Morrison hoping it could be Sleepy time at Newbury on Saturday as hurdler chases £100,000 bonus
.The £100,000 Betfair Winter Bonus has been a key factor in persuading trainer Hughie Morrison and owner Lady Blyth to take a tilt at the Betfair Hurdle with Not So Sleepy at Newbury on Saturday (February 8)
The bonus, introduced for the first time this season by the sponsor to the horse that wins the Britain’s two richest handicap hurdles, will be paid out this weekend if Not So Sleepy follows up his victory in the Betfair Exchange Trophy in Europe’s most valuable handicap hurdle, the feature prize of Betfair Super Saturday.
During a media morning at his Summerdown stables in East Ilsley, near Newbury, on Monday (February 3), Morrison said Not So Sleepy would go to Henrietta Knight’s on Tuesday for a final schooling session under big race rider Johnny Burke.
Not So Sleepy is 6-1 favourite for the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle for which he was one of 30 acceptors at the five day stage.
Gumball heads the handicap on 11st 12lb, after Elgin came out, with the weights rising by 1lb for a race for which the maximum field is 24.
Not So Sleepy, a Listed winner on the Flat, switched to a hurdles campaign this season when the November Handicap didn’t take place and in two starts has extended his jumps record to three victories from five starts, the latest by nine lengths at Ascot in December.
“He came on a stone between the two races at Ascot and showed his best there,” said Morrison. “It was an impressive performance, he didn’t have very much weight, so we are full of enthusiasm but pretty realistic it might not have been the greatest race. But you don’t win a Dee Stakes as a three-year-old unless you have a bit of class."
“He got a huge rise for his Ascot win, 17lb, but when you win a race like he did you can’t complain. He deserved it. He’s got a lot to prove this weekend and it might turn out they overdid, but 144 isn’t a huge rating in terms of top hurdlers these days.”
Morrison is also considering a tilt at the Champion Hurdle for Not So Sleepy, but admitted the Betfair Winter Bonus made the Betfair Hurdle difficult to resist: “When you are doubling the prize-money he could win, it’s a factor in the thinking. It’s seriously substantial and very generous.”
Not So Sleepy will be up against a field which will comprise two challengers trained by Nicky Henderson in Never Adapt and Mill Green. Henderson has won the race five times with Sharpical (1998), Geos (2000), Landing Light (2001), Geos (2004) and My Tent Or Yours (2013).
The J P McManus-owned Never Adapt has won two out of four starts over hurdles, registering her first in Britain at Kempton in January, seven days after Mill Green made a winning start to the campaign at Sandown.
Henderson said: “Never Adapt has taken an awful long time to settle down and she has got better and better. We know they are going to go a hell of a gallop because Not So Sleepy is going to go a million miles an hour. I hope they don’t let him go a hurdle in front this time."
“Mill Green won well at Sandown, beating Eldorado Allen. He worked well on Saturday and he would come into it.”
Betfair Spokesman, Barry Orr, commented: ‘’The £100k winter bonus-seeking Not So Sleepy still heads the betting but Thebannerkingrebel has been very well supported in recent days and is now 10-1.’’
Betfair Betting: 6-1 Not So Sleepy, 7 Mack The Man, 15-2 Never Adapt, 10 Ciel De Neige, Oakley, Stolen Silver, Thebannerkingrebel, 14 Harambe, Quoi de Neuf, 16 Gumball, 20 Elixir De Nutz, Ecco, Mill Green, 25 Highly Prized, Lightly Squeeze, Pic Dorhy, Sir Valentine, Sir Valentine, Tamaroc Du Mathan, Touchthesoul, Whoshotthesheriff, 33 bar. Each Way 1/5 odds 5 places.
The going is forecast to be on the soft side. On Monday, Newbury's clerk of the course, Keith Ottesen, reported: “We had 7mm of rain on Sunday morning and the going is soft, good to soft in places. It is mainly dry for the rest of this week when there could be a weather front moving in towards the weekend."
“We are happy with where it is. It will dry back but not very quickly. We expect it to be around good to soft unless it rains on the day and then it might be soft.”
Photos courtesy Newbury Racecourse.