The Swinton Handicap Hurdle is run over a distance of two miles at Haydock Park, traditionally at the start of May. This feature race takes place during a mixed National Hunt and flat racing card.
The race was established in 1978 and at one time was the fourth most lucrative National Hunt race in the UK after the Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle.
The Swinton Handicap Hurdle is now the first major prize of the season, as opposed to the last one and more recently successes for Intersky Falcon (2002) and Macs Joy (2004) have shown this prestigious race acting as a valuable stepping stone to greater things when jump racing resumes “proper” in the autumn.
Here’s a look at the trends and statistics of the race over the last ten years.
These figures suggest that it pays to side with the six to seven year old age bracket in this race.
Horses older than eight years old have made the frame just four times in over thirty runners.
You have to go back to 1997 to find a winner older than seven in this race.
Horses with 11st 7lbs or more: 0-0-16
Horses with 11st to 11st 6lb: 3-8-48
Horses with 10st 6lbs to 10st 13lb: 4-12-75
Horses with 10st 5lbs or less: 3-8-54
Horses carrying over 11st 7lbs have a terrible record over the last ten years.
Top weights have also fared poorly with only Eradicate (2011) managing to carry the top weight to victory in recent times.
136 rated or higher: 2-8-63
126-135 rated: 8-18-113
125 rated or lower: 0-4-27
Horses rated between 126-135 have been victorious eight times in the last ten years.
Eradicate (2011) and War Sound (2015) were the only two horses to the rated in the 140’s.
Nine out of ten winners had raced in the past fifty days.
Five out of ten winners finished in the first four on their last outing.
Ten out of ten winners had run in eight or fewer handicap hurdles.
Seven out of ten winners had finished in the first six in a graded hurdle that season.
Other Notable Races
Horses placed in the first five in the Scottish County Hurdle tend to do well.
Horses placed in the first six in the Imperial Cup have a good record.
Horses that ran at one of the Festivals i.e Cheltenham, Aintree, Fairyhouse or Ayr.
Philip Hobbs has a good record in this race and saddles Sternrubin this year.
Evan Williams won this race in 2013, 2014 and last year with John Constable who is entered again. Williams also saddles Silver Streak and is very adept with his spring runners.
Nicky Henderson had the winner in 2010 and 2011 and appears able to train the yard cat to win any race he touches over the last fortnight. This could be put down to the big fish/small pond syndrome.
A real mixture of starting prices over the last ten years with five winners priced between 4/1 and 8/1, and five winners priced between 16/1 and 25/1.
The Key Trends
Age: 10 of the last 10 winners were aged between 5 and 7.
Price: 4 of the last 12 favourites have won, 7/10 winners were in the top 3 in the betting.
Last Run: 0 of the last 10 winners won on their last run before the Swinton Handicap Hurdle, 10/10 winners ran within the last 36 days.
Previous Course Form: 7/10 winners had at least one previous run at Haydock, 4/10 winners had at least one previous wins at Haydock.
Previous Hurdle Form: 10/10 winners had at least 4 runs over hurdles.
Rating: 9/10 winners were rated 129 or higher
Tony Carroll’s fortunate Aintree winner, Havana Beat, will be hoping to make it a hat-trick of wins on Saturday.
Left in the lead at the last after the untimely departure of Scheu Time, the eight-year-old went on to score by a total of ten lengths. Scheu Time will be making the journey across the Irish Sea to reoppose back on Merseyside soil, admittedly at a different venue, but a very similar type of track.
The horses who finished second, third and fourth behind Havana Beat at Aintree – the Donald McCain trained Dear Sire, Philip Hobbs’ Sternrubin and Kevin Frost’s All Set To Go are all declared for a crack at this early season rich prize pot.
McCain who won the Swinton Hurdle with Red Merlin in 2012, and is never short of a Haydock winner or two, also has Chti Balko entered in the race.
Former Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Chesterfield is the current favourite and it is easy to see why that is the case. A win at Kempton at the start of March was followed up by a cracking run in the County Hurdle at The Festival where he came fourth. A return to Ayr in April to defend his Scottish title resulted in a fairly close third place. The eight-year-old looks to be every inch a spring bloomer and his jockey, Daniel Sansom, takes a valuable 5lbs off his back.
Nicky Henderson’s Whatswrongwithyou made it two wins from two at Newbury last season before running third in the Imperial Cup where he was sent off the favourite. He looks the type of horse that could easily bounce back to form on the more favourable conditions underfoot at Haydock Park on Saturday.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*