Fast-flowing Nelson River shows depth of the Betfair Hurdle field

Nelson River and Harry Bannister (right) score in style at Cheltenham to tee up a bold bid for the Triumph Hurdle
Nelson River (right) winning at CheltenhamCredit: Grossick Racing 07710461723

The Betfair Hurdle is so competitive that even the rank outsiders are fairly interesting horses.

Look at Nelson River, who on Friday evening was generally available at 66-1. While no one would argue he is a particularly likely winner in a race as hot as this, figures show he is a horse whose capabilities may be underestimated.

It would not come as a huge surprise were he to feature prominently for a long way.

His class is easy enough to see; he was fourth in last year's Triumph Hurdle. His only two hurdles runs since have been on heavy ground and both times he tired.

The second such occasion was in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, which the figures show to be a better run than a 20-length fifth of five would imply.

The Fighting Fifth was run at a reasonable pace early on, winner Cornerstone Lad saw to that. Nelson River showed plenty of speed, as might be expected from his Flat days, and ran much faster than par from the off.

He was still more than four seconds ahead of par three furlongs out, but that was where the pace and conditions took their toll.

His effort dropped off late on, but he still ran a better time than would have been expected over that course and distance in heavy ground. To do so while running so inefficiently suggests he is equal to his ostensibly stiff hurdles rating of 142.

Crucially, the Betfair Hurdle looks set to be run on better ground and those ridden prominently historically fare well.

Nelson River will be suited by both and he might be able to hang around longer than his price suggests. Even if not, he will be one to keep in mind for two-mile handicaps this spring which are not quite as red-hot as this.

All data courtesy of Total Performance Data, whose tracking covers more than 20 courses in the UK and North America

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Keith MelroseBetting editor

Published on 7 February 2020inPreviews

Last updated 17:42, 7 February 2020