Kim Bailey believes Ajero has plenty in his favour when attempting to complete a four-timer in the Racing TV Handicap Hurdle at Huntingdon tomorrow (Tuesday 23rd March).
The six year old, who is a half-brother to the yard’s 2018 Grade Two Peterborough Chase scorer Charbel, will take on three rivals in the feature two mile prize at the Cambridgeshire track.
Since tasting defeat over course and distance on his seasonal return at the end of September, Ajero has rattled up wins at Kempton, Ludlow and last time out at Market Rasen (February 21) where he had subsequent Grade Three Paddy Power Imperial Cup first and second Langer Dan and Miss Heritage in behind.
Bailey said: “We’ve had this race lined up for a little while. We thought about going for the Imperial Cup but the ground went against him. The track and course conditions should be ideal.
“The softer ground was a concern at Market Rasen last time and he didn’t really handle it but he got away with it as he really is a good ground horse, but it was another step forward on his first run since he had a wind operation.
“He is a half-brother to Charbel who was a good hurdler himself. We could have looked at better races already for him but I just felt he has needed more experience and ground is important to him.
“For now he needs to go this way round as he hangs right handed but hopefully he will grow out of that in time.”
Pam Sly is optimistic previous course and distance scorer Haafapiece can play a part in the finish provided he puts in a foot perfect round of jumping.
The Thorney-based handler said: “It is a tight little race but finding races for these horses rated 130 plus is hard. Hopefully he will run well.
“He just seems to make the odd mistake in his races like he did last time out at Wetherby where he didn’t have time to recover so hopefully he will jump okay this time.
“He should have probably won the day he fell at Cheltenham. Gina (Andrews) said they were going so fast into the last that he stood off and just caught the top of it, but he has not got the size to do that.
“We didn’t run him much over the winter as he doesn’t want heavy ground. Although he has won over further, he is a course and distance winner and the better ground is a help to him.”
Alan King believes the small field will not play to the strengths of talented dual purpose performer Scarlet Dragon, who will be out to secure a first success since landing last year’s Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot.
King said: “The small field will not suit him as it will not be easy to get him settled as he really wants a great big field in a strongly run handicap.
“He has had a few spins on the All-Weather so he is fit from that but that isn’t really his thing.
“His hurdle form is pretty good though as he is a Listed winner over hurdles and we could look at something like the Swinton at Haydock after this.
“Royal Ascot was a super day last year and we didn’t expect it but we certainly enjoyed it and hopefully he is not done yet.”
The four runner field is completed by the Dan Skelton trained Sofia’s Rock.