Timeform bring you their runner-by-runner guide to the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday...
"...proved better than ever when three quarters of a length second to Maria's Benefit in Grade 2 mares' event at Doncaster last time..."
Saturday, 10th February
1. HIGH BRIDGE (Ben Pauling/Mr Alex Ferguson (7))
Won three of four starts over hurdles in 2016/17, and proved at least as good as ever when two lengths third to Elgin on return/handicap debut at Ascot in November. Resumed winning ways in listed handicap over C&D (by one and a quarter lengths from Charli Parcs) last time, very much having run of race. More needed from 3 lb higher mark, but could still have more to offer.
2. JENKINS (Nicky Henderson/James Bowen (3))
Smart bumper performer who belatedly came good in handicaps when winning in first-time blinkers at Kempton in January. Off just seven days, improved further when following up in Grade 3 handicap at Ascot (by two and a quarter lengths from Air Horse One) last time, leading three out and keeping on well. Thriving at present and 3 lb well-in under penalty.
3. BLEU ET ROUGE (Willie Mullins, Ireland/Barry Geraghty)
Grade 1-winning novice in 2015/16 who got back on track when six lengths fourth to Hunters Call in Grade 3 handicap at Ascot last time, going smoothly for long way. Likely stronger gallop here in his favour and should give another good account from same mark.
4. VERDANA BLUE (Nicky Henderson/Davy Russell)
Strong-travelling sort who won handicap at Ascot in November, and shaped well when four and a half lengths third to Hunters Call back there last time, finishing well with lot to do in falsely-run race. In good form and another who will be seen to better effect with a stronger gallop.
5. CHARLI PARCS (Nicky Henderson/Ned Curtis (5))
Looked exciting prospect when winning newcomers' race at Enghien and juvenile at Kempton in 2016/17, but didn't go on as expected in two subsequent starts that season. Resumed progress when one and a quarter lengths second to High Bridge on return, but went in snatches when well below form last time.
6. DIVIN BERE (Paul Nicholls/Sam Twiston-Davies)
Showed smart form as a juvenile hurdler for Nicky Henderson in 2016/17, but raced too freely when well below form on return/stable debut and needs to bounce back.
7. REMILUC (Chris Gordon/Harry Reed (7))
Enjoyed run of race when winning handicap at Cheltenham (by two lengths from Huntsman Son) last time. Looks up against it in this more competitive environment.
8. MOON RACER (David Pipe/Tom Scudamore)
Smart bumper performer who won novice at Perth and Sharp Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham (by two and a quarter lengths from Mirsaale) in 2016/17. Not in same form in races at Cheltenham and Aintree on final two starts that season, though, and this a tough ask after 10 months off.
9. MISTERTON (Harry Fry/Nick Scholfield)
Won handicap at Chepstow in October, and improved further when neck second to Elgin in Greatwood Hurdle (Handicap) at Cheltenham last time, battling well. 5 lb higher here but still unexposed after just six starts over hurdles.
10. KALASHNIKOV (Amy Murphy/Jack Quinlan)
Lost unbeaten record when four lengths second to Summerville Boy in Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown last time, rallying well despite losing a shoe. Emerged from that run with plenty of credit and starts out handicapping from fair mark, with prospect of more to come.
11. PROJECT BLUEBOOK (John Quinn/Brian Hughes)
Won three times in 2016/17, including Grade 2 juvenile at Fairyhouse. Off three months, shaped better than result when 15 and three quarter lengths eighth to Elgin in Greatwood Hurdle (Handicap) at Cheltenham last time, travelling well for long way.
12. KAYF GRACE (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville)
Smart bumper performer who won novice at Bangor on sole 2016/17 start. Justified strong market support when also winning handicap at Kempton (by one and a half lengths from Eddiemaurice) last time. Could have more to offer, but will need to from 8 lb higher mark.
13. SPIRITOFTHEGAMES (Dan Skelton/Bridget Andrews (3))
Consistent sort who won handicap at Lingfield in November, and progressed further when good three quarters of a length second to William Henry in 21f Lanzarote Hurdle (Handicap) at Kempton last time. First try at 2m here, but looks sure to go well again despite 5 lb rise.
