Kempton winner Verdana Blue heads Elite Hurdle betting at Wincanton this Saturday as the six-year-old continues her progression from handicapper to, elite hurdler.
Among her leading rivals is Redicean, who impressed in his first season over hurdles last year, If The Cap Fits, who won all three starts last term, and potentially, Grade 1-winning four-year-old We Have A Dream.
First held in 1992, the Elite Hurdle is a Grade 2 run over just short of 2m at Wincanton Racecourse. It's worth £60,000 and is sponsored by bookmakers Unibet, with a range of top-class hurdlers - and chasers - on the roll of honour, including Champion Hurdle winner Morley Street and fellow Cheltenham Festival stars Azertyuiop and Well Chief.
Leading trainer Nicky Henderson last won the Elite Hurdle with a mare - Chomba Womba - and agains fields a top female in Verdana Blue (11/4 Unibet), who justified odds-on favouritism at Kempton on good going last month.
The benefit of that run - a Listed hurdle - is a pointer to her chances, but she looks worth opposing given her disappointing efforts off handicap marks in the 140’s last season. Looking at that, it would be disappointing if one of the less exposed horses in this contest isn’t capable of of defeating the daughter of Getaway.
Henderson's first string though is the betting favourite We Have A Dream(5/2 William Hill). The four-year-old is unbeaten over hurdles in Britain, winning five times last season, including two Grade 1s, and his opening start - by 10 lengths.
If The Cap Fits (4/1 10Bet) finished his novice hurdling campaign unbeaten, with his most recent start resulting in a five-length success over 2m at Kempton last December. Sadly, the six-year-old was forced to miss the rest of the campaign, but he ran to a good level at Kempton that day and the second, Diese Des Bieffes, went on to win a Cheltenham in April.
Harry Fry’s charge has yet to contest a race on the forecast good-to-firm going, but he has a good record on good ground, having won twice from three starts on that surface.
Tactics-wise, the son of Milan is a versatile sort, he made all when winning on good going at Exeter, and has tracked the pace on his two most recent starts, but he is normally ridden with slightly more restraint.
Redicean (7/1 William Hill) won his first three starts over hurdles last year, before suffering a heavy defeat in Grade 1 company at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
A Flat course would appear to suit him best, as evidenced by his three victories at Kempton, and so Wincanton should bring our the better in him, and any rain won't be a hinderance. The son of Medicean opened his account this season with second over 2m back at Cheltenham last month, and with trainer Alan King boasting a 26% strike-rate (7/27) in the Elite Hurdle, he looks capable of putting up a bold show for owners Cheveley Park Stud.
In what looks set to be a highly competitive renewal of this Grade 2 hurdle, it looks best to side with two progressive individuals in If The Cap Fits (4/1 10Bet) and Redicean (7/1 William Hill). With Redicean, this looks more his level and he is fit having run a decent race at Cheltenham a fortnight ago.
If The Cap Fits has yet to contest a Graded race over hurdles but the form he showed at Kempton in January suggests a race of this nature should be within his grasp with a further pointer to being Harry Fry’s impressive strike-rate of just under 22% (21/96) at Wincanton.
He is rated 147, which would make valuable handicaps look attractive options, so it’s notable that connections have chosen to step him into Graded company straight away, instead of testing that mark. He looks worth backing at the 4/1 with 10Bet.
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