Trainer Hughie Morrison mulls £100,000 bonus as Not So Sleepy given Betfair Hurdle entry
Not So Sleepy, who trounced a competitive field to win the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot before Christmas, could pursue the sponsor’s £100,000 bonus at Newbury next month after he was one of 56 horses engaged in the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle.
The eight-year-old, trained close to Newbury in East Ilsley by Hughie Morrison, became the first horse eligible for a bonus, introduced in 2019 by Betfair, which rewards any horse that wins the Ascot race and the Betfair Hurdle - Europe’s richest handicap hurdle - the feature race of Betfair Super Saturday on Saturday, February 8.
A seasoned handicapper on the Flat, Not So Sleepy showed he could take high rank over jumps when he made all the running at Ascot to beat Monsieur Lecoq by nine lengths on only his fifth start over hurdles, winning so easily that he was raised 17lb by the handicapper.
His name features in a list headed by last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills, one of six trained by Nicky Henderson whose team also comprises Fusil Raffles, Mill Green, Fred, Countister and Never Adapt.
Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins has entered eight horses including the J P McManus-owned Janidil, the winner of all three starts this season, while Britain’s champion Paul Nicholls has four.
Nigel Twiston-Davies, winner of three of the last six runnings of the race, has nominated three of which Stolen Silver and Sir Valentine are part-owned by Dai Walters, successful last year with Al Dancer.
Not So Sleepy is the 8-1 favourite with Betfair Sportsbook who have made Thebannerkingrebel, easy winner of a Listed novice hurdle at Haydock in November for trainer Jamie Snowden, next best on 10-1. The Colin Tizzard-trained Eldorado Allen and Never Adapt are 12-1.
Not So Sleepy earned Champion Hurdle quotes following his Ascot demolition leaving Morrison to weigh whether to follow the route he took with Marble Arch who, having won the same Ascot handicap, contested the 2002 Betfair Hurdle, pulling up, and then finished second in the Champion Hurdle.
“We have put Not So Sleepy in the Betfair Hurdle and we are going to think about it,” said Morrison. “I realised there was an extra £100,000 in the pot before I entered him in the previous race. The Champion Hurdle is not the strongest race at the moment, but the Betfair Hurdle bonus definitely pushes us towards thinking about Newbury."
“Some people were quite rude about his jumping, but I thought he was pretty slick actually at Ascot. We will let the dust settle, discuss it over the next couple of weeks and see how we are going."
“He went up 17lb, which is a lot, but you can’t complain, When you win a big handicap by that margin you deserve it. You can’t be expected to get away with 7 or 8lb after that."
“The improvement surprised me, though when he won the previous time his coat didn’t look great and he got a bit warm beforehand. The next time he looked very well in his coat and ran a stone better"
“We will debate it with the owners but I think it best if you have the time not to jump to any conclusions, but sit and be quiet about it and then discuss it when reality kicks in. He took the race well."
“Marble Arch bombed out in the race at Newbury because the ground was very soft. It was quick at Ascot and then it was quick enough on Champion Hurdle day when he was able to perform to his best.”
Barry Orr is a spokesman for Betfair: “It’s a cracking list of entries and Not So Sleepy, who is in line for the £100k bonus having won the first leg of the Betfair Winter Bonus, The Exchange Trophy, at Ascot last month, heads our markets at 8-1."
"Nicky Henderson has his usual strong hand and should Pentland Hills take his chance he would be considerably shorter that the 16-1 he is currently showing at now.’’
The weights for the Betfair Hurdle will be revealed on Wednesday, January 15. The race is part of Betfair Super Saturday, which aside from the Betfair Hurdle, also features the £50,000 G2 Betfair Denman Chase, a leading trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the £50,000 G2 Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase over an extended two miles.
The full list of entries can be found here.