The feature race of Kempton’s Saturday racecard, the Listed Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle goes to post at 2.40pm as the fifth race of the day and takes place over a trip of 2m 5f of the Sunbury venue.
Although recent news about the fate of Kempton threatens to overshadow the day’s feature event, the Lanzarote Hurdle is nevertheless one of the highlights of the jumps season at Kempton and has been won in the recent past by the likes of Tea For Two, Saphir Du Rheu, Swincombe Flame and Limerick boy; while further back 1997 Champion Hurdle winner Make A Stand also took this race prior to landing Cheltenham Festival success.
At the five-day stage, twenty three runners are declared for the big contest on Saturday, headed by the unbeaten Doesyourdogbite
) from the Jonjo O’Neill camp.
A winner over course and distance last time, the Notnowcato gelding has also scored at Hereford and Market Rasen this term; and the progressive gelding should give a good account as he bids for a four-timer.
Previously with Andrew Hollinshead on the flat, he was a winner in France where he plied most of his trade prior to joining this yard; and he won a shade readily to land his hat-trick when beating Spiritofthegames by two lengths over this course and distance on Boxing Day.
Paul Nicholls’ Old Guard
) sets a solid standard on the pick of his efforts last term, winning the Grade Two International Hurdle at Cheltenham; but he hasn’t been at his best this term, and those previous exploits would see him shouldering top-weight which may be enough to anchor him.
Old Guard (noseband) would be dangerous if coming back to his best, but top-weight may anchor him.
Nicholls also sends out Modus
), or this contest, and the Motivator has contested some good handicaps this term.
A dual winner last term at Taunton and Newbury, he had been taked about as a potentially top-class prospect after strong bumper form for Robert Stephens; but after being beaten back at Taunton he had his limitations largely exposed in the Betfair Hurdle and County Hurdle respectively.
Unlucky at Ascot on his return in the William Hill Hurdle where he finished strongly for third, beaten less than one length having been given too much to do; he again went close at Cheltenham behind North Hill Harvey in the Greatwood, beaten a half-length.
However, he was disappointing last time behind Brain Power back at Ascot, finishing a well-beaten seventh. It is probable that the handicapper now has the Motivator gelding in his grip, and stepping up considerably in trip he has plenty to prove.
Venetia Williams has won this race twice in recent years, most recently with Yala Enki, and BENNY’S KING
) could potentially give the trainer back-to-back successes in the race.
Having finished sixth on his hurdles debut at Wincanton last February, the progressive son of Beneficial has been a model of consistency in posting a sequence of runner-up finished in some good company where he wasn’t beaten by far in any of thoem; and he made a promising return to action when chase down Limited Reserve at Ffos Las in December.
He shaped like a stayer in that contest, and so it proved when he won comfortably next time at Uttoxeter when stepped up in distance.
He showed plenty of determination to grind out the success, having looked to hit a flat-spot and clouting the second-last; but he stuck on doggedly to repel all challengers having committed a good way out, and open to plenty of improvement he could be up to defying a 6lbs rise with this additional furlong potentially unlocking further potential.
The ground was pretty soft that day, but he has shown that better ground is no issue and while he’ll need to brush up on his jumping stepping up in grade he looks progressive and may have more to offer in a typically competitive renewal from his attractive weight towards the foot of the handicap.
Neil Mulholland’s Kalondra
) also needs to step up, but he is another going the right way and a case can be made for the Spadoun gelding on the back of his most recent success at Ascot when beating Abbreviate.
That was an event for conditional riders, and he won readily despite the one length winning margin; he has looked good over hurdles since switching away from the flat, winning twice at Worcester over the summer, and making the frame at Wetherby and Doncaster prior to resuming winning ways.
Kalondra is progressing well but an 8lbs rise for a recent win looks harsh.
This however looks a tougher test from 8lbs higher in the weights; while Ben Pauling’s Jaleo
) made a winning return to action at Lingfield in December, beating Loves Destination.
A useful sort on the flat for Jim Bolger, the New Approach gelding looked progressive over hurdles and was sent off favourite at the Cheltenham Festival in the Fred Winter. He may have been amiss in that contest as he disappointed in tenth, and was absent after that run until making his return last month.
He looked to need every yard of that trip, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he were to progress again over this additional distance; but he has been raised 7lbs in the weights by the handicapper, and although top amateur Alex Ferguson can offset the rise through his claim there is a suspicion he’ll need to improve again .
Pauling’s other runner, Local Show
) is interesting reverting to hurdles having pulled up in the Hennessy on his return in November.
The Oscar gelding was a winner over three miles at Ffos Las in February 2015, and he remains unexposed in this sphere having made the switch to chasing following a narrow defeat behind Chosen Well over timber at Exeter.
A winner at Newbury and Kempton over the larger obstacles, beating the smart-but-sadly departed Onenightinvienna, he ran well to finish seventh in the subsequent National Hunt Chase; and reverting to hurdles from 1lb higher than when scoring over fences at Kempton he could be a handicap blot.
