King's Fox set to pounce
Man On The Spot previews the terrestrial television races from Kempton, Newcastle and Lingfield.
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Ladies Are Forever returned from a similar-length absence to win this last year but could have been better drawn this time round. TAROOQ makes more appeal given his yard has won two of the last four renewals and he arrives on the back of winning a competitive handicap over track and trip. He beat Hawkeyethenoo on that occasion with Hoof It, Forest Edge and Ballista further behind and also makes more appeal than stablemate Hitchens, well beaten in Dubai last month. Rivellino had Iptisam and Nocturn behind over course and distance a fortnight ago but the latter may well reverse running on better terms today. Rummaging found Forest Edge a couple of lengths too good at Kempton on a recent raid over from Ireland but has even more to find with the selection on that form.
Paul Nicholls has won this twice on the last four years and is doubly represented this season. David Cottin rode Solar Impulse to victory at Auteuil last June and flown over for the ride on the French import, who was a bit disappointing when favourite for the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow in December. Daryl Jacob, on board that day, now partners Alcala but he lacks a recent outing. Fitzwilly is another returning from a break and Agreement makes his hurdling debut while Duroble Man was well beaten at Warwick last time. ACTIVIAL can give a boost to the Triumph Hurdle hopes of Calipto by landing this. Harry Fry's charge was second to that one at Newbury and should strip fitter here. Commissioned looks sure to be winning soon judged on his third at Cheltenham while Goodwood Mirage should find this easier than the Grade 2 he contested recently.
UBALTIQUE is upped in class off a higher mark after completing a double with a victory at Catterick last month. But there should be more to come from him and Donald McCain's six-year-old gets the nod. Yorkist's winning run came to end at Musselburgh last time having been raised 17lb for his previous win at Market Rasen. A conditional jockey relieves some of his burden today, but Kudo Country is dropping down the weights and will have come on for a recent reappearance at Kempton. Figaro scored on his handicap debut at Musselburgh and looks a threat while the inconsistent Deepsand has stronger form than that of stablemate Mojolika.
FOX APPEAL was attempting to give weight to Balder Success' stablemate Valdez at Doncaster so was far from disgraced. The return to a longer trip is very much in his favour and he looks capable of overturning the Warwick winner, who may struggle to get home on the soft ground. Alan King's novice jumps well in the main, however, and is preferred to Dark Lover who has proved difficult to place since winning over 2m at Cheltenham in October. God's Own was well behind the selection on Town Moor and Loose Chips is only a handicapper. Tchang Goon will probably complete in his own time again.
The bottom three race from out of the weights with Our Island preferred on last month's fourth at Cheltenham. Ballypatrick finished ahead of the latter last time and makes more appeal than Royale Knight, upped 10lb for winning over 4m at Kelso in December. Relax contributed to his stable's fine form with a win at Sandown three weeks ago and has leading claims, while Sun Cloud also arrives in great heart but has a 12lb hike to contend with after scoring easily at Catterick last time. Financial Climate is another needing to improve off his current mark, but there should be more to come from novice chase winner Swatow Typhoon. Junior last won in 2012 though he's slipped 10lb down the weights since. He finished six lengths behind third-placed SMOKING ACES at Ffos Las recently and with a conditional's 5lb claim helping his cause, Jonjo O'Neill's charge gets the vote to come good in this.
Cup Final was only beaten four lengths by IRVING in a Taunton novice hurdle in November and, theoretically, would have every chance of turning the tables on 7lb better terms. But Paul Nicholls' six-year-old has made giant strides since, winning easily twice at Ascot including a Grade 2 by six lengths. The four-timer beckons though First Mohican is an interesting rival as he was decent on the level and made a winning start to his hurdles career at Doncaster despite showing signs of inexperience. Amore Alato is a course and distance winner and no mug while there are races to be won with Germany Calling, though probably not today. Dubai Prince was pulled up when Amore Alato won here on Boxing Day and is a little quirky while Vaihau makes his hurdling debut.
Group 1 winners Planteur and Gitando Hernando have won this race in recent years. GRANDEUR isn't quite in that class, but he should still have enough to take care of these before heading for the Winter Derby itself next month. If Jeremy Noseda's charge falls well short of his best, then this is wide-open. Chookie Royale sluiced-up in a conditions event at Wolverhampton last time and Modernstone is still improving judged on his recent defeat of Castilo Del Diablo over 1m4f here. A promising three-year-old, Hajras raced only twice last term and has something to prove now and stablemate Sennockian Star has a bit to find with Robin Hoods Bay on running at Haydock in August. The latter makes more appeal than Tinshu, Uramazin and Anaconda of the other useful Polytrack handicappers.
Anything Philip Hobbs runs in this is worthy of respect so old-timer Planet Of Sound, successful over track and trip on his reappearance, goes on the short-list. Tom George also knows what it takes and has Whats Happening in the line-up while Alan King runs both Bless The Wings and Midnight Appeal with Choc Thornton on the latter. It will be interesting to see how Ardkilly Witness gets on in this grade but Richard Newland's novice would probably prefer a stiffer test of stamina. Paul Nicholls' pair BURY PARADE and Grandioso were first and second over 2m6f at Ascot last time. The latter is better off at the weights today but we still fancy the relatively unexposed top weight to confirm the form and prove his class by grabbing this big prize as the step up to 3m on this sharp course shouldn't be a problem. Baile Anrai may be best of the rest as Standing Ovation is probably in the handicapper's grip now.