Paul Nicholls pleased with preparations for Newbury's major Betfair Super Saturday
The highlight of Newbury Racecourse's Betfair Super Saturday (February 11) is the Betfair Hurdle - Britain's richest handicap hurdle with prize pot of £155,000. One trainer with his eye on the winning enclosure is ten times champion trainer Paul Nicholls: "The Betfair Hurdle is a very, very valuable race - and a good one to win."
Nicholls' Movewiththetimes is joint favourite to take the race. The six-year-old chestnut has won three of his races. In December he came home a length clear under a six pound penalty at Wincanton in a two mile novices' hurdle.
Nicholls calls Movewiththetimes 'a really nice horse': "He is a big strong horse by Presenting who will make a lovely chaser in a year's time. He comes from a good family and made his debut for us last season at Wincanton. We all thought he would win when he ran and he duly obliged in quite a nice bumper."
The other joint favourite - at 5/1 with Betfair - is Consul de Thaix trained at Lambourn by Nicky Henderson and - like Movewiththetimes - owned by JP MacManus.
On Tuesday Newbury's track, which has had about two inches of rain since January 26, was 'soft' and they are putting the covers on in case of severe frosts over the next couple of nights.
Nicholls - who won the 2012 Betfair Hurdle with Zarkandar - is also running five year-old Zubayr in Saturday's race: "He did a nice bit of work with Movewiththetimes last week - you could hardly split them. The Betfair Hurdle might suit him on soft ground. I think the best of him is still to come, but he probably wants two and a half miles."
Local interest in this race rests with William H Bonney trained at Barbury Castle by Alan King. Ridden by stable jockey Wayne Hutchinson, the six-year-old won a two mile handicap hurdle at Cheltenham at the end of January. Alan King told Racing Post: "This will be a step up in grade again, but he's still an improving young horse I think. I think he's got a chance...I would have preferred another week with him but as long as we are happy we'll head there."
Zubayr Le Mercurey
On this Saturday's Newbury card Paul Nicholls also has runners in the Betfair Denman Chase (the seven-year-old Le Mercurey), in the Betfair Exchange Chase (the popular nine-year-old Dodging Bullets) and in the Bumper (Dynamite Dollars - whose sire is full brother to the great hurdler Big Buck's.)
Also running in the valuable Bumper - the Betfair Ready? - is Benechenko. Trained at Naunton near Cheltenham by the in-form Fergal O'Brien, the five-year-old gelding is running in the colours of the local Keeping the Dream Alive syndicate.
Dynamite Dollars Benechenko on the Naunton gallops