hunch Handicap Hurdle (1.50pm, eight runners) and the Betway Mandarin Handicap Chase (2.25pm, 10 runners).

Ground

The latest going at Newbury Racecourse is Good to Soft, Soft in places.

Gates open at 10.00am with tickets available on the gate.

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