Racing Daily with BetVictor – Feb 20

Laurina (2.40) has her final prep race for Cheltenham this afternoon when she tackles six rivals in the listed Quevega Mares’ Hurdle at Punchestown.

Quevega won the Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival an unprecedented six times on the spin between 2009-2014 and this race will decide if the Willie Mullins-trained hurdler – so impressive in the 2m Mares’ Novice at last year’s Festival – will go for the Champion Hurdle – for which she is 7/2 with BetVictor – or the Mares’ Hurdle for which she is 5/4. Her participation may also be influenced by whether Gordon Elliot’s brilliant Irish Champion Hurdle winner Apples Jade goes for the big one – for which she is 2/1 with BetVictor – or not.

Her stablemates Good Thyme Tara and Stormy Island should ensure that Laurine has a more competitive race than her sole previous start this term when she won a match at Sandown by 48 lengths.

Insult (2.05) can go one better than when finishing runner up to stablemate Mormon at Tramore on New Year’s Day with that initial experience behind him in the two-and-a-half-mile Maiden Hurdle. The selection is related to several previous winners and Rachel Blackmore takes over in the saddle.

Winning pointer Monsieur D’Arque (1.20) can take the Ludlow opener for the Skeltons. The selection has run well enough in defeat – including when fourth over C&D last time – to suggest he could win a minor contest and connections look to have found an ideal opportunity.

In the feature Prince of Wales Challenge Trophy for amateur riders I must admit defeat with Captain Buck’s who looked sure to play a part in the finish at Wincanton last time but finished weakly. Trigger Nichol impressed at Leicester last time but has taken a big hike in the weights and he is reluctantly overlooked in favour of top-weight Kallum Cross (3.35) who has joined the stable of Henry Oliver since disappointing over fences for his previous yard over Christmas. The booking of crack Irish amateur Derek O’Connor suggests a big run is expected and any overnight rain would be a positive.

I thought Quantum of Solace (4.40) put up an improved round of jumping when runner up here from a 4lbs lower mark over an additional 3f here earlier in the month. Today’s shorter trip should suit, and connections appear to have found a decent opportunity for the mare.

In Doncaster’s opener I hope to see Doctor Dex (2.15) improve stepping up in trip having scored at Wetherby last time on good ground last time. The runner up – Donald McCain’s Constancy – has since scored easily here last month and I hope to see Tom George’s lightly-raced gelding follow up.

Looking Well (4.00) was still going well enough when coming down three out in the Borders National last time and he has been left on the same mark this afternoon. The selection gets further than today’s 3m trip, but he did finish runner up in the Sky Bet Chase over today’s C&D a couple of years ago.

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