Barry Geraghty will be hoping to record back-to-back successes in the Lanzarote Hurdle (14:40) at Kempton on Saturday when he partners River Frost for trainer Alan King.
Geraghty guided Modus to victory 12 months ago in the colours of his boss JP McManus and 11/2 chance River Frost looks to hold strong claims of going close now.
The six-year-old has already won twice at Kempton in his seven-race hurdles career, including over the Lanzarote C&D back in February. It is the form of his reappearance at Chepstow that makes him interesting, however.
He finished a creditable fifth in the Silver Trophy at the Welsh track in October and has been put away by his Barbury Castle handler ever since, with this target in mind.
With the likes of Sam Spinner (favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March), Wholestone, Old Guard and Bags Groove all having come out and won since, River Frost looks a well-handicapped contender here and should mount a big challenge.
There are 16 runners going to post for the race and, for those seeking a bit of extra value, Ben Pauling’s Red Indian is worth some thought at 11/1.
He finished third on his seasonal bow at Cheltenham in November in ground that was verging on heavy and was certainly more testing than ideal. After that race, Pauling earmarked the Lanzarote and he has stated his belief again this week that Red Indian could be well-handicapped for the Listed contest.
David Bass gets on well with the horse and is riding out of his skin recently (31% strike from last 16 mounts) while Red Indian is unexposed and retains scope for doing better on his second attempt at this trip.
Later on the Kempton card, the Ian Williams-trained Ballyalton should run a big race at odds of 9/2 in the three-mile handicap chase at 15:15.
A former Cheltenham Festival winner over fences, Ballyalton has returned from a long absence this season and shaped with real purpose in two competitive Grade 3 contests at Cheltenham.
This is an easier task on paper while he could also benefit going up in trip on what may well be better ground. With likely favourite Fountains Windfall having fallen in his previous two starts, here and at Newbury, Ballyalton looks a more reliable contender in this small field.
At Warwick, 9/2 chance Flintham should give a good account in the Hampton Novices’ Chase (13:50). He was well beaten behind Duel At Dawn on his reappearance at Exeter but tends to come on for a run, giving hope he’ll reverse that form now.
He’s a course winner at Warwick and gets a first-time tongue tie to boost his hopes. Nico de Boinville has been red-hot recently (30% strike rate from 30 rides) and they are the value call in this five-runner field.
Over in Ireland, Gordon Elliott’s Mengli Khan can get back on track in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown (14:10). He ran out when seemingly having control of the Future Champions Novices’ Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.
With no temperament issues noted previously, he can be forgiven that indiscretion and it should prove worth trusting Elliott’s judgement in turning him out quickly in the hope he’ll oblige at odds of 11/8 in this Grade 2 ahead of main rival Getabird.
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