The atmosphere at this Saturday’s meeting at Kempton Park is likely to be somewhat subdued following the news earlier this week that the Jockey Club are planning to close the racecourse, hoping to raise at least £100 million from the building of up to 3,000 homes. First opened in 1878 the home of the Grade 1 King George V1 Chase could cease in 2022 with that race being transferred to Sandown Park, although the proposal has met with stern opposition and the matter is likely to run for some time to come.
The highlight on Saturday’s card is the Listed 32Red Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle – named after the 1974 Champion Hurdle winner who produced many of his finest performances on the track during the early 1970’s. Unfortunately, following a promising start to his career over the bigger obstacles Lanzarote had to be put down after breaking his near-hind leg in the 1977 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The most successful winner of the race was Make A Stand in 1997 when run over two miles ( the distance was increased to 2m 5f in 2007 ) as the Martin Pipe-trained front-runner went on to record a comfortable victory in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham two month’s later. While there is unlikely to be anything of that calibre in this year’s renewal the contest has attracted a competitive field of 14 at the final declaration stage.
The weights are headed by Old Guard from the Paul Nicholls stable although the six-year-old has not progressed since winning both the Greatwood Hurdle and International back in 2015. A best price 25-1 with Coral the mount of Sam Twiston-Davies will do well to concede upwards of 8lb to the opposition which include his enigmatic stablemate Modus.
Heading the betting is the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Doesyourdogbite who is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles, the most recent coming at Kempton’s Christmas meeting when beating another unexposed type in Spiritofthegames without being hard pressed. A standout 6-1 chance with Coral the mount of Aidan Coleman can also be backed at 16-1 with Bet365 for the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
Main market rivals to Doesyourdogbite are Jaleo ( 7-1 Coral and Betfair Sportsbook ) who won at the first time of asking for his new trainer Ben Pauling when landing a gamble at Lingfield last month and the Venetia Williams-trained Uttoxeter scorer Bennys King ( 8-1 with the sponsor ).