Saturday sees the running of the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury with a small but select field set to go to post in a race that has been won by some of the best staying hurdlers of recent years including Deano’s Beeno Inglis Drever and Celestial Halo. The Long Distance Hurdle is a Grade 2 event, run over 3 miles with a total of 12 hurdles to be jumped in what is the premium early season staying hurdle race.
The current ante-post joint favourite’s are the Nicky Henderson trained Whisper and the Warren Greatrex trained Cole Harden. No stranger to one another, Cole Harden won the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with Whisper back in fifth place. Whisper then defeated Cole Harden in the Liverpool Hurdle at the Grand National meeting at Aintree in April. Saturday’s race will be both horses first appearance of the season and the race may well go to whoever arrives with a fitness edge after 231 days off the track.
The Colin Tizzard trained Thistlecrack had a busy campaign last season, winning three races including the Grade 1 Sefton Novices hurdle at Aintree to cement his place as one of the leading novice staying hurdlers. Not seen since finishing runner-up to Killultagh Vic at Punchestown in April, Thistlecrack may well need the run on Saturday but with trainer Tizzard having been amongst the winners in the past few days, he could well run a big race.
One dark horse in the race is Menorah who will be running over hurdles for the first time since December 2011. Highly tried over fences, Menorah made his seasonal reappearance in the Charlie Hall chase at Wetherby at the end of October. Pulled up on that occasion, it is extremely interesting that connections have now decided to switch him back to the smaller obstacles having placed in Grade 1 chases. Rated 167 over fences, Menorah is set to run off a mark of just 162 on Saturday and he could well sneak a place.
At just five-years of age, the John Ferguson trained Aqalim comes into Saturday’s race relatively unexposed. A winner of three of his eight appearances over hurdles, Aqalim made a respectable reappearance in the Grade 2 West Yorkshire hurdle at Wetherby last month, staying on well to finish third. Saturday’s race will give connections an idea of where Aqalim is in relation to his older staying hurdle rivals and he is perhaps best watched rather than seen as a betting option.
Saturday’s field is set to be completed by Dell’ Arca trained by David Pipe, Deputy Dan trained by Oliver Sherwood, Wonderful Charm for Paul Nicholls and the Rebecca Curtis trained duo Royal Boy and O’Faolains Boy.
Whisper and Cole Harden are the current 3.25 (9/4) ante-post joint favourites. Thistlecrack is available at 5.5 (9/2), Menorah 11 (10/1), and Aqalim 13 (12/1). The horse racing tip for Saturday’s Long Distance Hurdle is Cole Harden at 3.25 (9/4).
By: Scott McGlynn