Brian Ellison tinkers with Nietzsche headgear for Betfair Hurdle mission

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Thu 8 Feb 2018

By Geoffrey Riddle

Brian Ellison hopes that Nietzsche will run significantly better without a hood in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday than with the headgear in his two starts this season.

Nietzsche finished a close third in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in March off a mark of 135 with a hood, but has not been at that level this campaign finishing 10th in the valuable handicap hurdle at Ascot on December 23 after coming sixth to Elgin at Cheltenham in November.

The North Yorkshire handler saddled Bothy, who ran in the same silks of Dan Gilbert and Jessica Bell, to finish a short-head second in the 2011 Betfair Hurdle and is hoping to go one better with the mount of Danny Cook, who runs off 132 and is a best-priced 50-1 with Coral.

"Nietzsche is in good form, but has been disappointing in his two runs so far this season," Ellison said on Thursday.

"Henry Brooke rode him at Ascot last time and suggested afterwards that we leave the hood off. He felt it might have put him to sleep too much, so he goes without it on Saturday.

"On his Cheltenham run, I would give him a good chance and the more rain they get, the better."

Nietzsche joins High Bridge and Jenkins in the maximum field of 24 runners for Britain's most valuable handicap hurdle at £155,000.

The Ben Pauling-trained High Bridge won the Gerry Feilden Hurdle over the course and distance on his latest appearance at the start of December and while he shares top-weight of 11st 12lb for one of the season's most fiercely competitive handicaps, amateur rider Alex Ferguson takes a handy 7lb off his back.

Joining High Bridge at the top of the weights is Jenkins, who has appeared a reformed character since being fitted with blinkers, winning his last two races at Kempton and Ascot.

Crack conditional James Bowen takes 3lb off his back, meaning the horse that will actually carry the most weight is Bleu Et Rouge with 11st 10lb. The Betfair Hurdle has gone to Ireland four times, most recently with Essex in 2005, but Willie Mullins' charge is the only Irish challenger in the field and is the mount of Barry Geraghty.

Jenkins is one of five runners for Nicky Henderson as he bids for his sixth Betfair Hurdle success.

The other Seven Barrows representatives are Kayf Grace (Nico de Boinville), Lough Derg Spirit (Jeremiah McGrath), Charli Parcs (Ned Curtis) and Verdana Blue (Davy Russell).

Leading contenders also include Peter Atkinson's prolific mare Irish Roe, Kayley Woollacott's Lalor and Amy Murphy's stable star Kalashnikov.

The two reserves are the Kerry Lee-trained Magic Dancer and Maquisard from Gary Moore's yard.

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