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2018 Leamington Novices' Hurdle betting tips: Count on Twiston-Davies' 5/2 chance to land Warwick Grade Two success

Brian Healy 12 Jan 2018
Count Meribel can bounce back to winning ways by landing the Grade Two Leamington Novices' Hurdle on Saturday. (credit: GettyImages)

Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look through the field for Saturday's Grade Two Leamington Novices' Hurdle, one of the feature races of Warwick's Saturday racecard.

Joining the Grade Three Betfred Classic Handicap Chase on Saturday’s racecard at Warwick, the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle goes to post at 3.00pm immediately preceding the competitive handicap.

This two-mile five furlongs contest draws together some of the best novices in the country who may have aspirations towards the Cheltenham Festival in March, and a field of six runners will face the tapes for the near-£20,000 first prize.

Some notable names have won this race since it was incepted back in 2002, and Willougbhy Court took top honours here prior to landing Cheltenham Festival glory in the Neptune Hurdle. Other winners include Deputy Dan, The New One, Carruthers and Inglis Drever so the race boasts a good pedigree of winners.

Mr Whipped (15/8, Paddy Power) won a point-to-point in Ireland prior to joining forces with Nicky Henderson, and the Beneficial gelding has won both starts over hurdles for the Seven Barrows trainer, posting an impressive success at Newbury last month despite jockey Nico de Boinville losing an iron.

He had three lengths to spare over the runner-up, Gowiththeflow, with daylight back to the rest; open to plenty of improvement he ought to go well in his hat-trick bid for his in-form yard.

Nicky Henderson aims for more big-race Saturday success in the Leamington Novices' Hurdle.

Chooseyourweapon (11/2, BetVictor) boasts a similar profile, having arrived at Evan Williams’ yard after posting a win in the point-to-point sphere to register back-to-back Chepstow wins which include a three lengths defeat of Golden Sunrise last time out.

The Flemensfirth gelding was hard driven to maintain his advantage, but the heavy ground may not have helped and he could also be open to improvement although on the bare form he will need to improve.

Cave Top (12/1, William Hill) has been steadily progressive over hurdles this term, winning three of his four starts this season which include back-to-back wins at Uttoxeter.  

Oliver Greenall’s charge had Crucial Role two lengths in arrears last time out, and that race has been boosted by the fourth home winning since, albeit in a lesser grade. He made a few mistakes in that contest, and while he can progress again this represents a steep rise in class and he’s perhaps more exposed than his rivals.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ COUNT MERIBEL (5/2, William Hill) has won three of his four starts this term, which includes an eight-lengths defeat of Perfect Harmony at Ascot in November.

That was an impressive success, and the Three Valleys gelding lost little in defeat when thrust into a Grade Two contest at Cheltenham in December when finding only Kilbricken Storm too strong in the Bristol Novices’ Hurdle.

Beaten just under two lengths, he probably just failed to get home up the stiff Cheltenham hill as he was overhauled on the climb to the line by the winner; but there was a huge gap back to the third and fourth horses home, and the drop back in distance here could well coincide with a return to winning ways from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge who had looked a smart and progressive sort when racking up his earlier hat-trick.

 He has to concede 3lbs to this field, but he is another who is open to improvement and the less testing trip ought to prove in his favour.

Count Meribel lost nothing in defeat at Cheltenham and may appreciate the shorter trip here.

Dan Skelton is having a fantastic season, and Knight In Dubai (12/1, William Hill) arrives here on the back of a hurdles debut success at Wetherby in December where he beat Game On by almost five lengths.

The runner-up in that race has won since, and the Dubai Destination gelding ought to improve for that experience. A winner between the flags, he is interesting thrust into Grade Two company on the strength of that sole run; but given his yard’s continuing good form he can’t be overlooked despite probably needing to find a jolt of progress.

Paisley Park (10/1, Paddy Power) completes the sextet of runners for this Grade Two contest, and Emma Lavelle’s Oscar gelding is another who comes into the race on the back of winning form.

Runner-up here on his sole start in bumpers last term, the Oscar gelding ran out an impressive Hereford winner on his hurdles debut last month, beating Vision Des Flos by seven lengths. The runner-up might have made more of a race of it had he not stumbled and almost fell on landing when jumping the final hurdle, and his saddle slipped.

Colin Tizzard’s charge never recovered from that mishap, so the form of the run needs treating with some caution as a result as he may have gone close against Emma Lavelle’s runner. While the form of Emma Lavelle’s yard is good currently, this looks a tough assignment, and while he is entitled to step up on that run thrust into a higher grade, he may need more time.


Only six runners go to post, but any one of the six could win this with plenty of potential on show not least from Nicky Henderson’s Mr Whipped.

However, COUNT MERIBEL (5/2, William Hill) lost nothing in defeat when tried at this level at Cheltenham last time, and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge was only caught late having perhaps just failing to get up the hill in the Bristol Novices’ Hurdle where he finished runner-up behind Kilbricken Storm.

The Three Valleys gelding had won all three previous starts this term  in good fashion, including winning a competitive contest at Ascot with an eight lengths’ defeat of Perfect Harmony which included a subsequent winner.

Likely to be suited by the return to this trip, he has to concede 3lbs to his five rivals; but still with the potential to do better he could resume winning ways here, and he made the frame on his only previous outing at this venue. Drying ground is no issue, and no surprise to see him bouncing back from his Cheltenham reversal here.

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2018 Leamington Novices' Hurdle betting tips: Count on Twiston-Davies' 5/2 chance to land Warwick Grade Two success

Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look through the field for Saturday's Grade Two Leamington Novices' Hurdle, one of the feature races of Warwick's Saturday racecard.

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