The Betfair Hurdle is one of the highlights of the entire season and this year’s renewal will be no exception. Violet Dancer was a surprise winner in 2015  but I think I have a rattling good bet this time round. It always pays to look into the trends in big handicap hurdles as it helps in narrowing down the field to identify the winner.

Some of the better angles coming into this year’s event on February 13th to help the search for winner are the following :

Horses aged five or six.

Finished in the frame in a Class two hurdle or better.

Posted career high in RPR in last three runs.

Run ten times or less in career so far.

The fewer handicaps hurdles contested the better [less than six].

Placed or won a big handicap hurdle this season.

Trained by Philip Hobbs, Gary Moore, Nicky Henderson.

Winner must have run 36 or better on my pace and sectional times. Listed = 36. Grade 3 = 37/38. Grade Two = 39/40 and Grade One = 41 plus.

There are more but those ones stand out for me.


In trying to go for an early selection one always runs the risk of your choice being a non runner but I believe I have another good chance of backing the winner this year in the shape of WAR SOUND. In a way I am going against one of the trends mentioned above as the son of Kayf Tara is a seven year old but to counteract that he is incredibly lightly raced as he has only faced the starter five times in his entire life. You may also note that Philip Hobbs has never trained the winner of the big race but he had Cheltenian finish second last year and in the ten years before that he had eight of his twelve runners finish in the top six and five of those were placed so you can see where I am coming from.

WAR SOUND  is a big strong horse who seems very hard on himself and who doesn’t have the most fluent of actions [in fact he has a very peculiar gait]. I guess that is why he has only appeared the five times in his life and also is coming in here off a long lay off [two hundred and eighty days to be precise]. A long absence is no bar to success though as Zarkandar was able to triumph in 2012 coming into the event having been away for three hundred and sixteen days. It is also noteworthy that the latter carried eleven stone one pound to victory exactly what my choice is set to lumber this time. Hobb’s charge probably falls into the category of the ‘rest pattern’, a phrase that was coined by modern day genius  Nick Mordin. He was able to correctly identify horses that were best on their first two starts of the season and needed a break of forty two days plus thereafter to run to their maximum again. WAR SOUND has won without that break last year but he looks a definite candidate for Mordin’s theory so it is a huge plus in my estimation that this will be his first run of the current campaign.

WAR SOUND is not the most fluent of jumpers and has guessed at a few of his hurdles already [especially in his big win at Haydock in the Swinton Hurdle] but Newbury’s giant oval galloping track should allow plenty of room for manoeuvre. I believe that the Swinton experience will have sharpened his mind no end with a view to showing his obstacles more respect and in any case I am being over harsh as he is still only a baby in relative jumping terms.

It seems like a very shrewd move by Hobbs to target this event with the seven year old as he goes extremely well fresh and can handle the likely heavy going and should get an assured strong pace up front plus enough cover to help curb his very enthusiastic way of going.

WAR SOUND is a very fast and talented animal on my speed figures. He has clocked serious Graded times now on no less than three occasions out of his five attempts. He ran a huge thirty seven on debut at Exeter when tanking all the way round that stiff course, in fact he went at it so hard that day that he bombed out at the same venue on his next start thirty eight days later. Given a break of nearly a month he moved on to Chepstow where he thrashed one of our team’s  purchases [Floresco, who incidentally just landed a monster touch at Wincanton very recently] by a very easy six lengths and he could have trebled that margin if he was pushed out by his jockey. That scorched earth performance earned him thirty eight on my scale which is a proper Grade Three time. Next stop was the Aintree festival for a first attempt in handicap company and like many a very good horse before him he needed the experience of the noisy hustle and bustle of such an event before finishing nicely in a midfield position. He showed how much that run stood to him by romping away with the coveted Swinton  Handicap Hurdle on his next and only other run at Haydock  and on this occasion he smashed the clock with a mouthwatering adjusted figure of forty which is a Grade Two number. I am not surprised that his handler has seen fit to enter him in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March after this.

It looks to me at this stage that Philip Hobbs has put WAR SOUND into the perfect spot in a bid to land his first Betfair Hurdle. The likeable gelding has so much in his favour, size, strength, stamina, huge ability to quicken off a strong pace and a yard that continues in a rich vein of form and looks to have had this as a target since last year. It reminds me of a proper type plan/plot that used to happen in former years by some of the shrewdest yards like Ryan Price etc etc. WAR SOUND  has not been missed by our bookmaking friends unfortunately but I reckon a ”wimps” bet will certainly get us our money back and a little profit to go with it. A wimpish bet is each way !! That being said I do expect him to win.

Recommendation : Two points each way at 10/1 on WAR SOUND with Paddy Power. That is ante-post so if he doesn’t run we lose our money and it is then the Unfair rather than Betfair Hurdle. Best of luck.


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