Heroes Handicap Hurdle Guide

1. BALLYMOY

T: Nigel Twiston-Davies

J: Daryl Jacob

This six-year-old gelding has been in flying form this season, winning three of his four starts since October, culminating with a determined win in a similar grade three contest at Ascot last time out.

He also has course experience, winning here on the final day of the jumps season. However, he must shoulder a 5lb penalty and top weight for his win last time out. But carrying top weight has proved to be no problem before.

2. KEEPER HILL

T: Warren Greatrex

J: Harry Teal (5)

A grade two winner over fences, Keeper Hill’s form tailed off towards the end of last season, but trainer Warren Greatrex has managed to rejuvenate his form this term, winning a Pertemps Final qualifier at Warwick three weeks ago.

The handicapper raised him 5lb for that success, but promising conditional jockey Harry Teal takes off that 5lb in this race, for which he has a very strong chance.

3. BRIO CONTI

T: Paul Nicholls

J: Bryony Frost

A long-time absentee, Brio Conti was last seen narrowly getting up to win a Novice Chase at Carlisle in November 2017. Before his lay-off, the grey had encouraging form over the smaller obstacles, with a fifth behind Finian’s Oscar in a grade one at Aintree.

He makes his return in an extremely hot affair and he could return to chasing in the near future. However, he is best watched on his anticipated return to action.

4. EMIMENT POET

T: Venetia Williams

J: Charlie Deutsch

Made a successful return to action with a course and distance win in December, romping away to win by sixth lengths. The handicapper was impressed enough with that performance to raise him up 8lbs, which catapults him into this company.

He hasn’t been seen in just under two months, but the course, trip and ground is all in his favour. He should go close for a trainer who has been in fine form in early 2019.

5. PADLEYOUROWNCANOE

T: Colin Tizzard

J: Harry Kimber (10)

One of the finer-named horses in the national hunt sphere, the five-year-old’s form looked to be heading in a downward direction before storming to victory at Wincanton on boxing day.

Despite his inexperience, Harry Kimber got a fine tune out of the gelding that day, and his 10lb claim could be invaluable in this contest. However, Padleyourowncanoe’s form needs to step up to another level to be competitive here.

6. FULL GLASS

T: Alan King

J: Tom Cannon

The owner’s second-string in the race (Munir & Souede also own Ballymoy), it’s been a season to forget for Full Glass so far. With no completed racecourse appearances, this season.

In three starts since he moved over from France, he’s finished third, unseated and pulled up over fences.

The six-year-old makes his first start over British hurdles here. It’s likely he is tumbling down in the handicap, and his outsider status reflects his chances in this contest.

7. MR ANTOLINI

T: Nigel Twiston-Davies

J: Sam Twiston-Davies

The nine-year-old caused a 20/1 upset when landing last year’s Imperial Cup here in March, but he has been winless in four starts since at varying trips.

He finished a good fifth last time out in what was the Ladbroke Hurdle, but he tries three miles for the first time since his point-to-point days.

He might be the trainer’s second-best chance in the contest, but is an interesting contender nonetheless.

8. COOLE CODY

T: Nick Scholfield

J: Michael Blake

An extremely progressive horse last season who was deemed good enough to run in a grade one contest, but Coole Cody has found life tough this year.

After two failed attempts over fences means his chasing career has been aborted, the eight-year-old returned to the small obstacles with a distant sixth behind the aforementioned Padleyourowncanoe.

He has been found wanting levels below this class, and it’s unlikely Coole Cody will revitalise his progression to be competitive here.

9. LORD NAPIER

T: Peter Bowen

J: Sean Bowen

Despite being winless since last season, Lord Napier has been gradually progressing his way up the handicap ladder.

The six-year-old finished one place behind Mr Antolini at Ascot two starts ago, before finishing an eye-catching third in the Lanzarote Hurdle.

