The Be Wiser Insurance Juvenile Handicap Hurdle is a valuable juvenile event that is often a good opportunity for horses who weren't rated high enough to get into the Fred Winter - now known as the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle - at the Cheltenham Festival.
One that leaps off the page with that in mind when looking at the five-day entries is the Paul Nicholls-trained Friend Or Foe. The lightly-raced four-year-old was vying for favouritism in the ante-post markets for the aforementioned race before being balloted out, not surprising given his profile, and the fact his trainer has tasted success with similar types at the Festival in the past. Cheltenham's loss is almost certainly Newbury's gain, though, having made a good start to life in Britain when winning a juvenile event at Taunton in December by one and a quarter lengths from Zafar. Judged strictly on that form, an opening mark of 128 isn't overly generous, but given he is open to further progress, and the reputation he seemingly has - he was talked up at a couple of Cheltenham Festival Preview Evenings - he is expected to prove very competitive.
Zafar did nothing to harm the form on his next start, either, shaping better than the distance beaten when taking on his elders in a novice hurdle at Fontwell last month. He was well backed that day, travelling well in mid-division before pressing the leader over three out, but having no answer and not unduly punished thereafter. There should be even more to come from him, also, especially now handicapping, and is another who commands plenty of respect here.
Alan King's Elysees perhaps isn't open to as much progress as the two already mentioned, but he has more substance to his form, beaten only a neck in second to the then thriving Quel Destin in the Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster last time, only edged out on the run-in. Although Quel Destin failed to give his running in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last time, he had already franked that form, and it's worth remembering he was a well-fancied second favourite for the Triumph. Elysees has shown enough to suggest he should be competitive from a mark in the low 130s and, a strong stayer on the Flat, he should appreciate the extra two furlongs here.
Looking further down the market, Groveman is perhaps overpriced given the level he has run to in his three starts over hurdles so far. A fairly useful performer on the Flat, he made a winning start over hurdles in an ordinary event at Catterick in January, and has improved in defeat twice since, shaping well when 10 lengths second to Ingleby Hollow in a novice at Sedgefield last time, rallying after being outpaced on the home turn. He is another who will be well suited by this longer trip and isn't one to underestimate.
The Knot Is Tied has some solid form to his name, also, having contested handicaps the last twice, finding only a thriving type too good at Huntingdon last month, and running to a similar level when filling the same position at Sandown last time. He travelled through the race notably better than the winner that day, testing conditions and a strong headwind in the straight seemingly ebbing away at his stamina. The ground should be more to his liking on Saturday and this strong travelling-type should be suited by the make-up of a race of this type.
Henry de Bromhead had two impressive winners at the Cheltenham Festival last week and could be set for another British raid with his Havingagoodtime. She showed improved form to open her account in a juvenile event at Fairyhouse in December and ran well in the face of a stiff task up against her elders in a novice at Naas last month, beaten nine lengths in fourth by the subsequent Fred Winter winner Band of Outlaws. Her form stacks up and you could argue she should be shorter than a double-figure price.
Dan Skelton also enjoyed a fruitful Cheltenham Festival with two winners and his Flegmatik is another who needs mentioning. He landed some strong support when making a winning British debut at Wetherby in December, and was again strong in the betting when only third in a similar event at Warwick last time. The handicapper hasn't taken any chances with his opening mark but there should be more to come from him on just his fourth career start and the yard are clearly in form.
Paul Nicholls' other entry, Scaramanga, is also worth noting following his nine-length romp at Taunton last time. He made the most of a good opportunity that day, but he was a useful maiden on the Flat for James Fanshawe and this mark shouldn't prove beyond him.
In summary, this looks a potentially open renewal, where a case can be made for several, especially Friend Or Foe and Elysees, but they are more towards the fore of the market and Groveman could offer some value. He looks fairly treated on the pick of his form and will be suited by this bigger test of stamina, so makes a fair bit of appeal at the prices.