/ Racing

Swing out to bowl over Betfair Hurdle rivals at Newbury

Updated: Tuesday, 05 Feb 2013 18:22 | Comments

Timmy Murphy faces a spartan regime this week as his mount Swing Bowler has been allotted just 10st 1lb for the Betfair Hurdle
Timmy Murphy faces a spartan regime this week as his mount Swing Bowler has been allotted just 10st 1lb for the Betfair Hurdle

David Johnson admits the unbeaten Swing Bowler faces by far the most difficult test of her career in Saturday's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

The outstandingly-bred mare is close to the owner's heart as her dam is Lady Cricket, a top-class hurdler and chaser in his famous blue and green colours.

Now six and campaigned sparingly and cautiously by trainer David Pipe, Swing Bowler took novice events last season at Ludlow and Newton Abbot and only reappeared on New Year's Day at Musselburgh, winning a valuable handicap hurdle in impressive style.

By Galileo, the home-bred has clearly been a slow learner.

"She has done nothing but surprise us, really, as she has never been exciting in her work at home," said Johnson.

"However, not many mares win five times from five races and her most recent run in Scotland was her best."

It will be like old times at the weekend, with Johnson's old ally Timmy Murphy sweating down for a light weight in a big handicap for the team.

"Timmy will ride her," the owner confirmed. "It's a huge step up in a race that would not look out of place at Cheltenham.

"I think she has it all to do, to be honest, but 10st 1lb is a nice weight and the ground should not be a concern."

2012 Betfair Hurdle: Zarkandar wins at Newbury

Evan Williams has warned leading contender Court Minstrel is far from certain to take his chance.

The six-year-old ran out an impressive winner on his debut over obstacles at Cheltenham in October and emerged with huge credit when third behind top novice Dodging Bullets at the same track a month later, having suffered trouble in running.

He was slightly disappointing when only fourth in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last time and having struggled to cope in the mud on that occasion, Williams insists his charge will only line up this weekend if conditions are right.

Williams said: "We are keeping an eye on it but he definitely won't run if the ground is very soft. It will have to dry out considerably for him to run.

"He's in grand form at home and I would obviously prefer to run him if I can because the prize-money is so good, but the one thing we learnt at Sandown is that he can't handle very soft ground, so there is no point running him on it again this weekend.

"There is a bit of drying weather around at the moment, so we might be all right, but conditions will have to be suitable for him."

Court Minstrel holds an entry in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at next month's Cheltenham Festival but at this stage, Williams is keen to go down the handicap route with a horse he believes is well treated off a mark of 131.

"He won't run in top novice company as, in my opinion, he is not a Grade One novice," said the trainer.

"My feeling is that on good ground he is a well-handicapped horse, so we might as well look at the handicaps at those better meetings for the time being.

"Whether he runs on Saturday or not, spring will arrive at some stage and I am sure there is a good prize in him when he gets on some good ground."

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