Lord Napier will welcome his first try over just shy of three miles, and there has been a hefty gamble on Peter Bowen’s charge to finally get off the mark this season.

10. THE HOLLOW GINGE

T: Nigel Twiston-Davies

J: Jamie Bargary

Owned by the mercurial Ginge Army, scored for the first time in over year when landing a handicap hurdle over Haydock on heavy ground in December.

He faces a steep climb up in class here, and on paper he looks to be the stable’s third-string choice.

11. FLEMCARA

T: Emma Lavelle

J: Aidan Coleman

The Lavelle/Coleman partnership is in fine form at the moment with Paisley Park, and they’re looking to land this race with Flemcara.

He was a progressive novice hurdler last season, however he found this style of company too hot to handle when a distant ninth in this race last year, before being well beaten in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.

He returns to timber here after two failed chasing attempts, and the gelding’s up against it here in a tough contest.

12. VIRGINIA CREEK

T: Evan Williams

J: Miss Isabel Williams (7)

One of the more consistent horses in the field form-wise, the seven-year-old has formed an impressive partnership with his jockey, only losing twice when she has been on board.

After milling around in lowly novice contests, he stepped up his form to another level, landing a usually competitive handicap hurdle at Chepstow on Welsh National Day.

While the form hasn’t really been franked since, Virginia Chick (and her jockey) are clearly on the upgrade, and have the scope to take a contest of this calibre.

13. DANS LE VENT

T: Jamie Snowden

J: Page Fuller (3)

While he hasn’t had his head in front since November 2017, Dans Le Vent has been running moderately well since that last success.

After outrunning his odds in some grade one contests, the six-year-old has filled the minor-honour places in some competitive handicaps since then.

He was rather disappointing when stepped down in class last time out and has a lot to find on that form, but if any horse was to outrun their large odds, it could be this one.

14. MAN OF PLENTY

T: Sophie Leech

J: Connor Brace (7)

Winner of a listed Handicap Hurdle at Sandown in December, Man Of Plenty has been a grand old servant in handicap company.

He outran his odds to finish fifth behind Ballymoy last time out and should he be able to replicate that form, he could hit the frame.

However, given he is the age of 10, he looks to be vulnerable to younger opposition.

15. FOLSOM BLUE

T: Gordon Elliott

J: Richard Johnson

A rare venture over to Sandown for trainer Gordon Elliott, who brings over the admirable veteran Folsom Blue.

The 12-year-old is usually seen plying his trade in marathon chasing contests, he was last seen finishing eighth in the Welsh Grand National, but returns to timber in a bid to preserve his chasing handicap mark.

Last time he was seen over hurdles he was comprehensively beaten, but finished fourth in the corresponding race last year. Interesting contender who has Grand National ambitions for the future.

16. MR CLARKSON

T: David Pipe

J: David Noonan

Has had a rather stop/start career, and returned from a 615-day layoff when pulling up behind some of these rivals at Wincanton last time out.

An extremely tough ask to win this on the back of that performance, and his price reflects the chance he has.

17. CASKO D’AIRY

T: Paul Nicholls

J: Harry Cobden

A new French import to the national hunt sphere, he took a few runs to warm to the game, but got off the mark on his third attempt in a staying novice hurdle contest at Ascot.

He scurried away that day, and it is intriguing his trainer is pitching him out of novice company for the first time in such a competitive contest.

The seven-year-old sneaks in at the bottom of the weights, and goes into the race as the dark, unexposed horse.

18. LUNGARNO PALACE

T: Fergal O’Brien

J: Alain Cawley

He’s usually seen plying his trade during the flat season, but Lungarno Palace’s attentions have turned to hurdling over the past year.

Since switching to Fergal O’Brien’s yard, he has outrun his odds every time in class two handicaps, and was last seen finishing fifth behind Keeper Hill at Warwick last time out.

He takes another step up the ladder here, and needs to find an extra couple of lbs to be competitive.

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