The Heroes Handicap Hurdle has been run in various guises since it was established in 1986, but is always competitive and has thrown up winners at 20/1, 16/1 and 10/1 in recent years (3pm Saturday at Sandown live on CH4).
Baywing (4/1), who has won all four starts this season with a minimum of fuss, heads the betting market. Nicky Richards’ seven-year-old has already been raised 46lb in the weights since making his seasonal debut at Carlisle in November and is 10lb higher than when beating Goodbye Dancer by five lengths in a 0-140 affair at Cheltenham two weeks ago. He justifiably takes another significant rise in class and, while he obviously cannot be dismissed out of hand, it would be no surprise if that proved the undoing of him.
Saddlers Encore (8/1) is proving popular with punters. Philip Hobbs’ seven-year-old was returning from an absence of 620 days when finishing fifth of ten, beaten 4½ lengths, behind If In Doubt over 2m5½f at Wincanton on Boxing Day so, while he needs to improve, he is almost certainly capable of doing so. The son of multiple champion jumps sire Presenting won over a testing 2m7f at Exeter as a novice and ran well enough on soft going at Wincanton to suggest he has bucked the trend of most of his sire’s offspring and is fully effective under prevailing conditions. He is definitely one for the shortlist.
Last year’s winner Invicta Lake (20/1) has failed to trouble the judge in seven subsequent starts for trainer Suzy Smith (pictured), but can consequently race off a 1lb lower mark than last year, despite being 2lb out of the handicap. His most recent fourth of 10, beaten 12½ lengths, behind Taj Badlandabad over 3m1f at Cheltenham eight days ago was a fair, if unspectacular, effort and it would no surprise to see him go close at generous odds. He is preferred to stablemate Little Boy Boru (20/1), who is also handicapped to run well on his best form.
Anteros (16/1) was quite well-fancied for this race last year, but could only finish sixth of 12, beaten 12 lengths, behind Invicta Lake. He is 1lb higher in the weights this time around, but was far from disgraced when third of 16, beaten 3¾ lengths, behind Singlefarmpayment over 3m at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. He probably needs to improve to be seriously considered for win purposes, but has a squeak under Paddy Brennan, who retains the ride.
One that obviously has to get a big mention is the joint-favourite with some bookies, Ibis Du Rheu (5/1). Trained by Paul Nicholls, he looked to need this longer trip when 3rd behind another of the runners here Yala Enki (5/1) over 2m5f at Kempton a month ago. Ibis Du Rheu has a helpful 9lb pull with Yala Enki for the near four-lengths he was beaten that day and there should be little between them now.
Another that can’t be ignored is Medinas (8/1). At first glance he looks up against it, having not run for over a year and shouldering topweight in testing conditions. However he is trained by man-of-the-moment Alan King, whose inmates are running above themselves. As the man can do no wrong at the moment, Medinas is bound to have plenty of supporters based on that alone.
Heroes Hurdle Betting Tips Verdict
In the absence of any truly outstanding contenders, our betting tips advice is to back INVICTA LAKE each-way at a current best price of 20/1 with BetVictor. Suzy Smith’s nine-year-old is undeniably well handicapped on his best form and his reserves of stamina should once again be an asset in a contest likely to be run at a good clip.