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Betfair Hurdle Tips: Elixir looks the Nutz at Newbury

Elixir De Nutz could be value to bounce back and win this weekend.
Elixir De Nutz could be value to bounce back and win this weekend.

Steve Chambers tackles the head-scratching handicap puzzle that is the Betfair Hurdle, which is set to take centre stage at Newbury on Saturday afternoon...

Since 2005, the Betfair Hurdle has been a race dominated by youth. Over the last decade and a half, the Newbury contest has been won exclusively by five or six-year-old horses who have used the race as a stepping stone to bigger successes. Well, the 2020 renewal could be somewhat of an anomaly if Hughie Morrison's Not So Sleepy was to bag the coveted handicap hurdle.

The eight-year-old former Royal Ascot runner has grabbed a brace of wins at Ascot this season over timber, and his nine-length romp in a Grade 3 event at the Berkshire venue last time out has launched him into favouritism for this race. However, a significant rise in the handicap could well hinder his progression, and with Morrison not fully cementing his gelding's place in the race then it's worth looking elsewhere.

Another hat-trick seeker is the Evan Williams-trained Mack The Man, who was a Listed winner on his last start at Sandown, but he too could be another challenger in the handicapper's grip following an 8 lb rise, so is best watched as well.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has trained three of the last six winners of the Betfair Hurdle and the Naunton handler will unleash recent Grade 2-winning novice Stolen Silver, who won the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle Trial at Haydock Park in January. Stolen Silver will look to emulate the achievement of his stablemate Al Dancer who claimed this last year, but may face a tough task from Jamie Snowden's Thebannerkingrebel, who finished third behind Stolen Silver in the aforementioned Grade 2 but will be 4lb better off in Saturday's race and is the pick of the two. Both horses are looking to book their places in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle with a win here.

Nicky Henderson last saddled the winner of this race in 2013 with My Tent Or Yours, but the Seven Barrows handler holds a strong hand for this years renewal. Never Adapt was impressive when last seen winning at Kempton Park, and with only four starts under Rules is open to significant progression, while Mill Green was a fine winner at Sandown Park at the start of January and could be an each-way play at double-figured odds.

Third in the Fred Winter at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, Ciel De Neige could head to Newbury from Willie Mullins' yard, but the maiden will need to produce a career best here although he can't be discounted for the master handler.

A fascinating runner at the top of the handicap is the Colin Tizzard-trained Elixir De Nutz, who was last seen competing in Grade 1 company at Kempton Park in the Christmas Hurdle. Seventh behind Epatante that day, Elixir De Nutz has failed to recapture the form that saw him land some notable prizes last season. The six-year-old ended his season with a win in the Grade 1 Tolworth Novices' Hurdle, so if he can repeat that sort of effort off a mark of 146 here then he has to be regarded a real contender.

With some 33/1 available at the time of writing, Elixir De Nutz still has to show that the fire in his belly still burns brightly, but if Tizzard can get him to bounce back from a disappointing campaign and unearth last season's form then he has to be a huge each-way play in this competitive betting heat.

Oakley was beaten by Not So Sleepy at Ascot two runs ago and with the Philip Hobbs-trained seven-year-old now better off at the weights, he could prove to be a lively contender for a notable yard, while Alan King's Harambe is another double-figured price contender that has to be thereabouts if producing his best. The Barbury Castle inmate was a shock winner of the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, and although he has a 8 lb penalty to defy here, he could be one of the classier of those lining up.

Gumball could be another shot fired by the Hobbs gun, with the grey finishing a narrow second to Harambe in the Greatwood before putting up a decent effort to finish fifth in the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December. A drop back to handicap company is sure to improve his chances of a return to the winner's enclosure, but with the burden of top weight it's hard to see him landing a blow this weekend.

With some exciting, emerging novice hurdlers lining up against proven handicappers, the Betfair Hurdle looks as competitive as ever. However, if Elixir De Nutz can find the form that saw him sparkle on the big stage last season, then he has to be considered a lively contender for glory on a sparkling Newbury card.

Selection

Betfair Hurdle - Newbury, Saturday 8th February 2020 - back Elixir De Nutz each-way 

Betfair Hurdle
Elixir De Nutz silk

Elixir De Nutz (EW)

The Cheltenham Festival
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