32Red Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race)
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An interesting race that brings together those with more stamina and those stepping up to this trip and with just the one winner at a double figure price (20/1 shot Verasi back in 2007) and four winning favourites (if you include a joint favourite) in the last ten years, it would appear that the better horses regularly come to the fore. Although Jonjo O’Neill has not won the race in that timescale he is responsible for early favourite Doesyourdogbite (11/2) who is unbeaten after three starts with two novice hurdles and a course and distance handicap last time out since switching from the flat to the winter game. According to jockey Aidan Coleman, who ride him to two of those victories, “He had a nice level of ability on the flat and has a good aptitude for jumping. That makes all the difference. It’s as simple as that really”, suggesting he may well go on to be even better than we have seen so far, and although he has been put up six pounds for his last win, he seems to be learning all the time and has already proved to be more effective over hurdles than he was on the level.
Jaleo (7/1) comes next in our race preview for trainer Ben Pauling and arrives here on the back of a comeback win at Lingfield returning from nine months off after a down the field run at Cheltenham in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at the Festival. He also boasts a three out of three record on the predicted good to soft going here and may well be improving at the tender age of five, though he will no doubt be held up out the back again to help him to get the trip as he was over a furlong so so shorter in Surrey when coming with a late rattle to win by three quarters of a length despite being blocked and bumped at crucial stages and suggesting his seven-pound rise in the handicap may yet be pretty generous.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls last won this race in 2014 with the very classy Saphir Du Rheu and has two in this year with Sam Twiston-Davies preferring the chances of top weight Old Guard (25/1). His last run was an acceptable if not earth shattering third to The New One at Cheltenham in a better race than this, but beaten fifteen and a half lengths at the line. He has to carry eleven stone twelve here which has not been done successfully in the last ten years, and good as he is that may well be asking too much of him unless he somehow finds some improvement from somewhere.
Last season (2016) this race was taken by Yala Enki at 11/4f for trainer Venetia Williams and she may well look to double up this year with Bennys King (7/1) who won last time out by three quarters of a length at Uttoxeter after a frustrating run of four second places in a row. The stable are in good heart with a 16% strike rate but more importantly, a level stakes profit, and although he has been put up six pounds for that he gets in near the bottom of the weights and could well run off a featherweight here. If he got two and a half miles at Uttoxeter he should easily get the extra furlong here, a fact alluded to by jockey Charlie Deutsch who said “Bennys King has been knocking on the door and the step up in trip has helped massively. I was keen to make it a bit of a test and he´s stayed on to the line” after getting off the six-year-old last time, and if that is the case then he is fully entitled to get in to the mix again here even if this is a step up in class.
To round off the preview, no one can argue that Neil Mulholland’s Kalondra (12/1) is anything but consistent with a top three finish in all of his last six races. Although he only won by a length over a half a furlong further at Ascot last time he could be called the winner a long way out and was always travelling better than his rivals in behind before being produced to win his race, and it will be interesting to see if the added eight pounds he has been allotted is enough to stop him, or whether he can improve again to get involved in the finish again this afternoon.