Paul Nicholls: Betfair Hurdle favourite Movewiththetimes “Is a really nice horse”

Bobs Worth

Newbury Racecourse is situated one hour’s train journey from London Paddington station and hosts national hunt and flat race meetings . (Pic: Courtesy of Newbury Racecourse).

Horse Talk with Simon Jackson: Top horse-racing tips and the latest news.

Betfair Hurdle favourite Movewiththetimes has won three of his four starts and “couldn’t have got into more trouble if he tried” in his sole defeat when finishing close-up to Champion Hurdle entry Moon Racer, Paul Nicholls said this week.

Movewiththetimes heads the betting at 5-1 for the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday (3.35pm) where he is likely to be ridden by Barry Geraghty in the extended two mile contest that is the both the feature race at Newbury and the highest-value handicap hurdle in the UK.

The six-year-old won Wincanton bumper at his sole start season and impressed on his return when scoring by two lengths on his hurdling debut at Fontwell in October.

Connections stepped him up to Grade 2, but he had no luck in running when beaten three and a half lengths into fifth place behind leading Supreme Novices’ Hurdle contender and Champion Hurdle entry, Moon Racer, at Cheltenham in November.

The son of Presenting was quickly back on the score sheet when defying a six-pound penalty to win a novices’ hurdle at Wincanton at his next start and appears to be held in high regard by the 10-time champion trainer who is also represented by 12-1 shot Zubayr.

“Movewiththetimes is a really nice horse,” Nicholls said. “He is a big strong horse by Presenting who will make a lovely chaser in a year’s time. He comes from a good family and made his debut for us last season at Wincanton. We all thought he would win when he ran and he duly obliged in quite a nice bumper.

“He started off over hurdles at Fontwell and won really well. He went to Cheltenham on soft ground in November and was beaten three and a half lengths by Moon Racer – he couldn’t have got into any more trouble if he tried. The race never worked out and he was a bit keen. He then went to Wincanton and won again. He has had a nice break since.

“He is a novice on 136 and you would hope he’d progress from that. You could say he lacks experience after only three starts over hurdles and it is likely to be a fast-run race so he has to be at his best jumping-wise. But who knows where he may end up? We like him a lot.

“He and Zubayr had a little racecourse gallop at Wincanton last week and went nicely. They have done everything together. I will be surprised if Barry does not ride him but he has the choice of all the J P McManus horses.”

“I suspect that Barry will ride Movewiththetimes, with Nick (Scholfield) on Zubayr and Sam (Twiston-Davies) on his father’s horse (Ballyandy). Nothing has been decided yet,” Nicholls continued, at a stable visit organised by Betfair in conjunction with Newbury and Ascot Racecourses on Tuesday.

“Zubayr surprised us last year by winning the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton. He dropped out last as they went quick and then he stayed on strongly.

“We haven’t ridden like that since then but might do so on Saturday. He is crying out for a real fast-run handicap where he can be dropped in a little bit. He won again at Wincanton, was a bit disappointing in the Triumph Hurdle on ground that was too quick for him and then he went to France and ran very well in a Grade 1, beaten a length and a half by Footpad which is good form. 

“This season, he started off at Wincanton on ground which was a bit quick and would have been second in the Elite Hurdle. He was flat out all the way and just paid the price for having a cut at the last. Then he was fifth at Sandown with 11st 12lb, beaten only 11 and a half lengths, but he was nowhere near his best. He is not the biggest horse for carrying that sort of weight. 

“He has had a nice break since then and he will be a nice horse in the spring. He did a nice bit of work with Movewiththetimes last week – you could hardly split them. The Betfair Hurdle might suit him on soft ground. I think the best of him is still to come, but he probably wants two and a half miles.”

Horse Talk with Simon Jackson. Showcasing horse racing in London and the south east.