William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle

(Handicap) (Listed Race) (Class 1) (4yo+) 2m5f

It is Lanzarote Hurdle Day at Kempton on Saturday and it looks as competitive a heat as ever this year. Eleven runners go to post and all the big yards are represented. Paul Nicholls has won it twice since 2007 and his Ibis Du Rheu is sure to be popular with punters. 2 of the last 4 favourites have come out on top and the last double figure priced winner was Verasi for Gary Moore back in 2007. The vast majority of the field can have a case made for them and you can read my detailed preview and check out my selection below.

7yo son of Kayf Tara who has won 5 of his 11 starts under rules. He has had 3 starts over course and distance and has won all of them, on ground ranging from soft to good. He beat crack chaser Silvinaco Conti by 4L on his penultimate run here on good ground in a class 2 handicap hurdle over 2m 5f off a mark of 144 and he is 9lb higher today off 153.

He followed that run with a decent effort on his first run in graded company when he finished 3rd in the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle at Ascot (19.5f good to soft) back in November. He has been given a little break and freshened up for this contest and given his 100% course and distance record he cannot be written off under top weight at a price of 12/1.

Enigmatic 8yo son of Dom Alco who undoubtedly possesses plenty of ability, as he showed last time when hacking up off 136 in a heavy ground class 3 19.5f handicap hurdle at Lingfield. He is 8 from 21 under rules and amazingly he has never been placed, which illustrates just how unpredictable he is.

He was handed a 9lb hike in the weights for that Lingfield romp but some of his burden is countered by top claimer David Noonan, who takes off a very handy 5lb. He won a grade 3 handicap back in 2013 at Haydock off 143, so he is capable of winning off his current mark. However, he does not appeal as a betting proposition due to his unreliable nature and at odds
of 14/1 he is not one for maximum faith.

Admirably consistent 8yo son of Voix Du Nord who has run some cracking races for connections. He is 5 from 15 under rules, with 4 placed efforts, and he comes here on the back of a cracking run at Aintree at the start of last month (20f soft) when the ground was really against him. He has only ever won on good to soft ground and he is unlikely to get those conditions at Kempton with the ground currently described as soft.

He went chasing last year and showed some useful form. Connections have decided to start him off hurdling this season to look after his mark for bigger prizes back chasing when the ground is better in the Spring. Is capable of his mark off 144 but the ground is a big negative and unless the ground dries out he is overlooked at odds of 16/1.

The second of the two Pipe entries and stable jockey Tom Scudamore takes the ride. This 7yo son of Sholokov was a well beaten 5th in this race last year on similar ground off a mark of 145. He was well beaten last time at Newbury (20f soft) and it was a similar story on his penultimate run at Cheltenham on his seasonal reappearance.

He looks sure to strip fitter for those two runs but the handicapper has only dropped him to 142. Both his UK wins have come on good ground, so underfoot conditions have to be a big worry, although he did win on very soft ground back in France in his early days. However, he seems a better horse on good ground these days and he doesn’t appeal as being particularly well treated off his current mark. No bet for me at odds of 25/1.

The yard that won this back in 2013 is represented by Bivouac this time, a 5yo son of Califet who has shown a liking for getting his toe in. He was a decent 3rd behind Beltor in the Grade 2 Adonis here last year (2m soft) and after a quiet reappearance he was stepped up to 19.5f on soft ground at Huntingdon and beat a very useful sort in Ruacana off 134. He only had a length in hand and was getting 8lb from that rival, but it was still an encouraging effort.

The handicapper has bumped him up 141 for that effort and Henderson has decided to step him up to 21f. There is plenty of stamina on the dam side of his pedigree so he should be fine, and he has shown already that he has no issues with soft ground. However, on the evidence of his last run there has to be doubts about his capability of winning off 141 in a hot race like this, and at 4/1 he looks a bit skinny.

9yo son of Shantou that is an extremely talented performer on his day. The problem is that those days have come when the ground has been decent, and he has failed to complete on soft ground on his last three runs. His last win came in a hot 20f Punchestown handicap hurdle off 135 back in May 2014 and it has been downhill since then. He will be racing off 140 here.

He went chasing last season but that experiment has been aborted after he failed to complete in two starts in Grade2 contests. He was again pulled up on his reappearance at Sandown back over timber and given his preference for good ground, and the current doubts about his well being, he is best watched for now at odds of 33/1.

With Nick Williams having no runner this year Paul Nicholls is the trainer with the best recent record in this race and he won it in 2014 with Saphir De Rheu. He tries to repeat the trick this year with his half brother Ibis De Rheu, a 5yo son of Blue Bresil. He was won just one of his five starts so far but he went desperately close off 131 over 19f on soft ground at Newbury last time out.

He is only 4lb higher here, and given the exploits of his brother he looks sure to relish the extra couple of furlongs at Kempton on Saturday. He looks to have an obvious chance for his powerful connections and at odds of 4/1 he looks sure to be popular with punters. He goes there with a live chance and is shortlisted.

Listed placed chaser back in France who has reverted to hurdles since arriving at Venetia Williams’ yard. Was 2nd at Uttoxeter on his British debut in a novice hurdle (20f soft), beaten a head by Doctor Phoenix and he reappeared this season back in November with a wide margin win in a similar event on good to soft (21.5f) at Exeter.

He was subsequently well beaten stepped up to 23f for his handicap debut in a Grade 3 at Haydock (soft) last time out off a mark of 130, but the handicapper has not relented and he races off the same mark here. The 5lb claim of Charlie Deutsch will help, but he will need the drop back in trip to make a big difference as he wouldn’t have won last time even with 15lb taken off his back. It is too soon to write him off but at 7/1 he looks a bit skinny and a watching brief is advised.

Dr Newland is well known for his exploits in these big Saturday handicaps and he looks to have another right chance here with this unexposed 7yo son of Westerner. He failed to complete on his first three point to point starts but he hacked up on his last two runs in that sphere. He was pulled up on his hurdling debut at Exeter (21.5 good to soft) but he showed a lot more next time at Southwell when 2nd in a novice (24f soft) behind Singlefarmpayment, who has since gone on to much better things.

Last time out he absolutely hacked up when dropped back down in trip on heavy ground at Lingfield (19.5f) and it was hard not to be impressed with the manner of that victory. He takes a big step up in class for his handicap debut and he has been awarded a mark of 127. That looks like it could be generous, and with trip and ground to suit a big run could be on the cards at odds of 5/1.

Last but not least we have last years runner up Little Boy Boru. This 8yo son of Brian Boru is 5lb out of the handicap, however, it was a similar story last year and he ran an absolute cracker off bottom weight. Harry Bannister takes off a handy 3lb so with that taken into consideration he is effectively only 2lb out of the weights and has a feather racing weight.

He has had a low key build up to the race this season., and last time out at Wincanton he could only manage to finish 8th off 123. However, he wasn’t a million miles away (beaten 8L) and he was dropped a pound for that run. After his run here last year it would be no surprise if he has been trained with this race in mind, and his three runs this season will have put him spot on. At odds of 20/1 he looks too big and a massive run would come as no surprise with track, trip and ground all to suit.

As can be seen from the above there are a number of horses with live chances in this wide open handicap. Ibis De Rheu will rightly be popular while Westren Warrior and top weight Brother Tedd are both intriguing contenders. At the prices though the one that appeals as a super each way bet is the bottom one Little Boy Boru. He was 2nd here last year, this is probably his target for the season and he gets his preferred soft ground. At his current odds of 20/1 he is a confident each way selection.