ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Tony Calvin Antepost Tips: Time is right to back Mullins horse at 20/1 for Betfair Hurdle

Betfair horse racing tipster Tony Calvin
TC has one antepost bet for Saturday's Betfair Hurdle

Iberico Lord is a worthy joint-favourite but a Mullins horse is the one to back antepost says Tony Calvin in his preview of Saturday's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury...

  • Iberico Lord a worthy fav for Betfair Hurdle

  • Rain could mean soft or heavy ground

  • 20/121.00 Mullins horse could be the shortener

It is currently good, good to soft in places, for the Betfair Hurdle day at Newbury on Saturday, but the weather is set to get pretty tasty from Tuesday onwards.

That is to say, pretty wet.

The BHA site says they expect 25-35mm before Saturday but the main weather site I use has 8mm and 26mm alone landing on Tuesday and Thursday respectively, with rain around on the other days, too.

We could easily be looking at a mixture of soft and heavy if the worst-case scenario materialises. And a going stick reading of 4.4 as of 8am on Saturday does suggest it could already be softer than advertised on the hurdles track.

Generous pot on offer in Betfair Hurdle

The £155k Betfair Hurdle at 15:15 - the prize money, which includes £87,219 to the winner, dwarfs the handicap pots at the Cheltenham Festival (for example, Faivoir got just over 56k for winning the County Hurdle last year) - and the numbers for the race went from 33 to a healthy 26 after Monday's confirmation stage.

The weights will be raised 3lb after top weight Nemean Lion was pulled out, and there is a maximum field of 24 on the day.

Lookaway and Tellherthename are also in at Exeter on Sunday, and Donnacha is entered at Warwick on Saturday.

Before Monday's confirmation stage, Nicky Henderson had an incredibly strong hand with the ante-post favourite Iberico Lord (though it was 7s the field, admittedly), Under Control, First Street, Luccia and Doddiethegreat.

Bizarrely perhaps, he has decided not to press on with First Street, despite that horse being 5lb well-in after his third in the Grade 2 Unibet Hurdle at Cheltenham and officially being the best handicapped horse in the field.

Maybe it was the weather forecast, or that dreaded shadow of the Festival. His other four remain in the race, though.

Nicky Henderson binoculars 1280.png

I was very disappointed with Iberico Lord's effort in finishing only seventh to stablemate Luccia at Ascot last time, and I don't know what to make of that run. Everything looked to be going to plan at the halfway stage, but then he lost his pitch going to three out, and he was never competitive afterwards.

It was a head-scratcher. I want to blame the track and the sub-2m trip, but that may not be credible.

Either way, I didn't expect an 8lb rise from his Greatwood Hurdle success, a win that has worked out exceptionally well, to stop him following up that day.

So, I would still be willing to forgive him that run and make him my clear favourite here.

That Cheltenham form (and Timeform called it heavy that day, so you'd have thought the bad forecast is no concern to him) really is red-hot 2m handicap form.

The runner-up Lookaway finished second in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle next time. The third (Luccia) and fourth, Sonigino, won on their following outings; the fifth, Nemean Lion, finished second in the Lanzarote, and the sixth (Go Dante) obliged at Cheltenham on his next start, beating Doddiethegreat.

I will have to have him onside if he runs - he is currently 7s co-favourite of three on the Sportsbook alongside Luccia and Ocastle Des Mottes - but the problem with backing him now is that Henderson also has the 12s chance Under Control in here for JP McManus. She is 1lb well-in after splitting Grade 1 winners Ashroe Diamond and Gala Marceau at Doncaster last time.

They should run both, but you never know. They may decide to keep one back for the County Hurdle, for all the prize money for that race is a poor relation of this prize, as mentioned above.

The handicapper could have put Under Control up by more than 1lb (they could have given her an extra 2lb perhaps) for the Donny run, too.

The big disappointment in the Greatwood Hurdle was L'Eau Du Sud but the market saw that run (he was pulled up) coming.

He was single figures in the morning but he took a massive walk in the market throughout the day, returning at a Betfair SP of 15.0, having been available at bigger still near to the off.

Quite what went on there is hard to say, but Dan Skelton hasn't been firing with his usual regularity this season (strike rate of 15 per cent, and he is going through another lean spell at the moment) - he was only operating at 12 per cent in November at the time of the Greatwood - but this is a horse who shaped better than a 129-rated beast on a couple of occasions last season and he is a dangerous floater at 20s.

Betfair Sportsbook pay five places ante-post

I hear Willie Mullins has his string in decent form, and he has confirmed his three, with Ocastle Des Mottes, Alvaniy and Onlyamatteroftime remaining in the race at the five-day stage.

Owner Paul Byrne has the latter pair, while Messrs Munir and Souede are paying the bills for the first-named, having his first start for the stable since presumably being bought privately since winning at Auteuil in June 2023.

I have no idea what to make of the French recruit off 133, though bizarrely that is 6lb lower than his rating of 139 in Ireland.

I appreciate that the way the BHA deal with ex-French horses differs to the Irish - and for further balance Timeform also have him on a mark of 133 - but that's something of a collectors' item, which is probably why he is just 7/18.00 with the Sportsbook.

In short though, it's a bit of a guess-up.

Newbury Saturday 15:15 - Back Onlyamatteroftime

For what it is worth, on October 25th, he told the Sporting Life, for whom he is a columnist, that "he is a big, chasing type who could possibly go for the [Grade 1] Royal Bond Novice Hurdle as he's only a novice until December after winning twice in France. He's got a good rating coming out of France."

Presumably knowledgeable fingers have been burned twice with Mullins' Onlyamatteroftime, as he went off the 7/24.50 favourite for the Greatwood and 4s for the Ascot handicap won by Luccia last time.

However, he at least finished his race at Ascot - he again ran out approaching the fourth-last at Cheltenham when travelling strongly enough on the inner - and he didn't run at all badly from off the pace, while Nemean Lion coming out means he is now just 1lb wrong at the bottom of the weights here.

As with Iberico Lord, Ascot perhaps wasn't his track or his day.

He could well be the shortener in here, as the Ascot run was clearly a big step forward - he went off 7/24.50 for the Greatwood, which must mean something, though his Betfair SP was a more sober 6.16 - for all he was beaten over five lengths off what will effectively be the same mark here.

Someone clearly thinks he is much better than a 116-rated horse - and his bumper second in a fair time at Punchestown last year has presumably fuelled the punting fire over hurdles to date - and he now only needs two to come out to get a run.

I have no idea if he is an intended runner and second-guessing these connections is not wise (and, as I said above, they also have 40s poke Alvaniy in here) but the 20/121.00 with the Sportsbook looks worth risking win-only to small stakes.

Back Onlyamatteroftime @ 20/121.00

Bet now

There is a Betfair Exchange market, too. He is available at 25.024/1 there as this goes live, but 20s obviously is a far fairer selection price.

Let's hope he has turned a corner attitude-wise.

Good luck.

Watch this week's Weighed-In

Now Read Serial Winners Fund: Pot hits £160k mark with Dublin Racing Festival win

Recommended bets

PROFIT AND LOSS (Nov 1 onwards; 2023-24 NH season)


RETURN: 108.7

P/L: +46.7

ANTE-POST: - 9.5

PROFIT AND LOSS (April 16-Oct 31; 2023 Flat season)


RETURNS: 168.9

P AND L: -33.1

Exchange bets settled at Betfair SP for fairness


New customers only. Bet £10 on the Betfair Sportsbook at odds of min EVS (2.0) and receive £40 in FREE Bet Builders, Accumulators or Multiples to use on any sport. T&Cs apply.

Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.