The Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle (Sunday 24 February, 14:50 GMT) is run over 2 miles 3 furlongs and 49 yards at Fontwell Racecourse and it is seen as a potential stepping stone to the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The race was first run in 1971 and has been won by Cheltenham Festival winners such as Comedy Of Errors, Baracouda, and My Way De Solzen but, with a first prize of £45,560, it is easy to see why trainers also specifically target this race.
Check out our big-race trends and analysis for the National Spirit Hurdle and our free tip for Fontwell’s biggest race of the season.
National Spirit Hurdle Trends
All of the last 10 winners have carried between 11-3 and 11-11, and all had run between eight and 64 days prior to their success.
Nine of the 10 winners in the last decade were returned at single-figure odds, while eight of the last nine winners have been aged either five, six, or seven.
Paul Nicholls, who has trained three of the last eight winners, is the only trainer to have enjoyed more than one winner in the last 10 years, while only one of the last 10 winners had won last time out.
National Spirit 2019 Runner-By-Runner Guide
If The Cap Fits
The top-rated horse in this field on a mark of 155 and his form behind Verdana Blue this season suggests he has the potential to still rank a bit higher. He has also already taken the scalp of Old Guard this season by one and a half lengths in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot but is 6lb worse off with that rival here. The Harry Fry stable has also hit form in the last few days.
The 2016 winner has a decent record over this sort of trip and has mixed novice chasing and hurdling to decent effect this season. Was also second in the 2018 renewal to Old Guard, who beat him by one and a half lengths in receipt of 2lb. Older than most recent winners at the age of eight.
Also aged eight, but runs off level-weights with both If The Cap Fits and Lil Rockerfeller here and the form book suggest there shouldn’t be much between them if they all turn up in decent form. There’s no reason why Old Guard won’t be, as his trainer Paul Nicholls is firing in the winners, and he won’t mind if the current good-to-soft ground firms up even more.
Gets 2lb from the three horses above and this winner of six hurdle races is two from two at this distance. Didn’t seem to stay when connections tried him over three-miles last time could give them all something to think about if that race hasn’t left its mark.
Vision Des Flos
Gets 4lb from the top-three and has run some terrific races in defeat this season against some very useful rivals. Faces some quality horses here too and he just doesn’t seem to like to get his head in front.
Decent on the flat and quickly proved to be a decent juvenile hurdler. However, the form of last year’s four-year-old continues to disappoint and a mark of 135 leaves him with plenty to find with the principles.
Vive Le Roi
Has won three of his races this season and, after bleeding last time, he could still have improvement to come. But he needs to find over a stone to get competitive and he faces a tough task on paper.
National Spirit Hurdle Summary
There shouldn’t be much between Old Guard and Lil Rockerfeller at the finish but both horses are older than eight of the last nine winners. At seven and six respectively, If The Cap Fits and Ballymoy are a better age fit, and look the most likely winners. Both horses are also two from two at the distance.
As the form book suggests that If The Cap Fits should finish in close proximity to Old Guard and If The Cap Fits, preference is for Ballymoy who could still have plenty of improvement to come at this trip.
National Spirit Hurdle Tip:
Ballymoy @ 4.50 Betfair SB, PaddyPower