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Friday 20 March 2015

The EBF & TBA Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’Hurdle Finale Preview

The EBF & TBA Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’Hurdle Finale (2.35) at Newbury on Saturday features 18 mares, all of whom are officially rated within 13lb of each other and all of whom, bar Briery Belle, have won at least once this season, so finding a likely winner is no easy task. Of course, that suits us down to the ground and, as usual, we’ve highlighted a few that we think could belie generous odds.

For pure devilment, if nothing else, let’s start with Briery Belle (18/1), who is the only maiden in the field and appears to be Henry Daly’s second string on jockey bookings. Nevertheless, the daughter of King’s Theatre ran creditably in defeat when fourth of eleven, beaten 9¼ lengths, in a novices’ event at Sandown last month and may be capable of building on that effort. Strictly speaking, she’s 5lb better off for 5½ lengths with Ron’s Dream, 4lb better off for 4 lengths with Queen Of The Stage, who finished second and third at Sandown, and just 2lb worse off for 6 lengths with Theregoesthetruth, who finished fifth so, even without further improvement, she appears feasibly weighted on her handicap debut.

Ballyhollow (25/1) was eased, pulled up and dismounted in the aforementioned Sandown race after bursting a blood vessel, but had previously been progressing nicely and won under Paul Moloney on her handicap debut, over 3 miles, on her penultimate start. She takes a significant step up in class off her revised mark, but a first-time hood may bring about some improvement and, in any case, she deserves a chance to show her true colours at this level.

On the book, Henry Oliver’s nicely bred Flemensfirth mare Theregoesthetruth (16/1) has her work cut out to beat Ron’s Dream, Queen Of The Stage and Briery Belle, who all finished in front of her at Sandown, but was hampered and made a mistake at the final flight, when trying to rally, on that occasion and remains of interest. Her two wins so far have come on soft and heavy going, so a drop of rain wouldn’t hurt, but an extra furlong is in her favour, as is the booking of A.P. McCoy, who hasn’t had a ride for Henry Oliver in the last five seasons.

Keen-eyed readers will have noticed that one particular race at Sandown may provide the key to this one but, anyway, our three against the field this week, in order of preference are Theregoesthetruth (16/1 with William Hill), Briery Belle (18/1 with William Hill) and Ballyhollow (25/1 with William Hill). Good luck!