Wednesday 17 January 2018

Warm up in Lanzarote with talented Lord

This race changed distance in 2007 from 2m to 2m5f and it’s interesting to note that there have been no winners priced in double figures since that year, despite some relatively large fields. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
This race changed distance in 2007 from 2m to 2m5f and it’s interesting to note that there have been no winners priced in double figures since that year, despite some relatively large fields. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Wayne Bailey

It's to hit 17 degrees in Lanzarote today and, having endured some Baltic conditions here in Dublin, a trip to the Canary Islands would be more than welcome.

But considering how much money I lost on Cue Card in the King George, the closest I'll get to the Canaries this month is a bet on the Listed Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton (2.40).

Thankfully, a 20/1 winner for the column last week gave the bank a cash injection - but it's always the case that you have too much staked on the losers, and not enough on the winners.

It was before my time, but older readers may remember the horse the race is named after. Trained by Fred Winter, Lanzarote won the Champion Hurdle in 1974 under Richard Pitman, and he is also remembered for his fondness of Kempton Park, where he won the Christmas Hurdle twice.

But it's not just certain horses that have a fondness for Kempton: most racing fans I've spoken to this week are horrified at the proposal to bulldoze the famous racecourse and build houses there instead, possibly in 2021.


Sandown or even Ascot would be the home of the new King George but those courses, just like Cheltenham and Aintree, have their different, unique charms, and the King George just wouldn't be the same.

Yes, a possible £100m from the sale is a serious amount of money and it would be a massive cash injection for racing, but you can't really put a price on history and Nicky Henderson said he fears that losing a distinctive, storied track like Kempton will be a nail in the National Hunt coffin.

The place is synonymous with the greatest horses in history, and Richard Burridge, part-owner of four-time King George winner Desert Orchid, feels the plan is a terrible idea.

"It has always struck me as a unique racecourse because it rewards brilliance, rather than being about stamina or punishing mistakes," he said.

Jonjo O'Neill has a different point of view, however, and has said that a huge boost in prize money could be the making of jump racing for the next generation. Ruby Walsh has echoed similar sentiments, although Tony McCoy is in favour of keeping it open.

Personally, I think it would be a bad decision overall. Racing fans are nostalgic folk, and much of the sport we love involves tradition and history.

Anyway, it's a debate that will rage on no doubt but the course remains active for now - and Lord Of The Island might help recoup some of my losses on Cue Card, with prices of 9/1 available for the Lanzarote yesterday evening.

This race changed distance in 2007 from 2m to 2m5f and it's interesting to note that there have been no winners priced in double figures since that year, despite some relatively large fields.

The selection left Sally Randell at the end of last season and has had three races to date for Fergal O'Brien, winning his first, placing in the next and falling last time out. The handicapper hasn't been too harsh and the nine-year-old's rating remains the same as last time at 129, despite the fact that he was running well before crashing down three out.

He's usually best when grabbing the race by the horns and I hope to see Conor Shoemark getting out there early enough and giving the gelding a confident, prominent ride.

O'Neill's Doesyourdogbite is building a nice picket fence beside his name with three wins in a row, and is sure to be popular in the betting. He's racing off a mark of 138 and is possibly unexposed having only switched to hurdles from the flat in October, but this looks quite competitive and his early odds of 9/2 are a little short for my liking.

At Wolverhampton, Dominium looks an each-way steal around 12/1 in the Betway Handicap (7.15) for trainer Jeremy Gask. His usual partner David Parkes gets the ride claiming 5lb and although now aged ten, he's often thereabouts albeit without winning since September 2015.

Rated 80 just over a year ago, the handicapper has relented after some mediocre performances throughout the summer, and he ran reasonably well when fourth of nine in a handicap last time here off 67.

He remains on that mark for this afternoon's race and I'll be disappointed if he's not placed.


It's been seven outings and well over a year since Spookydooky last won a race but O'Neill's gelding struggled when rated in the 140s and it's clear that he just can't compete at that level.

His rating has slipped quite a bit this season and he made no impression in a handicap chase off 134 at Chepstow in early December. But the handicapper has dropped him further to 131 which is a few pounds below his last winning mark, and that gives him a fighting chance of a place at the least in the Grade Three Betfred Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick (3.35).

The good ground didn't suit his style last time so that race is overlooked, and I reckon he could now be well handicapped making him an attractive bet at around 16/1 under Leighton Aspell.

Viva Steve also has claims and is likely to go off as favourite. He moved from Mick Channon in November after a poor spell and looked a different animal when winning his first race last time out at Ayr for current trainer O'Brien. However the assessor has taken notice and a rise in the weights of half a stone may be enough to hold him back this afternoon in what's likely to be his toughest ever stamina test.

David Pipe's Doctor Harper also catches the eye and traded odds-on in-running before being narrowly beaten by Tour Des Champs at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.

l Last week's each-way selection, Pete The Feat, won at 20/1.


2.05 Kempton: Vaniteux

2.10 Punchestown: Runfordave

2.40 Kempton: Lord Of The Island

3.0 Warwick: Peregrine Run

3.35 Warwick: Spookydooky (e/w)

7.15 Wolverhampton: Dominium (e/w)

8.15 Wolverhampton: Boost

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