Bastien has the bravery for battle

Steve Hughes previews the big jumps fixtures at Newbury and Warwick

It is a shame that some of the top class races have cut up so badly for runners, but this year’s Betfair Hurdle looks well above average. I have three hopefuls against the field for the big betting race, but also three other decent bets over jumps. We maintained our 50% strike rate for the week with Broken Quest a winner at Kempton on Friday (SP 9/2).

Newbury 1.50: Bastien

This race is notable for the return of potential star Barters Hill after injury, but he could be vulnerable after such an absence and instead Bastien looks each-way value.

The 7yo has been quietly progressive this season, but I am sure he will improve for a step up to 3m and he will enjoy the ground softening due to the current rainy conditions – which a few of his rivals won’t. There is also the advantage of the fine form of the Alan King yard, with five wins in the past three days.

Bastien was last seen in a Pertemps qualifier at Wincanton over Christmas where he was making a challenge when coming down at the final flight. This race could serve as a perfect prep for the Cheltenham final. He already has a win at Towcester this season, perhaps the stiffest track in the country.

Warwick 2.05: Midnight Jazz

Although on ratings Midnight Tour is the stand out in this race being rated 10lbs or more higher than the opposition. However it is another Midnight – Jazz who is preferred.

The mare is very consistent at this level and pushed Vroum Vroum Mag to the limit at Doncaster last season. She was out of her depth at the Cheltenham Festival and was very disappointing on her seasonal debut at Ludlow in December. However the application of cheekpieces brought about a resurgence in form at Sandown last time. She was only just touched off by Poppy Kay at around this trip.

She has the tactical pace to cope with this sharpish track and seems adaptable to whatever going is put in front of her and is already a course winner having landed a soft ground bumper here in her early days.

Warwick 3.15: Kylemore Lough

Things have not gone according to plan for Kylemore Lough since he was transferred to Harry Fry from Kerry Lee last season. However he has not quite proved up to top graded contests and should find this handicap easier despite having to give away lumps of weight.

In two runs this season he was made favourite for the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham, but his chance was scuppered by a terrible mistake at the water jump. He was then outclassed and outpaced over 2m in a Grade 1 at Ascot.

That Cheltenham run apart, he has an excellent record in handicaps having won his first three chases in that sphere. I also think he is better on a flatter track so this circuit should suit perfectly.

Newbury 3.35: Misterton, Kalashnikov & Zalvados

This looks a real cracker and is well worth three shots at with 24 runners.

First up is Misterton who showed greatly improved form in the autumn. He won a fast run race in decisive fashion at Chepstow on good ground and then coped very well in much tougher conditions when a fine second in the Greatwood at Cheltenham. He has been kept back for this to protect his handicap mark and his prominent racing style, but proven stamina for further, should suit this race ideally.

Kalashnikov is one of several classy novices in the field, a category that have shown up well in this race in recent seasons. Amy Murphy’s flagbearer was a good second on terrible going in the Tolworth at Sandown, but definitely seemed to get bogged down in the conditions. Admittedly today’s rain is not ideal, but this gelding has a tremendous cruising speed and has been mightily impressive in winning at Wetherby and Doncaster earlier in the year. Newbury is a similar galloping track and he ought to handle a strong pace well.

Zalvados is a horse I have had in mind for these big handicaps for a while – a horse who can excel in a big field and off a strong pace. His win record is poor – he finally got off the mark in a moderate maiden at Ludlow at the tenth attempt last time. However his record in big fields is eyecatching. He was fourth at Cheltenham’s November meeting and third on Grand National day at Aintree. His hurdlers record in double figure fields reads 23241 so looks worth a poke at a huge price.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Bastien – 1.50 Newbury – 8/1 Bet365 (¼ odds first 3)

1pt win – Midnight Jazz – 2.05 Warwick – 9/4 Sporting Bet

1pt win – Kylemore Lough – 3.15 Warwick – 3/1 general

0.75pts each-way – Misterton – 3.35 Newbury – 22/1 Bet365 (¼ odds first 5)

1pt win – Kalashnikov – 3.35 Newbury – 14/1 Bet365, William Hill, Boylesports

0.5pts each-way – Zalvados – 3.35 Newbury – 33/1 Bet365 (¼ odds first 5)

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