A very competitive ten runner handicap is the fourth race of the day at Huntingdon, see our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: A very competitive race can go the way of KALONDRA, who won on his penultimate start at Ascot in December and despite an 8lb rise, he ran very well to finish fifth in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton in January. Back into calmer waters, he still has scope for progress off this mark for the in form Neil Mulholland team with conditions to suit. He looks the one to beat today with Noel Fehily taking the ride and can see off the attentions of Protek Des Flos for powerful connections, who is likely to put up a stern fight but may not appreciate these ground conditions.
1 WHO DARES WINS – Ran away with a handicap at Newbury on Hennessy Gold Cup Day in November (2m Good to Soft), beating subsequent winner Thelingy but couldn’t handle the 9lb rise when well beaten at Ascot on his latest start, albeit in Grade 3 company (1m 7f, Good to Soft). May fair better now out of graded company but this is still a competitive race and he may well have to wait until the handicapper relents before he can have another winning chance.
2 LEONCAVALLO – Not at all consistent, and although he was a good second at Cheltenham in October behind Sceau Royal (2m, Good), he’s followed that up with two tame efforts at both Cheltenham (2m, Soft) and Aintree (2m 4f, Good to Soft). That’s off putting but he’s probably worth another go at this trip with the way he’s stayed on over two miles, but hard to give him anymore than place claims off a mark of 143. Others certainly have more straight forward claims.
3 GIBRALFARO – Had shown some consistently useful form over hurdles before running a career best to finish second in a hot looking Newbury handicap in November (2m 4f, Good to Soft). That was his first attempt at the trip and he was staying on well so is certainly a player off only 3lb higher. Still has room for progress at the age of five and likely to do better yet for the Alan King yard, so has to be respected with Wayne Hutchinson taking the ride.
4 PROTEK DES FLOS – Lightly raced five year old who has won two of his four runs over hurdles, both in comfortable style, and wasn’t disgraced when second at Aueuil back in March, the last time he was seen over hurdles (2m 2f, Very Soft). He returned this season with a tough task over fences in the Grade 2 Berkshire Novices’ Chase, making numerous mistakes which didn’t help his cause and he immediately goes back hurdling. Now has race fitness under his belt but there has to be a question mark regarding the ground, as all his best efforts are on soft or heavy. Regardless, this step up in trip is likely to suit and he has to be respected for Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson and is likely to run a big race.
5 KALONDRA – In great form over hurdles this season, winning on his penultimate start at Ascot in December comfortably (2m 5f, Good to Soft). An 8lb rise didn’t stop that from continuing as he put up a game effort to finish fifth in the Lanzarote Hurdle in January (2m 5f, Good to Soft), and remains on the same mark today. He’s likely to find this much easier now back into Class 2 company and Neil Mulholland’s six year old has scope for even more progress with conditions to suit and Noel Fehily taking the ride. Both trainer and jockey are in brilliant form and he may well be the one to beat today.
6 WORK IN PROGRESS – Dual winning novice last season who hasn’t been seen to best effect over fences the last twice, struggling on both occasions and returns to timber. On balance, a mark of 132 isn’t too harsh as he was a winner off of 135 back in February 2016 at Fakenham, though this is a much more competitive race. Needs more for the Skelton’s with conditions to suit, and possibly looking at places only today unless he’s been sharpened up by this short break.
7 ALLEE BLEUE – Posted a career best out of seemingly nowhere when romping to a 26 length victory at Leicester last week (2m 4f, Heavy) and has been raised 7lb for that decisive win. Now in a deep contest and has a very inconsistent profile which tempers enthusiasm somewhat but if in the same vein of form he’d have to be considered a player with conditions to suit. Richard Johnson retains the ride for the inform Philip Hobbs team and can’t be dismissed.
8 SLEEP HAVEN – Has been in good form lately, winning at Leicester two starts ago (1m 7f, Good to Soft) and wasn’t disgraced despite a 5lb penalty when second at Kelso in January (2m, Heavy). This looks more competitive though and has to prove his stamina at this distance, as he’s looked a non stayer on all other attempts at past two miles and a furlong. Hard to recommend on that basis and may well struggle when the pace starts to lift.
9 SOUTHPORT – String of good efforts this winter, winning at Market Rasen on hurdling debut (2m, Good) and placed second at Ffos Las over the two mile and two furlong trips since then. Not so good on his latest start when well beaten at Kempton on Boxing Day though and this looks just as competitive, if not more so (2m 5f, Good). Will need a career best by some margin but it is still early days for this five year old and there is a possibility of placing off this basement weight.
10 OSSIE’S DANCER – Last win came back in May 2015 (2m 4f, Good) in weaker company than this, and has disappointed in three runs since. Returned from eighteen months off when pulling up at Wincanton in January and he’s best watched today in harder company.