Sport Horse Racing

Friday 23 March 2018

Duke of Lucca to take advantage as Cheltenham hangover kicks in

Once again, the three-day Aintree festival has seen many horses that excelled at Cheltenham bite the dust. None has done so more spectacularly than Imperial Commander, which barely jumped a fence on Thursday after a Gold Cup triumph defined by his precise jumping.

The two festivals are too close together to see the horses at their best. And for that reason, Peddlers Cross and Najaf have to be opposed in the opening Mersey Novices' Hurdle (1.45) on the supporting card.

Duke Of Lucca is best placed to capitalise. Philip Hobbs' runner rebounded from a heavy-ground defeat at Newbury to dismiss Pistolet Noir with ease at Taunton recently and the latter boosted the form with a big run at Aintree two days ago.

A similar approach can pay dividends in the Handicap Chase (3.25) over three miles. Rare Bob, from the Dessie Hughes stable has prospects, but Wogan looks a reformed character this season. His recent, good-ground victory at Doncaster showed that he has plenty of pace for a staying chaser. That is precisely what is required around this tight circuit.

Conversely, the Dick Francis Aintree Hurdle (2.50) does not feature anything with sufficient potential to put it to the Champion Hurdle horses. Although Quwetwo upset Zaynar at Kelso in February and missed Cheltenham, he remains too much of an unknown quantity to recommend in this league.

Whereas Khyber Kim fared best at Cheltenham, he needs time between his races. So the vote goes instead to Celestial Halo, which forced the pace at Cheltenham with first-time blinkers to finish a creditable fourth. He can reverse the placings with Kyber Kim and Zaynar now that the headgear is dispensed with.

Irish Independent

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