Rory Delargy: "Nicholls Hype-Machine Is No Friend Of The Punter"

6 min

There are always a number of buzz-horse to take from pre-Cheltenham media events and preview evenings, and one such horse this year was supposed Fred Winter plot Friend Or Foe, who didn’t make the cut at Cheltenham, but is already a red-hot favourite for a similar race on Newbury’s final card of the Jumps season. Don’t fall for the hype.

14:40 Newbury – Be Wiser Insurance Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

It’s funny how easily even knowledgeable racing people can be led by a trainer’s confidence, and how short the memory can be when considering the track record of certain members of the profession.

I hold a general view that the more a top trainer fancies a horse for a big race, the less that trainer is inclined to talk about it.

That idea is complicated by how much the owner of the horse in question wants the trainer to talk about it, of course, and any freely-expressed belief in a horse’s chance is to be taken with a pinch of salt. So it is we come to Paul Nicholls, who was very positive about two of his handicap entries at the Festival, with both immediately installed as favourite. The first was Give Me A Copper, who was as short as 5/1 at one point for the Ultima Handicap Chase, but proved friendless on the day and was well held when falling late in the day. Friend Or Foe was also put in short for the Boodles (Fred Winter), but what might have happened on the day is a mystery as he failed to make the cut.

Paul Nicholls has been tipping up Friend or Foe in this one.

He won his only start in the UK at Taunton, but he had the run of the race there, and the time was nothing special. The runner-up has been beaten twice since, and the bare form suggests that Friend Or Foe is pretty harshly handicapped. It’s possible that he really is ahead of his mark, but the fact that his shrewd trainer didn’t bother ensuring his place at Cheltenham with another outing suggests he’s far from certain that he’s the handicap snip he’s painted to be. It would be no surprise to see his price drift late.

15:15 Newbury – EBF & TBA Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Final

The Mares’ Final is usually a really competitive affair and this year looks no exception, with a long list of possible winners. One who looks much too short in the betting though is She Might Bite, who was beaten by the re-opposing Maebh at Warwick in November at level weights, looking thoroughly wayward in the process.

She has failed to win since, and has in fact hit the deck twice since that clash, but is still as short as 6.0 to back, whereas you can pretty much name your price about Maebh.

She Might Bite was travelling well when brought down at Ludlow last time, but there is no telling what she would have found, while the key to that performance might well be the trip – she was stepping up to three miles for the first time at Ludlow, and it’s hardly surprising that she travelled more kindly as a result. She is opposable dropping back in trip, even if that experience hasn’t left a mark, which is very possible.


  • Lay Friend Or Foe to win 10pts @ 3.1 or shorter [max liability 21pts]
  • Place Lay She Might Bite @ 3.0 or shorter to win 10pts [max liability 20pts]

This week Tom Stanley is joined by Rory Delargy, Sam Turner and Matchbook’s Micheál Deasy to preview some big field handicaps at Newbury and Kelso and they all have big priced selections as their best bets.