in-form ARBEO ready to strike
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ARBEO has already shown a liking for Huntingdon and must be followed upon his return to the Cambridgeshire track in the 32Red.com Handicap Chase.
The nine-year-old looked a really smart recruit for Diana Grissell after winning his first two of starts in bumpers four years ago and although a brief hurdling career was nothing to write home about, he has fared a good bit better over larger obstacles.
A hat-trick in the 2012-2013 campaign earned a trip to Cheltenham that spring, but a disappointing effort set the tone for a largely disappointing year and a half.
The new year has brought about a change of fortunes, however, and he struck gold at Huntingdon for a second time with a tremendous display from the front in early January.
The handicapper unsurprisingly had his say, bumping Arbeo up a stone in the weights, but he still ran with plenty of credit to finish third at Sandown last time, suggesting he is back on top of his game.
Another bold bid looks assured.
Half an hour earlier, the Nick Gifford-trained STARS ROYALE is the one to be with in the Connolly's Red Mills Handicap Hurdle.
The six-year-old's third-placed finish behind Tea For Two at Towcester on Boxing Day reads well in light of the winner's subsequent romp in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton, but it was a little disappointing Stars Royale could not get the job done at Plumpton a month later.
However, perhaps conditions were a little too demanding for him that day and he was in the process of running well in a better race at Sandown last time when parting company with his rider.
That was his first start in a handicap and his first start over two and a half miles. With the same scenario facing him, perhaps compensation awaits.
Kim Bailey passed the half-century for the season earlier in the week and with the team in tremendous form, it would be no surprise to see Thedrinkymeister come good in the 32Red.com Maiden Hurdle.
The six-year-old had presumably shown the Gold Cup-winning trainer something on the gallops early on, having been seen off favourite when fifth on his debut in a Towcester bumper last March.
He failed to complete on his first two starts over hurdles, but his third-placed finish at Leicester last month was a big step in the right direction and his latest effort when fourth at Chepstow was not bad in what was a decent heat.
A minor event such as this is certainly within his compass.
The Betfred Novices' Hurdle at Sedgefield looks a good opportunity for LOVELY JOB to defy a penalty for Donald McCain and Jason Maguire.
The Irish point-to-point winner was a relatively cheap purchase at £30,000 last November and was a distant third on his debut under Rules in a Bangor bumper.
However, a step up in trip on his hurdling bow unsurprisingly brought about improvement as he toughed it out at Newcastle last month.
He should be able to follow up.
SUN CLOUD could come good in the Collins Seafoods Handicap Chase. Malcolm Jefferson's dour stayer won at Hexham and Catterick last winter and ran a perfectly respectable race on his final start of the campaign, when third at Perth off a mark in in the 130s.
He has been out with the washing on two starts so far this term, but has been given a nice break since then and some relief from the handicapper might help turn his season around.