Today’s Lanzarote Hurdle looks a quality and ultra-competitive renewal of this valuable handicap over 2mf at Kempton Park. The ground is given as soft (good to soft in places) and of the market leaders I like the chances of Nicky Henderson’s novice Diese Des Bieffes (6/1) who suggested that he needed a step up in trip when finishing second to the speedy, unbeaten novice If The Cap Fits at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Henderson’s conditional jockey James Bowen rides joint top-weight William Henry and the Lambourn handler clearly has a strong hand. Paul Nicholls’ saddles Topofthegame (9/1) who reverts to timber having fell at Newbury on his sole chase start two months ago. He remains a decent staying chaser in the making and it would appear that Nicholls wants to preserve his novice status over the larger obstacles until next term.

Dino Velvet (2.40) has been dropped a couple of pounds for a couple of promising efforts so far this season including when stepped up to this trip at Newbury last time. He carries just 10st 4lbs this afternoon and at 16/1 – the hope is that he can run into a place with the Alan King yard in good form.

Secret Investor (12.55) finished second over 2m 5f here back in November when a blunder two out cooked his goose although he rallied well. That effort suggested a step up to 3m would suit, the third and sixth home on that occasion have won in the interim period and this winning Irish point-to-pointer gets the vote. Chef Des Obeaux goes unpenalised for a conditional jockey’s event at Uttoxeter and must go close but Secret Investor gets a narrow vote although all his form is on decent ground and his stamina would not be guaranteed if there were further rain.

The listed 2m 4f Chase is a terrific contest with the market headed by the progressive unbeaten chaser Waiting Patiently (7/4) who has won all four of his chase starts in the north. This is the acid test, however, for the Malcolm Jefferson-trained seven-year-old who really could be anything.

That said he must give 4lbs to God’s Own (2.05) who has his ideal conditions this afternoon and is 13lbs better off with Josses Hill for the eight-lengths he was beaten by the Henderson runner back in February when he jumped poorly. Smad Place will ensure there is no hanging about but if God’s Own’s jumping passes the test, he can take this (5/2 with BetVictor).

The better ground and step up to 3m can lead to a change in fortune for Ballyalton (3.15) who has run two solid races in defeat on ground softer than ideal in recent weeks including when fourth in the BetVictor Gold Cup.

The selection is 5/1 and receives 4lbs from the 11/10 favourite Fountains Windfall who is considered very well handicapped by the Anthony Honeyball team and would probably have won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novice Chase over today’s C&D but for falling four out when three lengths clear. That race was a real war of attrition with the soft ground and the fences taking their toll and it was only 18 days ago.


Dino Velvet 

Secret Investor 

God’s Own 



Swift Crusador (1.15) drops back in trip having met trouble at the start when third at Aintree (2m 4f) last month. This winning pointer will get further on better ground but for the moment, two miles on soft ground should be ideal. Vivaccio showed promise at Ludlow on his reappearance but a bigger danger could come from Big Jim who won this corresponding race two years ago for Alex Hales.

Count Meribel (3.00) travelled like the best horse when outstayed over three miles at Cheltenham last time. The selection must give 3lbs to his opposition this afternoon but the drop back three furlongs might see him in a better light. Henderson’s unbeaten Mr Whipped is the obvious danger and the latter will be some chaser going forward.

At Wetherby, I am looking forward to seeing Westend Story (2.50) now that the Philip Hobbs yard are firing on all cylinders. The selection dropped out quickly at Carlisle when last seen in November and his subsequent absence from the track would suggest all was not well with the gelding on that occasion. Richard Johnson takes the mount and I would be disappointed if he didn’t go very close.

On Sunday, I think the booking of James Bowen for Dexcite (1.40) is significant. The selection ran well on his reappearance when a blunder two out halted his progress. He looks extremely well treated on his best form and looks to have been laid out for this valuable prize.


Swift Crusador 

Count Meribel 

Westend Story 


Odds are correct at the time of posting

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