Timeform bring you their comprehensive runner-by-runner guide to Saturday's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and pick out their 1-2-3...
"...shaped with abundant promise in a brace of high-end handicaps 9 months apart..."
Timeform on Ciel de Neige
1. Gumball (Philip Hobbs/Ben Jones (3))
Smart hurdler who struck at Ascot in November and ran even better in defeat in Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham, going down only narrowly. Wasn't disgraced when upped in grade in International Hurdle last time but likely to bump into a couple of better-handicapped rivals here.
2. Pic d'Orhy (Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden)
Has failed to meet expectations in three starts for this yard but has some smart form in France and could be on a fair mark if everything clicks. Has a bit to prove at present, though.
3. Stolen Silver (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies)
Unseated on hurdles debut but made amends at Ffos Las and found only the exciting Chantry House too strong at Cheltenham. Stepped up again to win Grade 2 Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle (beating Edwardstone and Thebannerkingrebel), impressing with his strength at the finish, but hasn't been handed an easy opening mark.
4. Harambe (Alan King/Tom Bellamy)
Finished last season on the up, winning novices at Kempton and Market Rasen before finishing runner-up in a novice handicap at Sandown, and built on Chepstow comeback when producing career best to land Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham. Others look better treated but he should go well.
5. Not So Sleepy (Hughie Morrison/Jonathan Burke)
Useful Flat performer who justified good support to win handicap hurdle at Ascot under a well-judged front-running ride in November and then took a big step forward to take apart the field in Betfair Exchange Trophy (also at Ascot), bolting up by nine lengths. Cannot be ruled out on the back of such an impressive success, and is still unexposed over hurdles, but a 17 lb higher mark could prove tricky to overcome.
6. Mill Green (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville)
Successful on first two outings over hurdles last season but then showed consistent rather than progressive form on final three starts of the campaign, reaching the frame without winning again. Resumed progress on belated return at Sandown last month, getting the better of Eldorado Allen (pair clear), and while an 8 lb higher mark will make things more difficult he is difficult to rule out.
7. Nelson River (Tony Carroll/Harry Bannister)
Dual juvenile winner last season who has been well beaten on both starts this term. Doesn't look well treated on handicap debut.
8. Thebannerkingrebel (Jamie Snowden/Gavin Sheehan)
Smart bumper performer who has created an excellent impression in novice hurdles, winning three of his five starts, including listed race at Haydock in November. Close-up third behind Stolen Silver in Grade 2 at the same course last time and he could yet have more to offer on his handicap debut.
9. Never Adapt (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty)
Headstrong but talented mare who built on a promising reappearance at Cheltenham when justifying favouritism at Kempton last month, prevailing despite failing to settle. Has gone up 10 lb but still looks fairly handicapped and could yet do better if not pulling so hard. Could be well suited by getting plenty of cover in a big field.
10. Remiluc (Chris Gordon/Tom Cannon)
Finished runner-up in County Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival but offered little on his return from 21 months off at Sandown last month and difficult to recommend on the back of that.
11. Oakley (Philip Hobbs/Tom O'Brien)
Enjoyed a productive novice campaign last season, winning twice, and has finished placed on all three outings this term. Shaped best at Cheltenham last time (beaten a neck after idling) but has gone up 5 lb and others look better treated.
12. Zanza (Philip Hobbs/Sean Houlihan (3))
Produced career-best effort to win conditionals' handicap hurdle over C&D in November, but came up short in Greatwood Hurdle and fell in the Betfair Exchange Trophy. Others hold stronger claims.
13. Ecco (Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost)
Created a good impression when winning a maiden at Wincanton and a novice at Ascot on his first two starts this term and bounced back from a lacklustre display at Cheltenham when runner-up at Kempton (winner has followed up since). Needs to do more to defy opening mark but is lightly raced.
14. Lightly Squeeze (Harry Fry/Sean Bowen)
Failed to justify favouritism at Warwick or Huntingdon but has since rattled up a hat-trick, showing improved form each team. This is much more competitive, though, and he is now 17 lb higher.