14. LOUGH DERG SPIRIT (Nicky Henderson/Jeremiah McGrath)
Won two of four starts over hurdles in 2016/17, and improved again after seven months off when three lengths second to London Prize in Elite Hurdle (Handicap) at Wincanton last time, sticking to task well. Open to further progress, but perhaps not until trying longer trips again.
15. POPPY KAY (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson)
Showed improved form after seven months off to win handicap over C&D in November. Also won four-runner listed mares' event at Sandown (by half a length from Midnight Jazz) last time, battling well. Entered in mares' hurdle at Warwick on Saturday, too.
16. LALOR (Kayley Woollacott/Daryl Jacob)
Won three times in bumpers in 2016/17, including Grade 2 event at Aintree. No win in three starts over hurdles so far, and only matched previous form when two lengths second to Western Ryder in novice at Cheltenham last time, making smooth headway on run to last. Could be on a good mark judged by bumper form and should have more to offer now handicapping.
17. KNOCKNANUSS (Gary Moore/Jamie Moore)
Closely-related to top-class hurdler Dato Star. Won maiden at Plumpton in May, and improved further to resume winning ways in handicap at Fontwell (readily, by seven lengths from Notre Ami) last time. Likely to progress further for yard that won this race in 2007, 2008 and 2015.
18. WATERLORD (Donald McCain/Will Kennedy)
Sturdy gelding who won novices at Bangor and Haydock, both in December. Shaped better than result when 12 and a quarter lengths fourth to First Flow in Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle at latter course last time, paying price for taking on winner. Respected from what looks a fair opening mark.
19. WILLIAM H BONNEY (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson)
Shaped well after six months off when six and three quarter lengths fifth to Elgin in Greatwood Hurdle (Handicap) at Cheltenham in November, but failed to build on that when well held last time.
20. IRISH ROE (Peter Atkinson/Henry Brooke)
Fairly useful bumper performer who is four from six over hurdles, and proved better than ever when three quarters of a length second to Maria's Benefit in Grade 2 mares' event at Doncaster last time, keeping on well. 11 lb well-in back in a handicap and looks a major player accordingly.
21. SILVER STREAK (Evan Williams/Mitchell Bastyan (5))
Won handicap at Chepstow in October, and improved again after 10 weeks off when three lengths second to Hunters Call at Ascot last time, going strongly but no match for winner. This likely to have been his target since and looks sure to go well from just 3 lb higher.
22. NIETZSCHE (Brian Ellison/Danny Cook)
Won three times in 2016/17, when also half-length third of 22 to Flying Tiger in Fred Winter Hurdle at Cheltenham. Not seen to best effect in Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham, before respectable tenth to Hunters Call at Ascot last time (better placed than many).
23. COEUR BLIMEY (Susan Gardner/Lucy Gardner(3))
Won listed bumper at Ascot in 2015/16 and developed into useful hurdler since, winning hanndicap at Wincanton in December. Respectable sixth to William Henry in Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton last time, though again let down by jumping.
24. ZALVADOS (Oliver Greenall/Ross Turner (7))
Good effort when neck second to Limited Reserve in handicap at Haydock in December and didn't need to improve when winning 13-runner maiden at Ludlow last time readily by 4½ lengths from Shivermetimbers. Usually travels strongly.
25. MAGIC DANCER (Reserve)
Much improved for new stable, winning at Kempton and Cheltenham within five days in November. Shaped as if still in good form when seventh to Hunters Call at Ascot last time, left with too much to do.
26. MAQUISARD (Reserve)
French recruit who was good third in listed event at Pau in early-2016 but who has been well beaten in handicaps both starts in Britain.
Timeform Betfair Hurdle 1-2-3
1. Irish Roe
2. Verdana Blue
3. Silver Streak
Timeform Betfair Hurdle Analyst's Verdict
Invariably one of the hottest handicaps of the season. IRISH ROE looks well-in on the back of her excellent second in a Doncaster Grade 2 a fortnight ago and can provide North Yorkshire permit-holder Peter Atkinson with a famous success. Verdana Blue is another strong-travelling mare who should be suited well suited by this race and heads the many dangers along with Silver Streak and Waterlord.