Balder Succes and Handazan can give King a Cheltenham double
Alan King endured a difficult season in 2012-13 with many of his stable stars side-lined through injury. He still enjoyed success at Cheltenham, Aintree and in the Scottish National but has a powerful team at his disposal this season and is making up for lost time.
Balder Succes was a highly regarded novice hurdler but lost his way following a fall in the Triumph Hurdle. He made his chasing debut last week at Chepstow and ran out an impressive winner.
The big danger is Dark Lover who was a useful handicapper over hurdles for Paul Nicholls last season and makes his chasing bow here. Balder Succes may just have the edge with that Chepstow experience behind him.
Handazan made all to run out an eleven-length winner on the same Chepstow card and can defy a penalty in the 3.10. Nicholls again provides the main danger in Sametegal who sets the standard on his second in the Scottish Champion Hurdle.
The feature race is the Showcase Trophy at 3.45 with Balthazar King going for a hat-trick in the event. The nine-year-old won in France on his latest start and looks sure to make a bold bid under Richard Johnson.
Well Refreshed was one of the most improved horses in training last year and makes his seasonal debut for Gary Moore. The going may not be quite soft enough for him and he is being aimed at the Hennessy Gold Cup.
The bottom weights Vif Argent and Mister Grez are the best backed horses in recent days. Vif Argent is a French import trained by David Pipe and he could have sneaked in on a favourable mark.
The 2.35 is equally competitive with Moore’s Vino Griego among those having their first outing of the new season. He was a reformed character last season and finished second at the festival meeting.
Astracad has run well here before for the Twiston-Davies stable and King’s Kumbeshwar is a smart performer at his best. Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude lines up in the novice hurdle but is unlikely to get his ground and preference is for Creepy.
Selections: 2.00 Creepy, 2.35 Astracad, 3.10 Handazan (nb), 3.45 Vif Argent, 4.25 Silver Eagle, 5.00 Balder Succes (NAP), 5.30 Vazaro Delafayette