The Elite Hurdle (Saturday 11 November, 3.00) is a 2-mile handicap hurdle run at Wincanton. The race has been a Limited Handicap since 1998, with its most famous winners being dual-winner Celestial Halo, and Azertyioup who went on to win the Champion Chase.
Winners have been aged 4 to 7, with four winners aged 5
Winners have been rated between 133 and 163
SP’s have ranged from 4/6 to 16/1
Paul Nicholls has trained 4 of the last 8 winners
Winners have carried between 10-5 and 11-10, with 6 top-weights winning
Seemed to improve for fences last season, but it could just be that he’s getting better with age, which he’s every right to as a 6-year-old. He’s also a capable hurdler though, having easily beaten Brain Power at Musselburgh two seasons ago. That horse is now rated in the high 150’s so Charbel could be well-in on a mark of 149.
Couer De Lion
Last won off 131, though earned his higher-rating of 144 with decent performances in juvenile hurdles since, and he’s fit from the flat. Stable also won the race last year with an improving 4-year-old, and it’s interesting that a 10lb claimer, who the stable have put to good use before, is set to take the ride.
1lb lower than when falling when looking beaten in the race last year, but has performed well since, including being placed in the Scottish Champion Hurdle. Can’t be ruled out for the inform Paul Nicholls, but perhaps vulnerable to anything with a few-pounds in hand.
Surprise winner of the Fred Winter at last season’s Cheltenham Festival and, though he could have another big-handicap in him, his form going right-handed doesn’t make his chance jump off the page.
Lough Derg Spirit
Both wins last season came at this trip on flat right-handed tracks, but looked short of a bit of speed at this trip when stepped-up in class. Potentially well-handicapped all the same, though Nicky Henderson has won the race only once before.
Has been first and second in this race off marks of 150 and 151, and would be throw-in on a mark of 135 if he could recapture that form. However, the 11-year-old has looked out of love with the game recently.
Gave Couer De Lion 12lb and a 3-length beating on the flat in 2016 and, despite finishing second in last month’s Cesarewitch, he’s officially rated 10lb lower over hurdles than that rival here (not taking into account that horse’s jockey’s 10lb claim). Therefore, though he may prove even better over slightly further over hurdles, he looks set to play a leading role.
A fascinating race in which top-weight Charbel and bottom-weight London Prize look the two with the most potential to improve. London Prize just gets the vote though, as he has made giant strides of late on the flat, and could be seriously well-handicapped if he can make the same improvement over jumps.