Relkeel Hurdle Guide

Runners

It could prove a very good day for Nigel Twiston-Davies, as he has the current favourite, and last year's winner of the Relkeel - Wholestone, who holds top credentials once again in this contest.

Third in last year's Stayers Final at Cheltenham, Wholestone returned this season with a win at Aintree, but finished well behind Unowhatimeanharry in a Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury. The 7yo now drops back in trip, which his connections hope will bring him back to his best.

Five horses are looking to prevent him from becoming just the second back-to-back winner of the Relkeel in the race's history: only Oscar Whisky in 2011/12 has managed this feat. Like Wholestone, both Old Guard and Midnight Shadow will carry 11st6.

Midnight Shadow won smartly at Aintree on Becher Chase day - a track trainer Sue Smith and jockey Danny Cook have had great memories from the past. That was a much better effort than the time before at Cheltenham in the Greatwood, although he did have excuses that day with many hurdles omitted from the straight.

Old Guard has run with much credit this campaign. No win since February, but has been right in the mix for a place, and only been outside the top three once since April in six outings. That unplaced finish was most recently here at Cheltenham, when Brain Power landed the International Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson - who we will discuss in the common trends section BELOW, has a remarkable record in this race, and saddles Thomas Campbell - who got off the mark over fences at the second time of asking, but failed to land a blow latest to Bags Groove who was a clear winner, and had to settle for best of the rest.

Clyne represents the Evan Williams yard, whilst Colin Tizzard has a runner in the form of Cyrus Darius, who has plenty to find on the basis of his two performances this season.

Trends:

As mentioned in the RUNNERS section, Nicky Henderson always seems to thrive in this contest. Since 2009, he has had three winners - Zaynar, and Oscar Whisky's double, all ridden by Barry Geraghty.

All bar one of the last fourteen winners was either bred in France (five) or Ireland (eight). Twelve of the last fourteen renewals had been won by a horse that had raced in the last six weeks. One less had raced at Cheltenham before, whereas ten of the last fourteen winners since 2004 had won at least four times over hurdles.

Six of the last fourteen raced at Cheltenham last time out, with seven more going onto run in a race at the Cheltenham Festival next time - unfortunately, with no winners.

Six winning favourites since 2004 is a decent return. Nine winners in that same time period came from the top three in the betting, with the same number being priced 11/2 or shorter in the betting.

Wholestone is looking to defend his crown, and the average winning SP in the last 9 runnings is 4/1.

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