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SIXTEEN runners are declared for the 2m 3f handicap hurdle at Ascot and unexposed GLADIATEUR ALLEN (3.00) can overcome his inexperience at this level.
The five-year-old was having only his third career start when thumping odds-on Valleres by more than seven lengths here over 2m 5f four weeks ago and could have got in lightly, with Chester Williams taking off 5lb.
Malaya, fourth in 2019 and runner-up to Nordano last February, is a consistent mare and should again go well for the Nicholls yard. Jonjo O’Neill’s Arrivederci chased home Nicky Henderson-trained outsider Craigneiche over course and distance a month ago and is closely matched with Kateson and Dans Le Vent.
REGAL ENCORE (2.25) has such a brilliant course record that he can defy the combination of advancing years and top weight in the ‘My Oddsboost’ On Betfair Swinley Chase.
The veteran is one of four JP McManus runners and aims to build on last year’s third to Ballyoptic off a slightly higher mark. His most recent third to Mister Malarky and The Conditional over course and distance confirmed he remains no back-number. Jerrysback is another McManus runner with solid credentials in an open event but Regal Encore looks a juicy each-way bet.
At Haydock, Emitom is bidding to repeat last year’s success in the Grade 2 William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle. He returns from a 125-day break having failed to cut the mustard in two starts over fences and ON THE BLIND SIDE (2.05) is preferred.
The Henderson-trained gelding chased home classy Mcfabulous at Kempton last month and underlined his toughness only a week later by beating Lil Rockerfeller in a compelling dogfight at Market Rasen.
Itchy Feet has run with credit in quality chases this season and reverts to hurdles with an obvious chance. If all eight runners stand their ground, course and distance scorer Main Fact may make some appeal to each-way players.
At Wincanton, all eyes will be on Goshen as he bids to re-establish his Champion Hurdle credentials in the Betway Kingwell Hurdle. He comes with obvious risks and SONG FOR SOMEONE (3.18) and Navajo Pass are more appealing options.
Song For Someone is improving at a fair rate of knots and edged out Silver Streak in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December. On a line through third horse Ballyandy, he faces a serious challenge from Navajo Pass, well-supported at Haydock when making all to whip former champion Buveur D’air and Ballyandy in great style.