Challenge Cup Betting Tips

Some of the top stayers in the UK are on show at Oxford on Friday night in the £10,000 Challenge Cup final over 650m.

2022 St Leger champion and Hunt Cup winner Havana Lover is the market leader for in-form trainer Liz McNair, with top local Lively Lauren the main danger.

Oxford Stadium was reopened in 2022 and this event was first staged in December 2022, with Hove raider Chelms Cub picking up leader Antigua Sugar in a thrilling finish.

A blend of speed and stamina is required to compete at the highest level over the six-bend trip at the Cowley venue, which offers up long straights and tight turns.

Trap 1 - Lively Lauren

Matt Dartnall's talented and versatile tracker has proved herself to be top-class over both four and six bends with runs deep into a number of competitions during her career.

The powerful fawn is yet to taste big-race success, but has leading claims here providing she can trap smartly and defend her pitch on the inside from fellow speedy railers Minnie Bullet and Havana Top Not.

Boasting a smart strike-rate of 19 wins from 40 starts, this prolific tracker is not to be underestimated but much will rest on the start. Looking to land a five-timer over course and distance, this is a leading contender for the £10,000 first prize.

Trap 2 - Minnie Bullet

One of two finalists representing 13-time champion trainer Mark Wallis, this is another versatile lady who has made waves over both four and six bends.

This is her sixth Category One final reached in 2023, she also landed the £10,000 Puppy Oaks over 500m at Towcester last year and has the speed to mix it over both four and six bends.

Wallis went close to winning this event last year with his Antigua Sugar and similarly to that performer, the early lead will be crucial to her claims.

The daughter of Irish Derby champion Good News arrived at this event in fine form having chased home Laughil Jess in the final of the Gold Collar and Ladbrokes and she continues to perform well.

Trap 3 - Havana Top Note

Representing a kennel in red-hot form, Liz McNair's performer has been somewhat overlooked after his semi-final defeat due to a tricky draw. Prior to that loss, the light-brindled son of Eden The Kid lowered the 650m track record and will be lining up as the fastest dog to have covered the distance since Oxford reopened in 2022.

Similar to the two bitches drawn on his inside, the chances of Havana Top Note rest on bagging the early lead and taking command of the final as the field cross the winning line for the first of two times.

It's a big weekend for the McNair kennel with two finalists in the Olympic at Hove on Saturday night, but the team has been in great form including Queen Joni winning the BGBF British Bred Derby at Sheffield on Tuesday.

Much like the talented two on his inside, bagging the rail at the opening turn will be vital to the claims of Havana Top Note in the Challenge Cup decider.

Trap 4 - Mad For Sterling

A second finalist representing 13-time champion trainer Mark Wallis, yet to win in this event but has battled on well to qualify in each round.

Speedy enough to win multiple times over 575m at Romford but has seemingly lost all ability to trap and is therefore one of the outsiders for the Challenge Cup final with plenty to find on the clock with those ahead of him in the betting.

However, he is a well-regarded sort and expected to race over further in the future. With his powerful finishing kick, can work into the places at a big price and is one for forecast and tricast backers to include.

Trap 5 - Gutsy Jet

A powerful tracker who has taken to Oxford well, running on strongly in each outing over the 650m trip. Handled by Kevin Boon, who operates a small but usually talented kennel only for the open-race scene.

A serial missed breaker who is certain to be nearer to last than first heading into the opening turn.

Produced a sensational run in his first-round heat to pick up well fancied runners such as fellow finalist Minnie Bullet from off the pace.

Much like Mad For Sterling, should be on the radar of forecast and tricast punters, as will be coming home very strongly. Bred to stay and another runner likely to compete over further than this trip in time.

Trap 6 - Havana Lover

The well drawn favourite and a second charge handled by the in-form training team of Liz and Rab McNair for the KSS Syndicate, already a proven top-class performer with multiple big titles to her name.

Winner of the 2022 St Leger at Perry Barr and landed the £10,000 Hunt Cup over course and distance at Oxford earlier this year.

Boasts an incredible strike-rate of 27 wins from 50 starts and showed that she has top-class speed recently by reaching the final of the Kent Derby over 500m at Central Park.

Kennel has enjoyed plenty of success on the big nights down at Oxford and this talented lady is drawn to go close with two slow starters on her immediate inside.

Yet to see another rival in this competition after taking apart the field in both heat and semi-final with her big early pace and staying power.

Looking to land a five-timer over the 650m trip.

Challenge Cup best bets

It's very difficult to look beyond the favourite Hanava Lover, who has been handed a superb draw out wide in trap six.

With Mad For Sterling and Gutsy Jet unlikely to offer up any resistance on the run to the corner, Liz McNair's in-form lady can pace up and assert around the opening two turns.

The three early pacers on the inside may tangle early on, with the Mark Wallis-trained Mad For Sterling the forecast pick at a big price to power past beaten rivals late on and bag second place.

Selection: Havana Lover

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