Henderson outlines his plans for Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle
Nicky Henderson, the most successful trainer in Betfair Hurdle history with five winners, is intending to saddle between two and four runners in this year’s renewal of Britain’s richest handicap hurdle at Newbury on Betfair Super Saturday, February 7.
He revealed today that six-year-olds Sign Of A Victory and Vasco Du Ronceray are being targeted at the £155,000 race, while Dawalan and Snake Eyes could also participate.
Henderson, speaking to the media at a stable visit to Seven Barrows organised by Newbury Racecourse and Betfair, commented: “Sign Of A Victory is a better horse on good ground but we are pretty keen on running him in the Betfair Hurdle as there is nothing else before Cheltenham and what is he going to run in at Cheltenham?
“He is still in the Champion Hurdle but we had funny issues, nothing to do with the horse, prior to Kempton and I cannot believe you saw him at his very best that day. He wasn’t going to beat the winner Faugheen in a million years but he should have been second.
“He just didn’t get home after travelling well. I know it was soft but I think he can be a bit sharper than that. He is getting stronger and more able to cope with soft ground.
“He would have to run an incredible race in the Betfair Hurdle to go for the Champion Hurdle.
“The Betfair Hurdle is a great race with a great prize. Barry (Geraghty) was keen to come on to the Betfair Hurdle after he rode Sign Of AVictory at Kempton. If there was really bad ground, that would be a worry.
“Sign Of A Victory is working well, having done two very nice bits of work, is in good form and I am hoping the ground will suit him.
“Vasco Du Ronceray is the other one who should definitely be in attendance at Newbury. He has always looked like he would be all right but things did not just go his way last season and we had a few issues.
“He was good first time out this season in November and then he went a bit quiet on us but for the last three weeks he has been in very good form.
“He is sharp enough, will handle the ground and he would have a realistic chance.
“Dawalan will only run in the Betfair Hurdle if he does not go to Musselburgh for a three-mile race on Sunday when the idea is to get him Pertemps qualified.
“We had his wind done in the summer and he is a better horse on good ground because of his breathing.
“He is working very, very well at the moment and seems in terrific form.
“Snake Eyes is on the shortlist for the Betfair Hurdle but the question is whether he will get in the race (He is 43rd on the list of possible runners with a maximum field of 24). He went to Ireland the other day and ran well for a long way.
“We could be tempted if it looked like he could get in. We will talk to Frank (Berry – racing manager to owner J P McManus). Snake Eyes has just been hacking away – he came back from Ireland in good form.
“The Betfair Hurdle is the best two-mile handicap and the most competitive of the whole year, as well as being the most valuable. We want to win it again.
“My winners have been very different. I think my runners this year have realistic chances and both Sign Of A Victory and Vasco Du Ronceray have been aimed at the race for a while.”
Sign Of A Victory is the Henderson horse in most demand for the Betfair Hurdle with the sponsor and is a 14/1 chance with its Sportsbook.
Barry Orr of Betfair said: “The best-backed horses so far in the Betfair Hurdle are the favourite Calipto, who has been supported from 14/1 to 5/1, and Activial who is 8/1 from 12/1.”
The Betfair Hurdle is the highlight of Betfair Super Saturday on February 7.
Richard Osgood, Newbury’s Clerk of the Course, gave a ground update. He said: “I walked the track this morning, before we had this bout of rain, and we will be racing on very fresh ground on both hurdle and chase tracks.
“The jumps will be opened right up so the whole of the inside line is open and likewise on the hurdle we will be running very close to the wings.
“I will be covering the course from tomorrow morning. Although the temperatures are not forecast to get desperately low, they are talking about minus one or minus two Celsius through the early part of next week.
“I just want to keep the frost out of the ground by putting down the covers early. The going at the moment is Good to Soft, Soft in places. We are on very fresh ground with plenty of grass.”