The Lanzarote Hurdle from Kempton is one of the big betting races of the weekend and Nicky Henderson’s novice Diese Des Bieffes has been installed as BetVictor’s 6/1 market leader. The five-year-old looked ready for a step up in trip when runner up to the exciting If The Cap Fits at Kempton over the minimum trip on Boxing Day and he ought to be competitive from his opening mark of 135.
We saw a couple of decent performances in the opening two races at Doncaster yesterday. Tom George’s Black Op was cut from 33s to 25/1 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham l although it would be no surprise if he swerved the Festival and ran at Aintree – possibly stepped up to three miles.
The ground will be on the soft side of good for today’s jumps card and the racecourse executive have been rewarded with 87 runners on their seven-race card. In the opener, Zalvados (12.50) is a long-standing maiden over timber (0-9) but he sets a decent standard and has run very well in defeat in his last two starts in handicap company.
The selection has finished second five times in his nine starts over timber and looks vulnerable to a potential improver, but this doesn’t look the strongest of Maiden Hurdles and he is given one last chance for Cheshire handler Oliver Greenhall and Ian Popham.
The juvenile Comrade Conrad made a horrendous mistake on desperate ground at Fontwell last time but he was rated 80+ on the flat and looks the type to make a hurdler. Today’s better ground will suit and if his jumping holds up – and he is sure to have been extensively schooled post Fontwell – he will be tough to beat.
Marginal preference, however, is for Monbeg Oscar (1.20) who palpably failed to stay three miles at Sandown last time but travelled like the best horse in the race. The selection had previously finished runner up back at the Esher track behind the progressive mare Maria’s Benefit who was receiving 5lbs from Monbeg Oscar. It is possible that the selection will find things happening too quickly on this tight track, but he will also be most unfortunate to run into a horse has talented as Maria’s Benefit.
Dan Skelton’s Free Range didn’t appear to get home over nearly 2m 6f at Market Rasen last time on his chase debut but he can come on for the experience and his is fitted with cheek-pieces for the first time this afternoon. He must go close, but I thought Old Salt (1.55) would appreciate today’s step up in trip and decent ground for Evan Williams, having shaped with promise at Newbury on his first start over fences. Kim Bailey’s handicap debutant Wandrin Star should be worth noting for a market move.
Flashjack (2.25) was a facile winner at Warwick on New Year’s Eve in a conditional jockey’s event and the selection escapes a penalty for that success and is 10lbs “well-in” on official figures. If in the same mood, he will be hard to beat.
In the staying handicap chase Freddies Portrait is interesting reverting to fences on a right hand track although this near three-and-a-quarter mile trip might be too much of a test of stamina. Goohar represents the yard of Henry Daly who sponsors the event and must go close but the vote goes to the mare Tb Broke Her (3.00) who was impressive over this trip at Hereford last time and can defy a 7lbs rise.
In the 6f Novice Auction Stakes at Lingfield, the newcomer Night Garden makes plenty of appeal on breeding and a market move will be worth noting. Power And Peace (1.45) returns from a three-month lay-off for the inform yard of David Simcock and she can break her maiden tag at the fourth time of asking.
Grey Waters (2.15) was a rare raider to these shores from the yard of Joseph O’Brien when scoring at Kempton from a 4lbs lower mark back in November and the Irish raider can follow up this afternoon with Oisin Murphy keeping the ride.