Trainer David Pipe has won the Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle a record three times, so Umbrigado is fancied to take advantage of a drop in class and add to that tally in this year’s renewal of the 3m Grade 3 contest at Haydock on Saturday (14:25).
After finishing runner-up in his sole start in an Irish point, this five-year-old made an impressive winning start under Rules on debut for the Pond House handler when landing a Uttoxeter bumper by 5 1/2 lengths.
Umbrigado then had little difficulty opening his account over the obstacles in an 11-runner maiden hurdle at Southwell, before only having to by driven out to land the hat-trick when accounting for Ask Dillon by 2 1/4 lengths at Exeter.
The runner-up is a smart sort who is now rated 137, so the way in which he was readily brushed aside was impressive.
It earned Umbrigado a crack at the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at the Aintree Grand National Festival.
After making a short-lived effort two from home from off the pace, however, he weakened to finish a 9 3/4 lengths sixth of nine to Reserve Tank.
That was a red-hot renewal and may well have come too soon for Umrigado at such an early stage of his career. This represents a return to much calmer waters.
An opening handicap mark of 142 looks workable, given that Umbrigado is a lightly-raced and unexposed sort who looks sure to do better this season.
Soft ground is also ideal for the son of Stowaway and the yard has been amongst the winners of late.
So, taking everything into account, Umrigado has lots going for him and looks a worthy 11/2 favourite with Coral to make a winning return to action.
Tedham spearheads Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle dangers
Having shaped quite nicely on seasonal reappearance, Tedham looks sure to go well from what looks a potentially lenient handicap mark.
This Jonjo O’Neill trained five-year-old has only had six starts over the obstacles and ran really well on the fourth of them when chasing home Getaway Trump at Exeter.
Although no match for the classy victor, who is now rated 155, Tedham stuck to the task well to be beaten five lengths and the race has thrown-up plenty of subsequent winners.
Tedham then opened his account next time up on handicap debut at Wincanton when running on strongly to land a 14-runner affair by 1 3/4 lengths off a mark of 125.
He got put up 6lb for that and ran better than his finishing position suggests when seventh of 23 to Three Musketeers in a hot Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting when sent off the 11/2 favourite.
After tracking the leaders, he was asked for an effort three from home before making mistakes at the final two flights but then nearest at the finish and beaten 13 3/4 lengths.
It was a run which suggested his current mark of 130 was exploitable, especially judged on his effort behind Getaway Trump.
Tedham also looks sure to strip fitter for his run at Cheltenham’s Showcase meeting last month when keeping on to finish a never nearer 10 3/4 lengths sixth of 17 to Duke Street over 2m 5f.
The extra three furlongs of the Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle promises to suit.
So at 9/1 with William Hill, who are paying five places, Tedham looks well worth considering from an each-way betting perspective.
Acey Milan also appeals each-way
In a race where a case can be made for plenty, Acey Milan is another that appeals each-way at the 14/1 on offer with Ladbrokes.
This Anthony Honeyball trained five-year-old was a very smart bumper performer, winning three times and finishing a fine 5 1/4 lengths fourth of 34 to Relegate in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival off an official rating of 133 when sent off the 9/2 favourite.
He came good at the third time of asking over the obstacles over 2m at Plumpton when rallying gamely score by half-a-length, and then ran well on handicap debut in a class 2 over 2m 4f at Uttoxeter when a 12-length third of 16 to Poker Play off 127.
Acey Milan was also far from disgraced on his final start last season at the Punchestown Festival when eighth of 23 to My Sister Sarah in a competitive class 1 contest over the 3m trip of this off 125.
There was also lots to like about his return to action over 2m 4f at Plumpton earlier in the month when keeping on well from off the pace to go down by just half-a-length to Dan McGrue.
Although raised 3lb for that, a revised rating of 128 still looks exploitable – especially on his bumper form – and the step back up to 3m is a plus for the mud-loving Acey Milan.
Ask Ben also has Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle shout
Another potentially well-treated contender who cannot be ruled out is the Graeme McPherson trained Ask Ben.
This six-year-old showed a good attitude to make a winning debut over hurdles when beating the now 140-rated and subsequent Grade 2 winner Beakstown by a head.
Ask Ben then made all to bolt-up by 19 lengths at Ayr, before running a fine race to finish a 10-length second of nine to Lisnagar Oscar in a Grade 2 over this course and distance where he had some useful performers in behind.
He went on to round off the campaign with a fair 10th of 20 to Minella Indo in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival off an official rating of 137.
Ask Ben now makes his handicap debut off 5lb lower (132) and that looks exploitable, especially on his defeat of Beakstown.
After just four starts over hurdles, there is also undoubtedly more improvement left in the locker.
Ask Ben hails from a shrewd yard that is more than capable of laying one out to land a valuable pot like this.
Thus, at 11/1 with Paddy Power, he is another worth considering in a typically wide-open renewal of the Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle.