Date of Tips: 05/03/2021
Disclaimer The odds for these selections were correct at the time of publishing (12:13 05/03/2021) but may have changed since. Please check the latest price before placing your bet.
This weekend in the jumps calendar is often the calm before the storm, as most of the really high-quality horses are tucked away, wrapped up tightly in cotton wool, ahead of the Cheltenham Festival in 10 days’ time.
However, thanks to Kelso racecourse and sponsors Bet365, the card up at the Borders venue on Saturday is an absolute belter. Good prize money, and a decent spread of races has meant that it will be the main feature card of the weekend. The highlight is the re-jigged Morebattle Hurdle, which is now a feature handicap, and has attracted a high-quality field of 14 – and they’ve come from afar, with an Irish raider, a few Southern marauders and a handful of northern-trained horses bidding to keep the prize in their homelands.
Not only is the race itself worth £46,920 to the winner, but should that winner go on to win any race at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, they would receive a bonus of £100,000. That is some carrot, (which funnily enough, is what the winning connections get a bag of for winning any race at Kelso!) So, it is not surprising that Emmet Mullins has sent The Shunter over for this particular pot raid – an easy winner of the Greatwood Hurdle in November – he would look to be the right favourite and has no fewer than five handicap entries at the Cheltenham Festival. It’s fair to say Emmet Mullins and owner Paul Byrne have their eyes on the loot here.
Loot is what the backers of The Shunter will get also, as on Wednesday evening (the night before declarations), he went from a general 6/1 to a best-priced 9/4 in a matter of minutes. He is without doubt the one to beat, but I can let him win at that price.
The horse worth backing each-way to win the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso at 3.15 on Saturday is Hunters Call, at 11/1 with William Hill, who offer four places for each-way bets. It is worth noting that Sky Bet are offering five places, but at this stage are only 9/1, so I’d suggest it’s really up to you whether you bag the better price or the best place terms.
In just six starts for the Olly Murphy yard, he is already a winner of a Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Ascot, he finished fourth in a Galway Hurdle and also The Shunter’s Greatwood on his seasonal debut. While on his last two starts, Hunters Call has finished third in two competitive handicap hurdles over further than his ideal 2m trip, travelling sweetly on both occasions.
Most notably last time, his third in the Lanzarote Hurdle was a huge run for reasons not many will spot. He tanked his way into contention, and looked to be the winner for a lot of the final circuit, only to fade as his stamina gave way in the closing stages. But a deeper look at the race suggested that you needed to race wide on the hurdle course at Kempton that day – the winner, the second, the fourth and the fifth all raced wider than two horse widths off the rail the whole way, whereas Hunters Call was right on the inside at the back.
If you stop the race at the point where they turn into the straight before going out on the final circuit, a quick look at the horses who raced in the inside two ‘lanes’ as such, showed that they finished in these positions: 11th, PU, 6th, 16th, PU, 7th, 8th and 14th. Many were fancied horses too.
Hunters Call hugged the inner and was held up out the back, and yet still had the ability to come through and finish third – quite simply it was a monumental performance to be able to do that against such a significant bias.
Yes, he is an 11-year-old, but he is so lightly raced and looks to be in the form of his life, that he must be backed at 11/1 each-way with William Hill to win Saturday’s Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso at 3.15pm