Horse Racing: Spotlight On The 2019 Swinton Hurdle

The Swinton Handicap Hurdle is run over a distance of two miles at Haydock Park, traditionally at the start of May. This feature race takes place during a mixed National Hunt and flat racing card – the last of its kind in the UK.

The race was established in 1978 and at one time was the fourth most lucrative National Hunt race in the UK after the Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle.

The Swinton Hurdle is now the first major prize of the season, as opposed to the last one and more recently successes for Intersky Falcon (2002) and Macs Joy (2004) have shown this prestigious race acting as a valuable stepping stone to greater things when jump racing resumes “proper” in the autumn.

Here are the trends and statistics of the race over the last ten years.

Age:
Recent figures suggest that it pays to side with the six to seven year old age bracket in this race.
Horses older than eight years old have made the frame just four times in over thirty runners.
You have to go back to 1997 to find a winner older than seven in this race.
Nine of the last ten winners were aged between 5 and 7.

Weight:
Horses carrying over 11st 7lbs have a terrible record over the last ten years.
Top weights have also fared poorly with only Eradicate (2011) managing to carry the top weight to victory in recent times.

Official Ratings:
Horses rated between 129-141 have been victorious nine times in the last ten years.

Eradicate (2011) and War Sound (2015) were the only two horses to the rated in the 140’s.

Form:
5/10 winners finished in the first four on their last outing.
7/10 winners had at least 1 previous run at Haydock, 4/12 winners had at least 1 previous wins at Haydock.
9/10 winners had raced in the past fifty days.
10/10 winners had at least 4 previous runs over 15.5-16.5 furlongs, 9/10 had at least 2 previous wins over 15.5-16.5 furlongs.
10/10 winners had at least 4 runs over hurdles, 10/10 winners had at least 2 wins over hurdles.

Notable Races:
Horses placed in the first five in the Scottish County Hurdle tend to do well.
Horses placed in the first six in the Imperial Cup have a good record.
Horses that ran at one of the Festivals i.e Cheltenham, Aintree, Fairyhouse or Ayr.

Trainer Form:
Evan Williams has taken home the spoils in 2013, 2014, 2017 and again last year with Silver Streak. Williams is obviously very adept with his spring runners and should be ignored at your peril.

Nicky Henderson had the winner in 2010 and 2011 and has already hit the “new season” running in the last few days. Anything he runs in this worth a second look.

Philip Hobbs has a decent record with his runners in this too and he gives Sternrubin another pop at this valuable prize.

Price:
A real mixture of starting prices over the last ten years with seven winners priced between 5/1 and 8/1, and three winners priced between 16/1 and 25/1.

Swinton Hurdle 2019: Contenders
The three horses vying for favouritism this week – Mister Fisher, Christopher Wood and Sofia’s Rock are all making their handicap debuts on Saturday.

Christopher Wood has made a great start to his hurdles career, winning his first two starts and then ran a commendable third to Pentland Hills in the Anniversary Hurdle at Aintree last time.

Being a four-year-old he receives a handy weight-for-age allowance but the handicapper appears to be well on the ball with his opening assessment of the horse.

The Dan Skelton-trained Sofia’s Rock made his debut over hurdles at Worcester last September when scoring at 4/7 in comprehensive style.

In his next run at Taunton in he finished a creditable third place behind rivals trained by David Pipe and Paul Nicholls. A month later Sofia’s Rock got back to winning ways with a crushing 17 length victory at Ludlow.

He should be up to running at this higher level and was rated 100 at his peak on the Flat when trained by Mark Johnson. His jumps rating of 129 does look pretty lenient on the book and he looks well placed to exploit his current mark.

Nicky Henderson’s Mister Fisher has won over the course and distance before, having won the Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle back in January.

He was disappointing in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last time but could easily bounce back in a race of this nature and grade.

John Constable looked an absolute picture when winning this contest in 2017 but since then his form has been pretty mediocre to say the least.

Running off a 24lb lower mark this time around, the eight-year-old is worth a cautionary look in the horse racing betting odds but it will take a leap of faith to back him with confidence.

Evan Williams may have a more realistic chance however with his Court Royale. He won three times last season, the last of those in a handicap at Ludlow in April.

He is well suited to a sharp track like Haydock but there may have been a little too much rainfall on Merseyside this week for his liking.

Trainer Olly Murphy has been in decent form of late and his Fiesole is another with a squeak in this competitive handicap.

His best effort came last time for the Murphy yard, winning a handicap at Plumpton by nine lengths from Legal History. That win was very convincing and there is no reason why he should not put in another stint like that again on Saturday.

Swinton Hurdle 2019: Conclusion
All the focus in the betting for this race has been around the runners from the more “established” trainers, however Olly Murphy’s horses have been going with great gusto all over the country in the last week and he is worth following in again.

Therefore the 888sport selection here will be Fiesole.