Local Show could be well handicapped returning to hurdles.
Seamus Mullins’ Chesterfield
) could have plenty more to offer having been a three-time winner for John Ferguson in the 2014/15 season; but he was absent for a long time following a fall here behind Clonacool where he looked set to score.
The Pivotal gelding showed he still had something to work on back from his lengthy absence when finishing eighth to Brain Power on his return to action at Ascot in December, shaping as if in need of the run; and if he can build on that upped in trip, he lurks on a potentially lenient mark and could go well.
) is a lightly-raced sort who showed some useful form in winning at Navan on his second start prior to finishing third in a Fairyhouse Grade Three back in April 2015.
The Denham Red gelding has few miles on the clock, running only three times sice that effort where he has twice finished fourth in decent races at Cork and Killarney. The latter came in May where he beaten twelve lengths behind Gambling Girl over fences, and it will be interesting to see if Dan Skelton can eke out further improvement in him here back over hurdles.
Starting him out in such a competitive event suggests he may have something to offer, and he is feared for his shrewd yard, especially if he is supported in the market. Harry Skelton comes here to ride, rather than chase a Grade Two success at Warwick, and that could be significant.
) has an entry in that Warwick Grade Two contest, and it will be interesting to see which of the two races Anthony Honeyball’s Passing Glance gelding elects to pitch up in.
He has had three career starts to date over timber, making the frame in all three which includes a last-time win at Fontwell when beating Our Three Sons by a wide margin.
Anthony Honeyball’s charge hasn’t been seen out since, so an eight-month absence is a concern in such a competitive heat, and he’ll likely need to find significant improvement to feature in this race upped considerably in trip.
He has run well in testing ground before so shouldn’t be inconvenienced by these conditions; and the form of his Wincanton runner-up effort last February has been boosted by the winner and third – Black Corton – both winning since and showing useful levels of form.
While he may need this first run back, he is open to improvement and no surprise to see him going well.
Anthony Honeyball's Fountains Windfall has engagements at Kempton and Warwick. Will O’ The West
) won twice around this trip last term, including at this venue when beating Ballypoint last February. But having pulled up at Sandown behind Barney Dwan the following month, he posted a solid runner-up effort at Huntingdon.
Henry Daly’s charge ran a cracker on his return at Cheltenham in October, finishing just a neck behind Golden Doyen from out of the handicap; and it is possible the longer trip in soft ground stretched his stamina when disappointing behind Anteros on his last outing.
Given a break since, he remains on a workable mark and may appreciate the lesser test here. So too might Templeross
) who had won two of his first three starts this term over timber with successes at Newton Abbot and Ffos Las.
However, not for the first time Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge disappointed at Cheltenham when beating only one home in a competitive three-mile contest there in December behind Call To Order.
He’s better than that, and he may do better back on a flatter track and with less emphasis on stamina; but this is no easier assignment facing the Presenting gelding who runs from 1lb out of the weights, and he’ll need a career-best to win this.
Little Boy Boru
) also runs from out of the weights, and Sue Smith’s charge has plenty on his plate to figure in this contest.
A dual-winner back in the 2014/15 season at Sandown and Plumpton, he has posted a mixed back of results since although he did finish runner-up in this contest behind Tea For Two from 2lbs higher in the weights.
Fifth twelve months ago off this mark, he is back for another crack at this valuable contest and he showed he retains plenty when grabbing the silver medal at Haydock in December when getting to within a length of Splash Of Ginge.
The Brian Boru gelding isn’t without a chance given his good record in this contest, but this is another tough renewal and he again finds himself 6lbs out of the weights.
Completing the line-up, Lord Of The Island
) has improved for the switch to Fergal O’Brien’s yard from Sally Randell, for whom he was a winner at Southwell in April.
The Heron Island gelding won on his debut at Towcester for this yard in November, and he followed up with a solid third to Trans Express next time at Exeter where he was beaten just over one length.
In the process of running another big race back at that venue on New Years’ Day, he was a faller three out in the race won by Space Oddity, and if none the worse for that spill he could bounce back.
He has something to find on balance of his form, but he could have more to come although this is is a much tougher race. He’s not discounted though, and he can go well.
A typically wide-open and competitive renewal could be on the cards for this Listed contest, and it could pay to take a chance with Venetia Williams’ BENNY’S KING
) who made a good impression to get off the mark in a Uttoxeter contest in December where he battled well to land the spoils in some testing conditions.
A moderate debut aside, he has been a model of consistency with a series of silver-medal finishes prior to his win; potentially on a lenient mark with the prospect of further improvement over this longer trip, the underfoot conditions should pose no problem, and he can give the Williams team back-to-back successes in this contest following Yala Enki’s win in the race twelve months previously.
Ben Pauling’s Local Show (20/1, Bet365
) could also be a well-handicapped contender making his return to hurdles having failed to fire over fences on his seasonal debut in the Hennessy. He is just 1lb higher than when scoring over fences at Kempton, and he could have the potential for better returned to timber.
He could be worth a small each-way interest at double-digit odds.