Henderson to land Ffos Las feature

  • By: Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: February 1 2013, 16:46 GMT

Ben Coley provides a horse-by-horse guide to the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las on Saturday.

Oscara Dara: Looks the one to beat at Ffos Las
Oscara Dara: Looks the one to beat at Ffos Las

Oscara Dara: Lightly-raced sort who was value for further than the official winning margin when dotting up at Kempton last time. That effort proved that this trip is no problem and further confirmed his liking for soft ground. World Hurdle entry suggests connections think the best is yet to come and high on the list for a yard who've won both renewals of this race.

Balder Succes: Failed to complete at both Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals last term having previously won both starts for connections in the manner of a good horse. Fair third in the Elite Hurdle on reappearance before straightforward Haydock success, but since put in a lifeless display in the Ladbroke. Heavy ground possibly to blame and a threat to all if back to his best if similar conditions can be overcome this time.

Hector's Choice: Improved upon lacklustre seasonal debut to finish fourth over fences last time off a mark of 150. Well-treated back over hurdles on that and his Cheltenham win in the spring but less so on form over timber, bar one excellent run behind Riverside Theatre. This his first run over hurdles in over two years and along with serious concerns as to the suitability of the ground makes him easy to overlook.

Hollow Tree: Beat subsequent Supreme winner Countrywide Flame on heavy ground at Chepstow last season before finishing 10th behind that rival at the Festival. Promise in his return second to Balder Succes and now 7lb better off for a six-length beating, while subsequent fourth at Haydock confirms this rating to be about right. Possible he didn't get home tried over three miles at Warwick last time so fair to expect a return to form, albeit one that will probably result in defeat nonetheless.

Double Ross: Real improver since returned to hurdles following a fall over fences, making all to land a valuable handicap at Cheltenham before admirable runs at Haydock and Ascot. Most recent run came over two miles and certainly possible he'll do better now returned to this sort of trip and having been dropped a pound, but will have to. Almost certain to set the pace and ensure this is a proper test but on balance looks opposable from a win perspective.

Medinas: Fourth off this mark at Cheltenham last time in a race that's working out, with the winner and seventh both going in since. That took his record on soft or heavy ground to 1-2-1-4 and having had just 10 starts there's ample reason to believe the best is yet to come. On what we've seen so far a mark of 140 is accurate but his proven stamina makes him an each-way player given the forecast conditions.

El Dancer: Exposed nine-year-old who has returned to form over similar trips on heavy ground of late. As a former Grade Two winner he's well-handicapped on old form but that's three or four years ago now and while under these conditions it'd be folly to rule him out altogether, equally it'd be disappointing were he good enough to win.

Peckhamecho: Not seen since November when well-held in a far less competitive handicap hurdle off this mark. It's a rating earned on form in novice company and while one Grade Two second reads well enough, nothing he's done before or since suggests he can land this. Ground and trip slight concerns too and easy enough to pass over.

Miss Milborne: Capable and consistent mare who hasn't been out of the first four in 13 starts since finishing sixth in a Warwick bumper just over two years ago. Stays further and handles the ground, but beaten nearly 20 lengths against her own sex off this mark last time and a massive step forward is needed if she's to trouble the judge.

Tanerko Emery: Rapidly progressive seven-year-old who is two-from-two on heavy ground. Has gone up 11lb for taking a modest Lingfield handicap but did so as he liked and the best is most certainly yet to come. Owned by Dai Walters, who also owns this racecourse, so would be a popular winner. To do so he'll need to improve again but having risen 23lb in the weights already this season that's certainly possible.

Trop Fort: Front-runner who improved to land a couple of novice hurdles when last seen. However, has been absent for six months since the most recent of those and now 16lb higher than when beaten miles on his last handicap start. Conditions not absolutely certain to suit and not one for the shortlist from a pound out of the weights.

Boyfromnowhere: Point-to-point winner whose future almost certainly lies over fences. Beaten a long way in Grade Two company last time and more is required from out of the weights on his first try in handicap company, although neither trip nor going rates a concern. Likely to help force the issue and will go well for a time but this looks too much, too soon despite a feather weight.

Tiger O'Toole: First run over timber since a creditable fifth of 12 in January 2011 off this mark, but in and out over fences since. On the very pick of his hurdles form he'd have some sort of chance but three month absence to overcome and questionable whether he'll produce his absolute best for local handler. Opposed.

The Romford Pele: First or second in seven of eight starts with the sole exception a fine seventh in the Champion Bumper last season. Progressed nicely since switched to obstacles and looked to improve for conditions similar to these last time, but it's asking a lot for him to get competitive in this race so early on in his hurdles career.

Summary

The first running of this race as a handicap but it could well be a case of same old, same old if Tanerko Emery can continue his progression and land this for owner Dai Walters. However, it may be trainer Nicky Henderson who continues his love affair with the contest as OSCARA DARA looks the one to beat despite top weight. A switch back to hurdles last time caused him no problems at all bar a mistake at the last and a stone rise is hard to argue with given the way he moved throughout the race. Conditions look absolutely ideal and he can travel strongly off what should be a good pace thanks to the likes of Double Ross and Boyfromnowhere. The former could run well returned to this trip but if the pair do take each other on then the one to benefit may be Medinas. Alan King's horse is progressing nicely, will love the ground and stays all day and could be the one to make a race of it with the selection.


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