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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Bowler in old guard's Betfair teamHeadlines
Swing Bowler

David Johnson admits the unbeaten Swing Bowler faces by far the most difficult test of her career in Saturday's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

The outstandingly bred Galileo mare is close to the owner's heart as her dam is Lady Cricket, a top-class hurdler and chaser in his famous blue and green colours.

Now six and campaigned sparingly and cautiously by trainer David Pipe, Swing Bowler took novice events last season at Ludlow and Newton Abbot and only reappeared on New Year's Day at Musselburgh, winning a valuable handicap hurdle in impressive style.

Johnson said: "She has done nothing but surprise us, really, as she has never been exciting in her work at home. However, not many mares win five times from five races and her most recent run in Scotland was her best."

It will be like old times at the weekend, with Johnson's old ally Timmy Murphy sweating down for a light weight in a big handicap for the team.

"Timmy will ride her," the owner confirmed. "It's a huge step up in a race that would not look out of place at Cheltenham. I think she has it all to do, to be honest, but 10st 1lb is a nice weight and the ground should not be a concern."

Evan Williams has warned leading contender Court Minstrel is far from certain to take his chance.

The six-year-old ran out an impressive winner on his debut over obstacles at Cheltenham in October and emerged with huge credit when third behind top novice Dodging Bullets at the same track a month later, having suffered trouble in running.

He was slightly disappointing when only fourth in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last time and having struggled to cope in the mud on that occasion, Williams insists his charge will only line up this weekend if conditions are right.

He said: "We are keeping an eye on it, but he definitely won't run if the ground is very soft. It will have to dry out considerably. He's in grand form at home and I would prefer to run him if I can because the prize-money is so good, but the one thing we learned at Sandown is that he can't handle very soft ground."

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