Betfair Hurdle preview: Peter Atkinson hoping to add to the piggy bank with Irish Roe in Britain's richest hurdle

Fri 9 Feb 2018

By staff

Permit holder Peter Atkinson is hoping to make the most of what he feels could be a once in a lifetime opportunity in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

Peter Atkinson - Racingfotos The four-time hurdle winner, who is officially 11lb well in, is one of just two horses trained by Peter Atkinson. (Racingfotos)

A pig farmer by trade, Atkinson trains just a couple of horses from Yafforth Hill Farm in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, but one of them is proving to be a genuine diamond in the rough.

Irish Roe was snapped up for just 2,000 euros as a store horse four years ago and has since won three bumpers and four hurdle races from just 11 starts under rules.

She produced a career-best performance when pushing the similarly prolific Maria's Benefit all the way in a Grade Two at Doncaster a fortnight ago and is favourite with some bookmakers to claim one of the most prestigious and lucrative handicaps of the season, but Atkinson is not getting carried away.

He said: "Just because she's favourite doesn't mean she's going to win, but she seems well and we're happy with her at home.

Cheltenham Racecourse - The Open - BetVictor Gold Cup Day Irish Roe's seven wins from 11 runs have amassed £53,689 (PA)

"She went up 11lb for the run at Doncaster, so she's rated 145 now and runs in this off 134. She's not going to have the chance to run in a handicap off 134 again, or at least not for a while.

"There's a huge amount of money on offer and this probably won't happen to us again.

"The main thing we want is for her to come out of it in one piece and we can live to fight another day.

"Horses like this don't come around too often for people like us."

There would be no more popular winner than Lalor if he can strike gold for Kayley Woollacott and her late husband Richard.

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The racing world was left shocked after it was announced late last month that Woollacott, who was based in South Molton in Devon, had died aged 40.

Lalor, the winner of a Grade Two bumper at Aintree last spring, has been placed on each of his three starts over hurdles to date and has undergone a wind operation since finishing second on his latest appearance at Cheltenham in December.

Daryl Jacob rides Lalor for the first time since steering him to a Wincanton bumper success last March, and said: "I'm looking forward to it. I schooled him yesterday and he seems in really good form.

"The rain that is supposed to come will help him. He has run some very good races and hopefully off 133 he will have a great chance."

Amy Murphy is expecting a big run from her stable star Kalashnikov.

The five-year-old won each of his first three starts before finishing second in last month's Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.

Murphy said: "I just hope they don't get as much rain as forecast. Hopefully he goes there with a live chance.

"I think we'll learn a lot about where we go after this. He's shown a turn of foot so far, but he's got plenty of stamina in his pedigree."

The Ben Pauling-trained High Bridge won the Gerry Feilden over the course and distance on his most recent start and is once again partnered by amateur rider Alex Ferguson.

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"He's had a very uninterrupted preparation for the race and we're going there all guns blazing," said Pauling.

"It's a track he particularly likes and we're very much looking forward to having him there."

Gary Moore has recorded multiple victories in the Betfair Hurdle.

He is seeking his fourth win in the race having trained Heathcote to win in 2007, Wingman (2008) and Violet Dancer (2015).

Jamie Moore will ride general 12-1 chance Knocknanuss, trained by his father, in the Grade Three contest.

He guided the eight-year-old to an easy victory at Fontwell in December and is looking to register another success.

“I’ve won it twice but it’s been a while since I last won it, so I could do with winning it again!," he said.

Listen: Jamie Moore on his Betfair Hurdle mount Knocknanuss

“Dad usually wins it with an ex-flat horse and Knocknanuss is an ex point-to-pointer. Hopefully dad can work his magic again though.

“Knocknanuss will have to improve to win but he is in good form and his weight is a big plus. A fast pace will suit him as will a big, galloping track. He’s a horse you can ride on the front end as he races keenly.

“I’m very positive about his chances because of dad's record in the race and I wouldn’t swap him for anything, but it’s going to be hard.”

Moon Racer makes his first appearance of the season, having suffered a bout of colic and undergone a wind operation since his last run.

Trainer David Pipe said: "Whilst he is probably not as quick as he was, he is still in good form. He is probably a bit overpriced but I am not worried about that.

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"At the same time he has got to bounce back from a disappointing run at Aintree and obviously what he has been through over the summer."

Irish hopes rest on the Willie Mullins-trained and JP McManus-owned Bleu Et Rouge.

Mullins said: "Bleu Et Rouge is in good form but has a nice steadying weight (11st 10lb), so it's going to be tough from that position for him.

"I don't know what the statistics are for horses with those sort of weights and it's going to be a tough challenge."

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