The Grade Two Betway Kingwell Hurdle takes centre stage at Wincanton Racecourse today where five runners will face the starter.
The race is widely regarded as a Unibet Champion Hurdle trial, although this time, just Vision Des Flos has an entry in the championship race for two mile specialists.
The six-year-old was hugely impressive at Exeter Racecourse a year ago when cruising home to win the listed hurdle. Since then he’s been without a win, but he’s raced in top class company gaining two seconds in Grade One races – the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, and the Herald Champion Novices’ Hurdle at Punchestown. Earlier this month he was second to Champion Hurdle favourite Buveur D’Air at Sandown.
Alan King, who has saddled four winners of the race, with Yanworth the 2017 victor and Elgin successful last year, relies on Sceau Royal who won four on the bounce, including the Grade Two Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November, and was well beaten in the Betfair Tingle Creek in December. He’s considered a 12-1 chance for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival and it is likely this is a preparation run for that engagement.
Grand Sancy, who is entered in the two key novice races at The Festival, will represent Paul Nicholls, Harry Fry relies on graded winner Jolly’s Cracked It, and Jeremy Scott saddles Unison, whose is still guaranteed a share of the prize money if he finishes last.
The card also features the listed Betway Mares’ Chase where Henry Daly will be hoping for a turnaround in fortunes for Atlanata Ablaze, after she unseated her jockey at Doncaster last time out. Prior to that she was the easy winner of a listed mares’ novices’ chase at Warwick in December, galloping home the easy winner. All being well, the classy eight-year-old could run in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Molly Childers won over course and distance in January and Marienstars will be on a confidence boosting run following a heavy fall at Huntingdon in January, although she was back peddling at the time.
The Betway National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle kicks off the eight race card and Paul Nicholls will be hoping to get the day off to a winning start with Dogon who was an impressive winner at Fontainbleu in November but pulled up in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham two weeks ago. The four-year-old should find this much easier. In the same race Jeremy Scott’s Hey Bud has produced two pleasing performances over hurdles and can keep improving.
In the Betway Heed Your Hunch Handicap Chase, Admirals Secret has plenty of talent, but refused to race last time, while Gino Trail’s superb jumping could stand him in good stead on the back of a decent second at Sandown two weeks ago.
A step up in trip may suit Bolving in the Read Hearry Fry on Betway Bloig Handciap Chase; Like The Sounds won the course’s Healthy Pets Somerset National a month ago and can add the three miles one furlong Betway Handicap Chase, for the Harry Dufosee Memorial Cup, to his haul; Dan McGrue bids for a three timer after a long lay off in the Read Richard Johnson on Betway Bog Handicap Hurdle and Angela Yeoman’s home bred Southfield Torr can take the concluding two miles five furlongs handicap hurdle with the drying ground likely to suit.