London – Star Of Lanka can shine brightest in a typically competitive renewal of Kempton’s Listed Unibet Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle.
Warren Greatrex’s five-year-old is one of several in a field of 15 who will arrive very much in form on Saturday.
In Star Of Lanka’s case, that amounts to back-to-back victories after being moved up closer to this trip of 4200m – both at Hereford, whose tight, right-handed nature is akin to this weekend’s configuration.
Star Of Lanka held on by just a short-head from a subsequent winner last time after a characteristically attacking ride from Gavin Sheehan.
Star Of Lanka perhaps has more potential for continued improvement than a stack of prolific and more experienced winners in opposition.
This will be just his seventh career outing, whereas likely favourite Kloud Gate was a hardened performer on the Flat in France before he went jumping for Gary Moore last spring.
Kloud Gate also had very useful form in four runs back on the Flat in the summer, and has since returned with two odds-on handicap hurdle victories.
Cotswold Way and Erick Le Rouge have similar profiles to Star Of Lanka.
They bid for four-timers and, for their trouble in a notably tight handicap covered by a weight range of 9kg, concede just 0.5kg and 2kg respectively to Star Of Lanka.
It will be a brave man to back against Charbel over 4000m on a flat track, after the winning performance he produced in last month’s Edredon Bleu Chase at Huntingdon.
Noel Fehily, riding Kim Bailey’s gelding in the absence of injured David Bass, took the initiative from an early stage – and the rest of a very good Grade Two field never got a look-in.
Charbel had eight lengths to spare at the line and, over just an extra 100m, he is the obvious selection to follow up in the Listed 32Red Casino Chase.
The Unibet Handicap Chase will require a little more stamina, and Glen Rocco appeared an obvious candidate to relish the step up in trip when he beat all bar one here on Boxing Day.
Warwick provides an afternoon of quality action, not least in the McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase.
Step Back is still interesting off the mark he earned with his 13-length romp in Sandown’s big handicap at the end of last season.
But he was slightly lacklustre on his return at Cheltenham in October, and has been off the track since then.
Spring targets may be his best bet again – although it is of obvious note that he won first time out on a belated reappearance in each of his previous two campaigns.
It may nonetheless be wisest to look much further down the handicap to second-season novice Impulsive Star.
Sam Waley-Cohen takes extra weight off, and it may be this move back up to a marathon trip will enable Impulsive Star to jump with more gusto – as he will have to in the unforgiving back straight here – than when an honourable runner-up to the well-regarded Ok Corral at Plumpton.
By contrast, elsewhere on the card, Rocky’s Treasure can be trusted to eat up the fences in the Listed McCoy Contractors 2019 Construction News Award Finalist Hampton Novices’ Chase.
Kim Bailey’s eight-year-old has been a revelation this season, will again relish the sound surface and can give weight all round to a decent field.
The Grade Two Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle is often informative, and it may be worth siding with Birchdale following his debut hurdles win at this track last month.
Old friends and potential improvers abound as ever in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.
It adds up to a very complex problem, but Notwhatiam could be the solution as his last run, when third to subsequent Relkeel Hurdle winner Midnight Shadow, is working out very well now.
Lingfield’s Sun Racing Top Tips And Previews Handicap is the weekend highlight on the all-weather, and that too is a tricky contest.
My Target was once near unstoppable at this track, and has started to run more consistently again of late. – Press Association
SELECTIONS (UK times):
FAIRYHOUSE: 12.25 Great White Shark, 1.00 Lever Du Soleil, 1.35 Brosna George, 2.10 Duca De Thaix, 2.45 Shawshank, 3.20 Getaway Kid, 3.50 Run Wild Fred.
KEMPTON: 12.20 Flaminger, 12.55 Lomachenko, 1.30 Mercian Prince, 2.05 Charbel, 2.40 STAR OF LANKA (NAP), 3.15 Glen Rocco, 3.45 Oakley.
LINGFIELD: 12.50 Sweet Nature, 1.25 Merhoob, 2.00 Dutch Uncle, 2.35 My Target, 3.10 Yimou, 3.40 Diamond Reflection.
NEWCASTLE: 3.30 Traditional Dancer, 4.00 Rey Loopy, 4.30 I Am Dandy, 5.00 Eufemia, 5.30 Tough Remedy, 6.00 Portledge, 6.30 Lucky Lodge, 7.00 Willow Brook.
WARWICK: 12.40 Percy Prosecco, 1.15 Movie Legend, 1.50 Rocky’s Treasure, 2.25 Birchdale, 3.00 Impulsive Star, 3.35 Notwhatiam, 4.05 Honourmission.
WETHERBY: 12.30 Doctor Dex, 1.05 Storm Control, 1.40 Pershing, 2.15 Tree Of Liberty, 2.50 Bordeaux Bill, 3.25 Manwell, 3.55 Andorns Legacy.
DOUBLE: Star Of Lanka and My Target.