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Thursday 30 March 2017

Red is winning colour

Focus will be on Kempton for the right reasons as Sam makes his debut run for trainer Skelton

Sam Red and Adrian Heskin after winning 'The Racing 15th March Hurdle' at Navan in 2015, Sam Red's only victory
Sam Red and Adrian Heskin after winning 'The Racing 15th March Hurdle' at Navan in 2015, Sam Red's only victory

We are used to Kempton Park grabbing the headlines around Christmas with the King George taking centre stage but we are well into January now and the London track has been all the news this week following the decision to turn the historic venue into a housing development.

Plans for that are still very much up in the air but the spotlight will be back on the track tomorrow, this time for the right reasons, as they host the valuable Lanzarote Hurdle.

The £40,000 contest is trappy, enough despite only having 14 runners, but one horse that stands out is the ex-Alan Fleming-trained Sam Red, who will be having his first start for trainer Dan Skelton.

chasing

Sam Red is a lightly raced six-year-old who hasn't run since last May when he made his chasing debut at Killarney and finished 13 lengths behind Gambling Girl.

He's a winner of just one race, that being a Navan maiden hurdle in March a couple of years ago. He found life hard after that in Ireland, but this looks like a decent opportunity to prove that he is still relatively unexposed and a valuable acquisition by his new connections.

It's probably fair to say that Dan Skelton's horses are running okay without firing as well as he might be hoping for at the moment but with his brother Harry onboard, hopefully, he can claim his first major pot of the new year.

The ground is soft at Warwick and those conditions, along with a marathon trip, are key to Houblon Des Obeaux who is chosen to come out on top in the Betfred Classic Handicap Chase.

Houblon Des Obeaux was well beaten in the Welsh National at Chepstow but he still finished third behind the current second favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, only getting 5lbs off him, and there's a fair chance that the ground wasn't as soft at Chepstow as the 10-year-old would really have appreciated.

It's again going to take a fair weight-carrying performance from him to come out on top, but he is expected to relish the conditions more than most and his trainer, Venieta Williams, is renowned for her targetting of these type of races.

At Punchestown tomorrow, the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle will provide some clues towards the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The race has produced two of the last three winners of Cheltenham's opener, in Vautour and Douvan, while last year's winner, Min, was second only to Altior in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

David Pipe's Moon Racer is the current favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle but it would look like this Punchestown Grade Two is where champion trainer Willie Mullins chooses to send his main hope for the race so it'll be interesting to see what he pitches up with here and it's hard to look beyond Cilaos Emery.

contest

The five-year-old was a winner of his bumper at the Punchestown Festival last season and made a winning start over hurdles at Navan last month, when winning a decent looking contest.

The runner-up from that race subsequently won at Leopardstown over Christmas.

A real intriguing runner on the Punchestown card is the Donald McCain-trained Subtle Grey, who makes the trip over to contest the Red Mills Conyngham Cup. Although he will have to carry 12st, he is a former winning Irish point-to-pointer who will love the galloping track and the testing conditions and can give a good account of himself.

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