The Grade 1 JLT Hurdle has some star quality to it while remaining a very open looking contest.
The key to unlocking the race could well come down to which horse will handle the soft conditions at Ascot.
Sam Spinner won the race last year and does like the mud. He has to be respected on that performance but he hasn’t quite run to that level since and he unseated rider on his seasonal reappearance at Newbury. That was in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle, won by Unowhatimeanharry. He has solid claims on that form, but the suspicion is that this could go to a progressive type of horse who is trending upwards.
The two that look most interesting from that perspective are both trained by Nicky Henderson; Call Me Lord and Soul Emotion. The first named is favourite and Daryl Jacob abandons Top Notch to ride him. That won’t have been an easy decision, given Top Notch has provided plenty of wins for him over the years. Call Me Lord makes his first start of the season having last been seen smashing the field at Sandown in April. The step up in trip is likely to suit his style and he may be the one to follow. His stablemate Soul Emotion may well get in the frame too, if he continues to improve under Henderson’s expert stewardship.
Elsewhere, Tom Lacey’s Kimberlite Candy is in good form after winning at Ayr and tops the market for Haydock’s Tommy Whittle Chase. Testify looks set up for the race though and I like his each-way claims. He ran well at Newcastle in his reappearance and just appeared to run out of gas. That run should have tuned him up nicely for this, he loves Haydock and soft ground and he is the each-way pick to look out for this weekend.