Talking Horses: Cracking Rhapsody can call tune in Morebattle Handicap

<span>Kelso on Saturday hosts the Morebattle Hurdle, whose 18-strong field is bigger than those of its past four runnings combined.</span><span>Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters</span>
Kelso on Saturday hosts the Morebattle Hurdle, whose 18-strong field is bigger than those of its past four runnings combined.Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters

A boost to the prize fund, a big bonus linked to Cheltenham and the switch to a handicap has transformed the Morebattle Handicap at Kelso, and the 18-strong field for the latest renewal on Saturday is two more than lined up for the past four runnings as a non-handicap put together.

Nicky Henderson has yet to add to his three winners of the race – at 4-11, 2-7 and 1-4 – since the conditions changed in 2021, but has an obvious chance this time around with the mare Under Control, the likely favourite and one of six horses in the field with an entry at Cheltenham in a fortnight’s time.

Related: Talking Horses: racing’s affordability checks debate divides Westminster

The five-year-old put up a career-best in a Grade Two at Doncaster last time but Saturday’s race is a very different test, off 10lb more than her last winning mark. Following Constitution Hill’s lacklustre gallop earlier in the week, meanwhile, it is also hard to overlook the fact that six of Henderson’s past nine runners have been pulled up.

Black Hawk Eagle, still in the early stages of his career with Kerry Lee, is an obvious alternative at a similar price, but there are similarly unexposed runners at bigger odds too, including Ewan Whillans’s Cracking Rhapsody (nap, 2.50) at around 16-1.

The five-year-old improved from his handicap debut to record a cosy success over track and trip last month, is just 4lb higher in the weights on Saturday and has a clear chance to show further improvement on what will be only his fifth start in all over hurdles.

Newbury 1.20 Several of these have questions to answer and Commodore, who has run well fresh in the past, could be overpriced at around 7-1.

Kelso 1.42 Patrick Wadge’s 3lb claim could tip the balance aboard Serious Operator after a promising run in the Lanzarote at Kempton last time.

Newbury: 1.20 Commodore 1.55 Grandeur D’Ame 2.25 Florencethemachine 3.00 Georgi Girl 3.32 Jatiluwih 4.05 Pulling Stumps 4.40 Wednesday Addams

Doncaster: 1.30 To Chase A Dream 2.05 Arqoob 2.35 Tommy’s Oscar 3.10 Lunar Discovery 3.40 Some Scope (nb) 4.15 Linda Moon  4.50 Klitschko

Kelso: 1.42 Serious Operator 2.17 Brucio 2.50 Cracking Rhapsody (nap) 3.25 Monbeg Genius 4.00 Imperial Bede 4.35 Mojo Ego 5.10 Netywell

Kempton: 3.55 Grenham Bay 4.30 Stoic Syd 5.05 Superb Force 5.40 Rogue Raider 6.15 Thapa Vc 6.45 Way Of Life 7.15 Doublethetrouble

Wolverhampton: 5.00 One More Wave 5.30 Miss Moonshine 6.00 Savannah Smiles 6.30 Goldsmith 7.00 Van Zant 7.30 Mr Boson 8.00 Bungle Bay 8.30 Rust E Boy

Newbury 1.55 Grandeur D’Ame deserves another chance to back up an excellent run at Cheltenham in December after his early departure last time.

Kelso 2.17 The fast-improving Brucio could further improve County Antrim-based Stuart Crawford’s excellent record with runners in Britain.

Doncaster 2.35 A small field but competitive all the same, and course-and-distance winner Tommy’s Oscar could be the safest option.

Doncaster 3.10 Lunar Discovery, the only runner with an entry at Cheltenham, can make her class tell as she steps up in trip.

Kelso 3.25 Aye Right has the upper hand on ratings but the progressive Monbeg Genius should be able to bridge the gap and book a place in the field for the Grand National.

Doncaster 3.40 The fast-improving Some Scope has taken another hike in the weights but this step up to three-and-a-quarter miles could well see sufficient progress to overcome a 10lb rise.