A TOTAL of 27 horses remain on course for the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle, Britain’s richest handicap hurdle, at Newbury on Saturday.

The G3 two-mile contest, which can have a maximum field of 24 and is due off at 3.35pm, forms part of a stellar seven-race card, with 8/1 shot Lalor (11st 1lb) currently jointly heading the market.

The progressive six-year-old landed a G2 bumper at Aintree in April and has finished in the frame in his last three starts in novice hurdles, chasing home Western Ryder at Cheltenham on December 15 on his latest run.

Following the sad death of Richard Woollacott last month, Lalor is now trained by his wife Kayley Woollacott.

Lambourn maestro Nicky Henderson has an enviable record in the race, having trained a record five winners of the G3 contest, courtesy of My Tent Or Yours (2013), Geos (2004 & 2000), Landing Light (2001) and Sharpical (1998).

Britain’s champion Jump trainer has a quintet of entries, including the other 8/1 joint-favourite Jenkins (11st 12lb including 5lb penalty), who has benefitted from the addition of blinkers with back-to-back victories at Kempton and Ascot in January.

The six-year-old has also won over course and distance, enjoying a five-length success at Newbury in November, 2016.

Kayf Grace (11st 4lb, 10/1), justified favouritism at Kempton over Christmas and has won two of her three starts over hurdles, while Lough Derg Spirit (11st 2lb, 10/1), was runner-up in the G2 Elite Hurdle at Wincanton in November.

Henderson is also responsible for Verdana Blue (11st 9lb, 14/1), a three-length winner of a handicap hurdle at Ascot in November and last year’s JCB Triumph Hurdle sixth Charli Parcs (11st 9lb, 16/1).

Another trainer with multiple victories in the Betfair Hurdle is Gary Moore, who has saddled three winners of the race; Heathcote (2007), Wingman (2008), Violet Dancer (2015).

The progressive Knocknanuss (10st 13lb, 14/1), a seven-length winner at Fontwell on Boxing Day, and Maquisard (9st 12lb, 66/1), well beaten in two starts for Moore since arriving from France this season, could give the Sussex handler a fourth victory in the Betfair Hurdle.

He said: "The plan is to run Knocknanuss. He won well at Fontwell on Boxing Day, although in fairness it was a bad race that day.

"He is a very low mileage horse and he has run more times this season than his whole career beforehand.

"Once he won on Boxing Bay, it was always the intention to go for the Betfair Hurdle. I hope he has it in him to run well in a race like this.

"We also have Maquisard in the race. He could run as well, although I think he may not get in the race."

The weights are headed by course specialist High Bridge (11st 12lb, 14/1). Ben Pauling’s charge has won all three of his starts at Newbury, including a one and a quarter-length victory over Charli Parcs at the West Berkshire venue in a Listed contest on December 2.

Ireland’s champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins has had 16 runners in the Betfair Hurdle since 1998 and Bleu Et Rouge (11st 10lb, 12/1) is his remaining entry for the 2018 contest.

The seven-year-old finished fourth at Ascot on December 23 in a G3 handicap Hurdle and could bid to become the fifth Irish-trained winner of the Betfair Hurdle, the latest having been Essex in 2005.

Other Betfair Hurdle contenders going forward include the talented Kalashnikov (Amy Murphy, 11st 5lb, 12/1), a four-length second in the G1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on January 6, Silver Streak (Evan Williams, 10st 11lb, 16/1), runner-up in G3 company at Ascot in December, and Divin Bere (11st 8lb, 25/1), who bids to give Paul Nicholls a second victory following Zarkander's 2012 success.

Irish Roe (Peter Atkinson, 10st 12lb, 10/1), second to Maria's Benefit in a G2 event at Doncaster last time, along with Poppy Kay (Philip Hobbs, 11st 1lb, 20/1) and Kayf Grace are bidding to become just the third mare to win the Betfair Hurdle after Mysilv (1995) and Spirit Leader (2003).

Remiluc (Chris Gordon, 11st 3lb, 50/1) has a 5lb penalty following his two-length victory over Huntsman Son in a handicap hurdle over two miles and a furlong at Cheltenham on January 27.

The nine-year-old, who defeated Chesterfield in a handicap hurdle over the course and distance in March, 2017, has finished second in both of his starts at Newbury so far this season.

Remiluc repelled all bar Old Guard in a two and a half-mile handicap hurdle at the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival in December and then chased home exciting recruit Saint Calvados in a novices' handicap chase.

In-form trainer Gordon, who has saddled five winners from his last 12 runners and trains near Winchester in Hampshire, said: ""His form at Newbury is rock solid.

"He beat Chesterfield over the Betfair Hurdle trip last season and then this season he has been beaten by two very nice horses.

"He is a very consistent horse and, if he gets his conditions, he should run a decent race."