ALL eyes will be on Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase on Saturday, but there are some tasty pickings elsewhere on the stamina-sapping nine-race card.
STARLUCK (2.25) had champion hurdler Binocular held in third when losing out to Go Native in a thrilling finish to the Christmas Hurdle 12 months ago and this could be his day in the sun. Timmy Murphy will adopt his usual stalking tactics on Starluck and, with front-running Overturn certain to go a good clip from flagfall, the race should be run to suit. He likes the track, having scored by a wide margin in his novice days and Starluck warmed up for last year’s Champion Hurdle by lifting a mile handicap on the all-weather here last March.
The top trainers all field strong teams in most of the William Hill-sponsored events and Nicky Henderson could get a score on the door in the opener courtesy of A MEDIA LUZ (11.50). She was good enough to finish mid-pack in the French Oaks last season but her hurdling debut at Cheltenham didn’t go according to plan as she trailed home well behind Sam Winner. She adapted much better at Newbury when hunting up classy stablemate Grandouet, with 18 lengths back to Mark Twain in third. Mark Twain scored easily for Kim Bailey at Catterick on Thursday, so the form appears pretty solid.
Henderson saddles SKINT (1.20) in the handicap hurdle and his novice will appreciate a return to two miles after appearing to run out of gas over Plumpton’s 2m 5f last time. Skint takes on some speedy Flat types here but a reproduction of his earlier victory over Paul Nicholls’ The Reformer (winner since) at Wincanton in November will put him in the shake-up.
It is hard to believe THE BETCHWORK KID (3.35) has just turned six years old as he seems to have been around for quite a while and, with the Alan King yard in cracking form, he should relish this step up to 2m 5f after his fine fourth in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury in November. He produced a string of sterling efforts on the level last year and soft ground is ideal.
At Lingfield, PICANSORT (2.55) can go one better than Wednesday when he made the well-touted Garstang pull out all the stops. The extra furlong and inside draw will help his cause.