15. Ciel de Neige (Willie Mullins, Ireland/Aidan Coleman)
Highly encouraging first effort for the yard when finishing third in Boodles Juvenile Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last season and shaped with promise when fourth in another well-contested handicap on his reappearance at Fairyhouse in December. Beaten at long odds-on at Limerick last time but he looked unlucky not to win (was short of room at a crucial stage while still going well) and retains plenty of ability. Potentially well handicapped and is a fascinating contender for leading connections.
16. Whoshotthesheriff (Philip Kirby/Sean Quinlan)
Won three times during a productive novice campaign last season and has been shaping well without winning in handicaps this term, looking set to be in the frame when falling at Cheltenham and then finding only one too strong at Haydock. Only fifth behind Not So Sleepy at Ascot last time but he wasn't seen to best effect (possibly unsuited by testing ground and wide trip) and could give a good account at a big price.
17. Quoi de Neuf (Evan Williams/Brian Hughes)
Novice winner last season who was a creditable runner-up in Chepstow handicap on his reappearance and ran to a similar level when fourth behind Harambe in Greatwood Hurdle. Brought down four out when going well in Betfair Exchange Trophy and could have more to offer.
18. Highly Prized (Emma Lavelle/Jonjo O'Neill Jr.)
Fairly useful performer on the Flat in the US who has taken well to hurdling. Scored on seasonal reappearance at Newton Abbot in August and took another big step forward when winning in good style on handicap debut at Huntingdon, quickening well and drawing eight lengths clear. Has a 10 lb higher mark to contend with in a tougher race but is well worth a crack at this level and could offer decent value.
19. Sir Valentine (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Jamie Bargary)
Useful Flat performer who has taken well to hurdling, winning a novice over C&D before bumping into a good prospect at Wetherby. Produced a creditable effort to finish third on handicap debut behind Not So Sleepy at Ascot in December but, while he is still unexposed, he needs to take another step forward here.
20. Flegmatik (Dan Skelton/Bridget Andrews)
Unexposed hurdler who showed improved form when runner-up at Wetherby on handicap debut in November. Fairly handicapped and is open to improvement after only four starts, but this is much tougher.
21. Magic Dancer (Kerry Lee/Richard Patrick (3))
Losing run stretches back to April 2018 but has gone close on a few occasions, including last time at Huntingdon, where he made a late error and was only edged out by an unexposed rival. Consistent type but likely to bump into at least a couple with plenty in hand.
22. Neff (Gary Moore/Joshua Moore)
Consistent type who produced a couple of creditable second-place finishes in between posting victories at Fontwell. Is flying much higher here, though, and doesn't look well handicapped.
23. Mack The Man (Evan Williams/Adam Wedge)
Beaten on all four starts over hurdles last season but has been a different proposition this term, winning handicap on his return at Warwick (beating Lightly Squeeze, who has rattled up a hat-trick since) and taking another step forward to win a strong listed handicap at Sandown. Has an 8 lb higher mark to overcome but is lightly raced, progressive and represents an in-form yard, so a bold show looks on the cards.
24. Tamaroc du Mathan (Paul Nicholls/James Bowen)
Winner in France who produced an encouraging effort when runner-up in an Ascot novice on his debut for this yard. However, he was tailed off behind Not So Sleepy and has a question to answer.
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Timeform Betfair Hurdle Analyst Verdict
A race dominated by novices in recent times, and CIEL DE NEIGE fits the bill as an unexposed 5-y-o representing leading connections. He shaped with abundant promise in a brace of high-end handicaps 9 months apart and shouldn't be judged too harshly on his subsequent Limerick reversal. Mack The Man is unbeaten in handicaps, while Highly Prized has perhaps been saved for this.
Timeform Betfair Hurdle 1-2-3
1. Ciel de Neige
2. Mack The Man
3. Highly Prized