A maximum field of 24 are set to line up in Britain's richest handicap hurdle, the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle (3.35pm), at Newbury on Saturday, and the race will be shown live on ITV Racing.
This long established and valuable hurdle first took place at in 1963 and has been known over the years as the Schweppes Gold Trophy, the Tote Gold Trophy and now in its current guise as the Betfair Hurdle.
This Grade Three hurdle is run over a distance of 2m 1/2f and was once used as a Champion Hurdle trial. Horses such as Persian War and Make A Stand have won this race before going onto Champion Hurdle glory at Prestbury Park a month later.
High Bridge won the Gerry Feilden Hurdle over the course and distance on his latest appearance at the start of December. Amateur rider Alex Ferguson takes a handy 7lb off his back.
The hat-trick-seeking Jenkins earned a penalty for his latest success which means he has to carry 11st 12lb and the joint top-weight in Saturday’s handicap. James Bowen who rode him to victory is set to stay aboard and claims 3lb.
Blue Et Rouge
Bleu Et Rouge carries 11st 10lb. Willie Mullins' charge is the only Irish challenger in the field and is the mount of Barry Geraghty for owner, J.P McManus. They are a team not to be ignored in races such as this.
Verdana Blue was third in a valuable Group Three handicap hurdle at Ascot last month behind Hunters Call. Verdana Blue enjoys a good strong pace and she is entered in the Champion Hurdle.
Last season's Triumph Hurdle sixth Charli Parcs ran a cracker first time up this season but flopped badly in the Hunters Call race. It’s probably too early to write him off just yet.
Second in last year’s Fred Winter and has since moved stables to Paul Nicholls. Ran disappointingly in the Hunters Call race first time up but there is every chance the five-year-old will bounce back.
Sprung a 20/1 surprise when winning the closing race on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham. Despite having a good record at Newbury this would come as another shock should he romp home.
The 2015 Champion Bumper winner was last seen finishing down the field in a Grade One at Aintree last April and suffered a bout of colic over the summer. This would be some comeback if he could win.
He finished second in the Greatwood Hurdle and boasts pretty consistent form figures. Has to be respected.
Rifled home in his first two runs, especially in his seasonal opener at Wetherby where he demolished his rivals. Ran superbly in the Tolworth and the ground should pose no problems.
Ran sixth in the Galway Hurdle and could be one of the more likely outsiders in this race. He has the look of a plot horse if ever there was one.
Apparently she has had issues with muscle enzymes but her trainer says she now has a clean bill of health.
The form of her last win has been franked several times this week.
Second to William Henry in the Lanzarote Hurdle last time but will probably find this race a little on the short side. Clearly in good heart at present.
Lough Derg Spirit
He ran a very good race in the Elite Hurdle and Nicky Henderson says this race has always been the target for the six-year-old. One suspects the 14/1 on offer will not last so long.
Poppy Kay landed a Listed contest at Sandown Park on January 6th and has won five times from just nine career starts. The mare will have plenty of supporters under Champion Jockey Richard Johnson.
The six-year-old has been the ante-post favourite for some time on the back of showing smart form in good novice contests on his first three starts over jumps following a successful bumper campaign. The gelding would be a popular winner for obvious reasons.
The eight-year-old has not finished out of the first two in four runs over hurdles for Gary Moore and went up 11lb for winning at Fontwell last time out. Moore is attempting to win this race for a fourth time.
Waterlord’s form has clicked this term and is another novice who would have to come into calculations on the predicted ground. He also hails from an in-form yard.
William H Bonney
William H Bonney has plenty of improvement to make this season but it looks like Alan King has plotted a route to this rich payday. The stable have had winners this week and his price looks rather generous.
Peter Atkinson's prolific mare has won seven of her 11 starts to date and she went down all guns blazing behind Maria’s Benefit in Doncaster's Grade Two Mares Hurdle last time out. She is 11lbs well in and must have a live chance.
Silver Streak, trained by Evan Williams, was runner-up in the Hunters Call race at Ascot on December 23rd and comes into this as one of the chief protagonists. He had a fair few of Saturday's opponents in behind him that day and Mitchell Bastayan's 5lb claim boosts his prospects even more.
Nietzsche finished a close third in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham last March and his trainer Brian Ellison hopes that the reapplication of headgear will spark his chestnut gelding back into life.
A seven-year-old gelding from the Sue Gardner stable who tends to make one too many mistakes in races of this calibre. He is the type to be running on late given a clear round of jumping.
Was just touched off by the useful Limited Reserve at Haydock at Christmas and then went on to win a maiden hurdle at Ludlow the race after. He could be an overlooked each-way longshot given his super low weight.
This is not the kind of race to blow your Cheltenham bank on just yet but there are plenty of tempting runners in this race who could easily set you up with a nice little pot for The Festival.
Silver Streak, Project Bluebook and William H Bonney are the each-way plays in an ultra competitive Betfair Hurdle.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*