3.35 Newbury, Saturday
Britain’s richest handicap hurdle obviously attracts a very competitive field but this race is often won by an unexposed, lightly raced novice rather than horses with proven handicap form. The four to concentrate on are Kalashnikov, Lalor, Waterlord and Lough Derg Spirit, who creeps into that category. Kalashnikov put in an admirable effort when second in the Tolworth Hurdle, has form around left-handed, galloping tracks and if his last performance has not left a physical mark, has to be considered @ 12/1 though another test on heavy ground could prove too much for Amy Murphy’s five year old. Lalor, also @ 12/1 arrives fresh from a wind operation and has form that links into the Tolworth Hurdle having split Western Ryder and Tolworth victor, Summerville Boy at Cheltenham. A strong traveller, if the procedure allows Lalor to finish his races, he could well go close here. To complete the trio of 12/1 shots, the improving Waterlord paid the price for trying to serve it up to the smart First Flow at Haydock and is better than his finishing position, he should not be discounted. Whether soft or heavy ground is what Lough Derg Spirit needs is debatable, but he has a good attitude and rallied well in testing conditions at Wincanton on his only appearance this season. He will stay further than this, could benefit from a strong pace on softer ground and should go well @ 20/1. Since Nicky Henderson found the key to Jenkins we are starting to see why connections had such faith in him but this will be much tougher from top weight and a win form eleven stone, twelve pounds would surely elevate him into the Champion Hurdle reckoning. Irish Roe has done nothing but improve for Peter Atkinson and after a game effort in defeat to Maria’s Benefit at Doncaster, must go well again here @ 10/1. Bleu Et Rouge represents Willie Mullins and must be respected @ 12/1. He has a big handicap in him and ran well last time at Ascot with a stamina test likely to suit. The Gerry Feilden Hurdle over course and distance threw up 2015 winner Violet Dancer and this year’s first three line-up in High Bridge, Charli Parcs and Poppy Kay. They must come into calculations at 20/1, 33/1 and 25/1 respectively. The talented but notoriously difficult to train, Moon Racer, if back to his best following a wind operation, could also go well @ 25/1.