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Buveur D’Air, the dual Champion Hurdle winner, makes his long-awaited first appearance of the season in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso on Saturday.
Nicky Henderson’s veteran has not been seen on track since finishing fourth in the Aintree Hurdle last April and has to give away plenty of weight to his 11 rivals on his handicap debut.
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Metier, who bounced back to winning ways on his last start when landing the lucrative Sovereign Handicap Hurdle at Lingfield, appears to be the leading threat to Buveur D’Air despite the prospect of Good to Soft ground.
You’ll find Timeform’s runner-by-runner analysis and Morebattle Hurdle tips from Paddy Power’s horse racing pundits below.
Morebattle Hurdle runners
Trainer: Nicky Henderson Jockey: Nico de Boinville Age: 11 Weight: 11st 12lbs
Dual Champion Hurdle winner. Very lightly raced in recent years but Grade 1 fourth last April shows he’s still very smart. Off since but no shock were he still classy enough to give the weight away.
Trainer: Mrs J. Harrington Jockey: S. F. O’Keeffe Age: 5 Weight: 11st 6lbs
Dual hurdle winner this season who ran a cracker when third of 27 in a Leopardstown handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival. This Irish raider merits plenty of respect.
Trainer: Harry Fry Jockey: Sean Bowen Age: 6 Weight: 11st 5lbs
Won Grade 1 Tolworth as a novice and got career back on track when landing a valuable Lingfield handicap (2m, soft) in January. Goes very well in mud so chance boosted if rain arrives.
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Trainer: Dan Skelton Jockey: Harry Skelton Age: 7 Weight: 11st 2lbs
Very useful hurdler who quickly matched that form over fences this term, winning twice. Stiff task in Wincanton Grade 2 back hurdling latest and this more realistic.
Trainer: Stuart Crawford Jockey: Ben Bromley Age: 6 Weight: 10st 11lbs
Weak in betting but it didn’t stop him making winning start for new yard over 21f here last month. 3 lb higher in stronger race now but he’s held his own in competitive handicaps before. Fine at 2m.
Voix Du Reve
Trainer: Iain Jardine Jockey: Alan Doyle Age: 10 Weight: 10st 8lbs
Smart at best and, having been given chance by the handicapper, he’s shown he retains plenty of ability when placed on his latest 2 outings (2½ lengths third to Saint d’Oroux over 21f here latterly).
Trainer: Brian Ellison Jockey: Sean Quinlan Age: 6 Weight: 10st 7lbs
Dual winner on Flat last year and notched a first handicap success over hurdles when seeing off 11 rivals at Cheltenham in January. Ought to remain very competitive after a 4 lb rise.
Trainer: Mrs Jane Williams Jockey: Chester Williams Age: 5 Weight: 10st 6lbs
Third hurdle success when winning a small-field Kempton listed novice in October. Well held at a similar level over fences in France since but much better can be expected back hurdling.
Trainer: James Moffatt Jockey: Charlotte Jones Age: 8 Weight: 10st 5lbs
One-time useful on Flat and returned from a long absence to win 4 in row over hurdles at the start of the season. Yet to be asked for effort when unseating 4 out at Wetherby in October. Off since.
Trainer: Rose Dobbin Jockey: Craig Nichol Age: 11 Weight: 10st 5lbs
Better than ever when landing a third chase success in 2m Musselburgh handicap when last seen in October. C&D winner but that was a maiden in 2017. Hard to assess back hurdling.
Trainer: Ben Pauling Jockey: Brian Hughes Age: 6 Weight: 9st 12lbs
Useful on Flat and made winning debut over hurdles in November 2020. Hasn’t kicked on from that but ran well back around 2m when chasing home Cormier at Cheltenham latest. 2 lb out of handicap.
Trainer: Lucinda Russell Jockey: Derek Fox Age: 9 Weight: 9st 10lbs
Pair of good runner-up efforts around 19f since joining this stable but has to race from 4 lb out of the handicap on this occasion and he’ll need a career best to resume winning ways.
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Morebattle Hurdle tips
Matt Chapman: A tough return for former Champion Hurdle hero Buveur d’Air. METIER is up 7lb for his impressive Lingfield win last time but I suspect he might be able to cope with the rise in the ratings. Harry Fry’s runner is a former Grade 1 winner and has always looked a good prospect. The make-up of this race should suit him.
Mick Fitzgerald: I would love to see former Champion Hurdle winner BUVEUR D’AIR bounce back to his old form. This is his first run for nearly a year, but he does have some smart form in his back catalogue. Yes, he has to give weight away to a few of these, but this track and ground will suit and I’m hoping his class will shine through.
Timeform: BALKO SAINT has done very little wrong over hurdles and his mark looks manageable based on his Kempton listed win in the autumn so he might be worth siding with to bounce back from a lesser run over fences in France since. Cormier and Irish-raider Autumn Evening are put up as the main threats, although Metier would also be a major player if the ground went soft.
Ruby Walsh: Metier got 7lbs for beating Gowel Road at Lingfield’s big winter meeting, which was a fair enough run. Emmet Mullins’ Carrarea was back in third that day before running in the big handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival where he finished sixth. AUTUMN EVENING was third in that race and he was carrying 11st 4lbs compared to Carrarea’s 10st 2lbs, which gives you a line of how far ahead of Careera Autumn Evening is. It was a strongly run handicap hurdle, Autumn Evening was travelling really well just behind the pace but faded at the last to finish third. Even though he’s up 9lbs on his Irish mark in the UK, he’s one of the first ones now that is dipping their toes in the water ahead of Cheltenham. I’d say Autumn Evening is going here with one eye on winning and having a crack at the County Hurdle.
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