Lavelle finds Betfair Hurdle prize too valuable to ignore for emerging hurdler Highly Prized
Emma Lavelle is training ex-US Flat horse Highly Prized for a tilt at the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle, opening up the chance for her to complete a famous double in Newbury’s two richest jumps prizes.
Highly Prized, winner of three of his four starts since moving to historic Bonita Racing Stables in Ogbourne Maizey, Wiltshire, has been allocated 10st 5lb in the weights for the Europe’s richest handicap hurdle, the feature event of Betfair Super Saturday on February 8.
Big race favourite Not So Sleepy will have to carry at least 11st 2lb if he is to attempt to secure the £100,000 Betfair Winter Bonus by following up his success in the Betfair Exchange Trophy and win the Betfair Hurdle in the same season.
Elgin has been set top weight of 11st 12lb with last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills and Gumball on 11st 11lb and Eldorado Allen on 11st 10lb.
The Lavelle stable has enjoyed a lucrative season at Newbury so far after De Rasher Counter captured the Ladbrokes Trophy and champion staying hurdler Paisley Park landed the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle.
Highly Prized, a 20-1 chance with the sponsor, went up 10lb after a comfortable victory at Huntingdon in November - his first run for 73 days.
“We are training Highly Prized for the Betfair Hurdle,” said Lavelle. “But he doesn’t want soft ground. I may be being a bit optimistic but every time I see the sun on my weather app, I think maybe. I would love to be able to run him."
“He is really coming along well. The Betfair Hurdle was too valuable a race not to train him for and we are taking a bit of a punt with the weather.”
Highly Prized began his career on the Flat in Britain before he was sold to race in the United States where he won five times, four for multiple stakes-winning trainer Michael Stidham.
“Hilary Pridham, who is Mike Stidham’s partner, took a share in the horse with Dan Donoghue who was keen to explore new avenues,” explained Lavelle. “He was just below Listed class on the Flat there and ran out of opportunities."
“Before he came to me he had one run over hurdles in the US for Jack Fisher just to make sure he could get off the ground. Hilary and Dan have both been over to watch him run."
“He is a decent horse who has enjoyed the training regime over here. I think he has plenty of ability and his confidence has kept growing. He won a nice prize at Huntingdon and although he went up 10lb, I think he is on the upgrade so it shouldn’t be out of the way to be able to cope with that, but he will need the right conditions.”
Betfair Spokesman, Barry Orr, commented: ‘’At 7/1 Not So Sleepy still heads the market and is in line for the £100k bonus but following her display in Kempton last Saturday, Never Adapt, has been the big mover and with 10st 12lbs. She will be well fancied to give Nicky Henderson another win in the race.’’
Betfair Betting: 7-1 Not So Sleepy, 15/2 Never Adapt, 8/1 Eldorado Allen, 10-1 The Bannerkingrebel, 12/1 Mack The Man, 14-1 Fusil Raffles, Sceau Royal, 16-1 Aramon, Buildmeupbuttercup, Ciel De Neige, Fred, Gumball, Harambe, Janadil, Monsieur Lecoq, Pentland Hills, Pic D’orhy, Prudhomme, Quoi de Neuf, Stolen Silver, 20-1 Bullionaire, Countister, Ecco, Eglantine du Seuil, Elixir de Nutz, Highly Prized, Lightly Squeeze, Mill Green, Miranda, Oakley, Pacify, Sir Valentine, Tiger Tap Tap, Whoshotthesheriff, 25-1 Colonel Custard, Didtheyleaveuoutto, Distingo, Elgin, Flegmatik, Howling Milan, Mister Blue Sky, Neff, Saglawy, Sofias Rock, Tamaroc Du Mathan, The Con Man, Touchthesoul, Vienna Court, 33-1 Aiguille Rouge, Zanza, 40-1 Antunes, Chti Balko, Magic Dancer, Nelson River, Remiluc, 66-1 Logan Rocks. *Each Way 1/5 odds 5 places