Betfair Hurdle: Run like Ronaldo to grab your Cash

Which 'Ronaldo' will turn up at Newbury?

Timeform's Matt Gardner is well and truly ahead of the game as he takes an early look at the Betfair Hurdle, due to be run at Newbury on February 9...

"A mark of 144, just 2 lb higher than in 2010, looks to be more than fair and Ronaldo Des Mottes could well prove capable of landing this prize..."

There is no time for any preamble or messing around here as the Betfair Hurdle is a serious race, potentially one of the strongest handicaps of the season, so we must therefore put on our serious face. Feel free to don a pair of "slacks", dig out your beige turtleneck jumper and slip into your comfiest pair of brogues at this stage, as you are in for one hell of a sensible ride. 

Top races demand half-decent analysis so, with my keyboard quivering under the pressure, let us embark upon our journey. The obvious starting point is the Nicky Henderson-trained My Tent Or Yours, who looks to be the latest candidate in a line of horses owned by J P McManus to be aimed at this race. Get Me Out Of Here tasted success in 2010 before finishing eighth to Recession Proof in 2011 and second to Zarkandar last year, whilst the ill-fated Darlan was travelling like the winner 12 months ago when falling heavily two out. Get Me Out Of Here looks set to contest this race for the fourth time and he is worth bearing in mind as it is possible to excuse his last two below-par efforts but of more interest is My Tent Or Yours, from which an interesting point of comparison can be drawn with his McManus fellows.

Both Darlan and Get Me Out Of Here came into the Betfair Hurdle having previously being unbeaten, the former taking a bumper prior to a trio of novices' hurdles whilst the latter landed a bumper, two novices' hurdles and a handicap over the Betfair Hurdle C&D. My Tent Or Yours cannot boast the same credentials, having won just three of his six starts, but he has been tried at a higher level than either of the aforementioned pair as he contested the Grade 2 bumper at last season's Aintree Festival. 

My Tent Or Yours' early career might not have got underway as connections had hoped, with the six-year-old being given a Timeform performance squiggle on account of his tendency to hang on his final two starts of that season, but that trait seems to have been eradicated this term. His latest success, at Huntingdon earlier this month, was massively impressive as he sauntered clear to win by seven lengths, being value for plenty of extra over and above that margin. That outing was necessary in order for him to qualify for a mark, allowing his participation in this race, but the manner of his success ensured that the BHA handicapper took no chances in allotting him 149, a mark 3 lb higher than Darlan's last year which, at the time, looked to be stiff enough. 

The as yet untapped potential that My Tent Or Yours possesses is evident and he could well prove to be a long way ahead of this field in time with success in the Supreme Novices' at Cheltenham not out of the question, but there is little value in the 5.85/1 currently on offer so regrettably we must move on. 

The main opposition to the favourite in the market at present is Pearl Swan, who returned from 10 months off with an encouraging effort behind Fair Trade in a "jumpers bumper" at Kempton; it is worth pointing out that Fair Trade was smart on the Flat, thought good enough to run in the 2010 2000 Guineas. Pearl Swan was a useful juvenile hurdler last season, closely matched with Grumeti at Cheltenham in January before falling at the last in the Triumph Hurdle, likely to have finished just behind the placed horses had he stood up, and he remains with the potential to improve if his ability can be channelled properly having demonstrated a tendency to race lazily last term. The five-year-old has reportedly undergone a breathing operation in the summer and, whilst he'll have to progress to defy a mark of 146 here, it is not difficult to envisage him doing so after just three starts over timber. 

Cause of Causes, owned by the Timeform Betfair Racing Club, has improved in leaps and bounds this season, arguably unlucky not to win the Galway Hurdle in August but he has more than made amends for that since, shaping well when third in the Greatwood before impressing with a four-length success in the Ladbroke. The five-year-old backed up that improvement when winning a three-runner affair at Navan and will take his chance here from a 10 lb higher mark than at Ascot, which makes his task difficult for all that he seems likely to make his mark at a higher level. Bearing that in mind, and the fact that he is still a novice, it could be worth backing him for the Supreme or the Neptune at Cheltenham rather than this, safe in the knowledge that were he to win or go close at Newbury he would be a good deal shorter for his intended target at the March highlight. 

Were we to discuss all of the remaining interesting contenders you would be at risk of developing repetitive strain injury in your index finger as a result of persistent scrolling, so we will gloss over the likes of Grumeti and Cotton Mill, both of whom may need this first outing of the season, Dark Lover, who is some 17 lb higher than for his last success, Court Minstrel, who you suspect will prove capable of better at some stage but isn't certain to get a run and Swing Bowler, an unbeaten six-year-old mare who would make plenty of appeal were she guaranteed a place in the field. 

The Nicky Henderson-trained Cash And Go takes the eye with the six-year-old presently trading at 13.012/1. Highly promising in novices when trained by Eddie O'Grady in Ireland last season, beating Dylan Ross by half a length in the Grade 1 Future Champions Hurdle at Leopardstown, Cash And Go made an excellent start for his new connections when second to Olofi in the Greatwood, shaping well after nine months off as he made smooth headway to challenge at the final flight before finding the eventual winner too strong at the death. He unseated at the fourth on his next outing in the Ladbroke, which he could prove to be a temporary blip, and he may reward those who stick by him here. 

One final horse worth discussing at length is Ronaldo des Mottes, who has form in this race having finished second to Get Me Out Of Here in 2010. He has raced only sporadically since, a series of absences punctuating several outings in which he was highly-tried, taking part in races such as the Aintree Hurdle and the Kingwell, but he shaped well after 21 months on the sidelines at Ascot earlier this month, travelling well and not given a hard time once held. A mark of 144, just 2 lb higher than in 2010, looks to be more than fair and he could well prove capable of landing this prize. 

Betting ante-post in a race like this is always difficult, as it is tough to overlook those you fancy to go well but seem unlikely to get a run. Court Minstrel and Swing Bowler would be to the fore on that list, as would the Emma Lavelle-trained Claret Cloak, but you have to focus on the ones higher up the weights. My Tent Or Yours could easily win this but he cannot be backed at current prices so, in opposition to him, we want two on our side, namely Cash And Go and Ronaldo Des Mottes. Both could be on fair marks and seem likely to be in the hunt come the finish, but it all depends upon whether a flash of green and gold can deny them glory.

Recommendations:
Back Ronaldo Des Mottes @ 16.5
Back Cash And Go @ 13.012/1

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