Hiconic has made a very pleasing start to her hurdling career but her form is nothing out of the ordinary and she now has a double penalty. Preference is for KINGS CREEK, who has performed reasonably well in two Flat handicaps in recent weeks and represents a trainer who is a dab hand with juvenile hurdlers. Bannister needs to learn to settle better but he made an encouraging Flat debut in October and is also considered.
Very useful hurdler LEONCAVALLO was beaten at short odds in his sole previous chase in 2018 but that race was won by a good horse and the front pair drew a long way clear of the others. After a pleasing stable debut on the Flat last month, he looks the most obvious answer here. Four-time hurdle winner Haul Away makes his chasing debut after a long absence but may provide the main threat.
Gaot got back on track when third here recently and she should be dangerous with her allowances, but NOW CHILDREN and Yabass both have flashes of very good Flat form and return to hurdling following wind surgery. The selection ran well at Huntingdon despite failing favourite backers and he’s marginally preferred.
It’s easy to make a good case for Atlantic Storm, who won twice over C&D last year and gave a very good account of himself at Southwell this month. However, ETAMINE DU COCHET is well handicapped on hurdle form and gets the nod in the hope she can get her act together over fences at the fifth attempt.
C&D winner Some Day Soon was a clear second off today’s mark on his recent handicap debut at Bangor and is respected but the pick is SCORCHED EARTH (nap), who caught the eye when finishing strongly at Southwell three weeks ago and is not yet fully exposed over hurdles. Very useful Flat-racer Gunnery has tended to take a keen hold in his hurdle races and comes with some risk attached, but he still has potential for improvement in this sphere.
Jonjo O’Neill’s 5yo PERFECT CITY won a bit more comfortably than the margin might suggest at Uttoxeter a fortnight ago and is taken to overcome a 7lb rise in his second handicap. Seaborn showed only minor promise in three juvenile hurdles in 2017 but developed into a fairly useful Flat-racer last year and looks very interesting on today’s handicap hurdle debut. For Pleasure ran well in a recent Market Rasen novice and may also feature.
Charlie Longsdon’s JAMACHO produced a good performance to win by a wide margin over C&D a fortnight ago and still looks feasibly weighted off today’s 10lb higher mark. He gets the vote. Right Destination ran a game race from the front and was set to be placed before his last-flight fall at Wincanton in November but we haven’t seen him again since and he resumes on a 4lb higher mark. Two Blondes is next on the list.
Richard Newland’s BBOLD was just a respectable fourth when favourite over 2m1f this month but, given his two hurdle wins for Dan Skelton were gained over 2m5f, there is significant hope he can better that performance over today’s longer trip. He might be too strong for Battle Of Ideas, who was in good form last summer/autumn. Irish point winner Mister Tickle is unexposed under rules and looks interesting on his debut for Gary Moore.
A few of these warrant consideration but top of the list is KEYBOARD JOAN, who shaped with significant promise when second to a Nicky Henderson-trained mare at Uttoxeter a fortnight ago. Bonnie Golightly wasn’t far behind the selection when third in that race and is feared most but Irish point winner Get In Robin ran well for a long way on her rules debut in March, while newcomer Nellie Kernow is from a stable that does very well in bumpers.
The Racing Post’s tips for Stratford today
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