Newbury’s Grade 1 Betfred Goals Galore Challow Novices’ Hurdle over 2 miles and 5 furlongs, has a rich history for producing stars. Among its former winners are names like Large Action, King’s Road, Bindaree, Denman, Wichita Lineman, Diamond Harry, Reve De Sivola and Taquin Du Seuil.
Newbury’s card has to survive and early morning inspection with temperatures set to plummet overnight.
Six horses go to post for this year’s renewal, headed by the unexposed Arpege D’Alene. Paul Nicholls’ 4 year old was third in a bumper race at Deauville in December 2013 and made a winning UK debut when beating Its A Sting by 9 lengths at Ascot in November.
The exciting Blaklion, who races in the colours of The New One, has become one of the leading UK novice hurdlers this term and easily identifiable, having run plenty of times, gaining valuable experience. He made it five consecutive victories when impressively winning the Grade 2 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle by 1 ¾ lengths from Vicente at Chepstow in October, but was no match for Parlour Games at Cheltenham last month when beaten 4 ½ lengths. Nigel Twiston-Davies then stepped the 5 year old up to 3 miles at Cheltenham’s December meeting and he was most impressive, defeating Anteros by 11 lengths.
Native River has already had a variety of racing experiences and looks to be developing into a fine prospect, although this is a step into the deep end. Colin Tizzard’s 4 year old unseated in a point to point race last March and then ran third in a bumper in October, before making a winning debut over hurdles, defeating Mount Haven by 3 ¾ lengths at Stratford later in October. He was an impressive 2 ¾ length winner from Definitely Red, in a decent Newcastle novice hurdle towards the end of November.
Warren Greatrex continues to enjoy a good run of form and fields the interesting One Track Mind. This 4 year old won a Wetherby bumper by 6 lengths back in the spring and was successful at the same venue on his debut over timber, when beating Arthurs Secret by 9 lengths. He then unseated his rider in a Chepstow novice hurdle and could be anything.
Parlour Games arguably sets the standard here judged on his Cheltenham defeat of Blaklion and has amassed plenty of experience. John Ferguson’s 6 year old was a decent Flat performer and won two of his first three starts over hurdles before running down the field in the Galway Handicap Hurdle in late July. He then ran 4 lengths second to the useful Blue Heron in a Kempton Park novice hurdle in October, before impressing when storming up the Cheltenham hill to beat Blaklion by 4 ½ lengths last month.
Vyta Du Roc completes the line-up for last year’s winning stable of Nicky Henderson and looks the potential fly in the ointment. After two reasonable if unspectacular runs in his native France in 2013, this grey 5 year old had his first run for over a year when making a winning debut in the UK, beating Herecomestrouble by 10 lengths at Uttoxeter in mid-May. He quickly followed-up with a 2 ¼ lengths defeat of Mister Spingsprong at Hexham the following month before Henderson put him away for the rest of the summer. Vyta Du Roc made it a hat-trick of victories with a hard fought neck victory over Emerging Talent at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting and completed his four-timer with a nose success from Shantou Bob in a Grade 2 at Sandown Park in early December.