Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle – The Key Contenders
Six Runners to Look Our for at Kempton
Kempton plays host to a competitive seven-race card on Saturday including the Listed Lanzarote Hurdle where there will be a host of challengers looking to claim the top prize. Our expert has highlighted the names to look out for in one of the feature races this weekend.
Favourites – GELINO BELLO & MARIE’S ROCK
GELINO BELLO certainly looked like a novice to follow late last year after producing a smart performance to land a maiden hurdle at Aintree in October over 2m4f. The six-year-old quickened up well in the hands of Harry Cobden and readily left his rivals toiling in behind.
Paul Nicholls’ charge has certainly been unlucky to bump into leading Albert Bartlett fancy, Blazing Khal of Charles Byrnes on his last two outings at Cheltenham in Grade 2 company. Gelino Bello didn’t overly convince with the 3mile trip last time out and certainly looks ready for a return to this intermediate distance.
Connections will be hopeful the six-year-old can be a serious threat on handicap debut and certainly should be going close with the return to a flatter track also in his favour.
Although never being able to challenge eventual winner West Cork in the Grade 3 Greatwood hurdle on penultimate start, MARIE’S ROCK certainly didn’t disappoint when warming up nicely for Saturday’s Listed contest with an emphatic course and distance success on Boxing Day.
The seven-year-old mare had begun to look frustrating over 2miles when being readily beaten in a grade 2 mares hurdle at Doncaster earlier last year before lacking the speed to challenge Miranda and Molly Olly’s Wishes in Listed company at Wetherby on seasonal reappearance.
The step-up in trip last time out seemingly worked the oracle for the mare and further improvement should be forthcoming on Saturday before potentially being aimed at the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival in March.
Market Leaders – EARTH LORD & GREEN BOOK
EARTH LORD has impressed since returning to action for trainer Philip Hobbs and has now won his last two starts over the smaller obstacles. The six-year-old was a dominant winner of a novices event at Wincanton back in November before following up in a cosy fashion to land a conditional jockey’s handicap hurdle in December under jockey Sean Houlihan.
A six-pound hike in the ratings and a dramatic step up in class demands more of Earth Lord but he still has improvement to come in this sphere and is evidently well thought of by his connections.
Similarly, GREEN BOOK seems to have returned this season in flying form winning two of his last three starts over hurdles with the only blemish coming in defeat on reappearance at Haydock to Donald McCain’s unbeaten and progressive charge A Different Kind.
Venetia Williams continues to have her yard in excellent form at the moment and Green Book will be expected to go close by connections despite facing Listed opposition especially with jockey Ned Fox claiming 10lb which offsets a recent rise in the weights for those previous two victories.
Lively Outsiders – QUINTA DO MAR & PRESS YOUR LUCK
Ben Pauling’s QUINTA DO MAR certainly looked in need of a step up in trip on his latest outing when outpaced over 2miles at Cheltenham in December. Prior to that, the seven-year-old had recorded two easy handicap hurdle victories at Carlisle and Fontwell.
The seven-year-old had previously shown his attitude for further when making eye-catching headway over an extended 2m4f at Prestbury Park just four starts ago when finishing fourth in a strong Class 2 handicap. He’ll need more to get competitive now contesting Listed company for the first time but he is unexposed at the distance and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go well at the prices.
Another runner with claims at the current odds is PRESS YOUR LUCK for Chris Gordon. The seven-year-old was impressive in his opening two hurdle starts last campaign and was pitched into Grade 2 company on just his third outing by connections.
Press Your Luck has often hinted that a stamina test would suit in recent starts when finishing runner-up to Good Ball in a decent 2m2f handicap at Newbury before returning from a layoff last time out to again fill the second spot when agonisingly losing out to Mr One More at Fontwell over an extended 2m3f. A step up to 2m5f should suit this former winning point-to-pointer and he certainly looks capable of winning from his current mark of 130.