1pt win Clyne @7/1, 0.75pts each-way Zubayr @12/1, 15:35 Newbury

Europe’s most valuable handicap hurdle looks typically competitive on Saturday. The younger generation have had the upper hand in recent years with five-year-olds winning six of the last ten.

The novices head the market with last years Champion Bumper winner Ballyandy, a 9/2 outright favourite at the time of writing, alongside Movewiththetimes who is an exciting entrant but may just lack the experience to take this.

Ballyandy’s opening mark looks lenient, and he has some nice form behind Moon Racer already this season. But he has struggled to get his head in front over hurdles thus far.

He looks a good prospect for the future, however his current price is bad value with chinks already in the armour.

He may have flopped when strongly fancied in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, but ZUBAYR was an extremely promising juvenile. His three other runs included a Grade 2 success on his maiden start when he looked very green, and then, on the other side of The Festival, he hacked up by 8l when down a few classes at Wincanton.

His one and a half length third to Footpad in a Grade 3 at Auteil last May also looks nice form and proved his stamina – which is an asset here – given it was run over 2m 4f.

Zubayr looked like he would finish an eye-catching second to the classy Sceau Royale on his season opener, but for falling at the last. He then put in a disappointing run on his next start at Sandown, where he didn’t get home. It transpired that he needed to undergo a breathing operation on his soft palate, which Paul Nicholls confirmed¬†in his betfair column.

That procedure appears to have worked based on a piece of work he did last week, and I like the prospects of this five-year-old bouncing back to form, with conditions that should suit. He remains unexposed and should be better than his 141 rating.

I wouldn’t normally advise a horse at the top of the weights in this, but it’s difficult to get away from Evan Williams’s CLYNE with the form he has been in this season.

Clyne has been extremely progressive, and we have not got to the bottom of him yet. He was looking for a fifth win on the bounce, when only going down by a length to the 163 rated hurdler The New One, with the enigmatic L’Ami Serge back in third in a recent Champion Hurdle Trial.

Clyne is offically 5lbs well-in on that result, but if you read his previous run literally then you could easily make a case for a much higher mark somewhere in the 150’s having received just the 8lbs for that length defeat.

The reality is that his form has been strong on all season – even if you did think that last run flattered him – and stands up to interrogation with his penultimate race producing three winners since. He loves the mud, has the speed to race prominently and has already won three starts carrying 11st 12lbs on soft or heavy, which demonstrates the character of this horse.

He should be the favourite on merit, but is currently languishing behind novices with potential at 7/1. He is a much bigger price for the Champion Hurdle next month, but if he proves his qualities here then he can earn a spot.

1pt win Clyne @7/1, 15:35 Newbury (Paddy Power)
0.75pts each-way Zubayr @12/1, 15:35 Newbury (1/4 odds, 4 places (with no non-runners))



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