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Premier Kelso Novices’ Hurdle preview

Not long until Cheltenham now but it doesn't mean all the decent racing in Britain has gone for a quick freshen-up in the paddock. Kelso has a fine little programme, highlighted by this G2 Novice Hurdle.

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Premier Kelso Novices’ Hurdle
Grade 2, £38,000, 2m2f
1525 local, 0225 AEDT

It’s under two weeks until Cheltenham so most of the big guns are biding their time in their boxes. But we do have this Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle at Kelso to get stuck into and hopefully add some funds to the festival pot.

The fact that Paul Nicholls has entered Capitaine for this contest is a little intriguing. He ended up finishing fourth in the Dovecote seven days ago and has a quick turnaround to overcome if he is to be successful. Front-running tactics seemed to suit him well at Ascot where he emerged victorious in a Supreme trial, which is why it was strange to not see those tactics repeated in the Tolworth. He bumped into one that day in Finian’s Oscar and it is unlikely there is anything of that calibre in this field. The forceful tactics were adopted again at Kempton last weekend, but he failed to justify favouritism as he pulled hard and weekend tamely after the penultimate hurdle. Capitaine is yet to race further than two miles and this contest is a couple of furlongs in excess of the minimum trip which could prove costly for this keen goer. Being the highest rated horse in the field he has a good chance, but because of the quick turnaround and this extra couple of furlongs I am keen to look elsewhere.

Harry Fry has been going well of late and is operating at just under 30% strike rate in 2017 which is exceptional, he saddles Chalonnial here. He started is hurdling career well with a win in a Bangor Novice Hurdle where he was just pushed out to win. Thrown into the deep end after that he was third in the Tolworth, 3 3/4 lengths behind Capitaine. That was only his second run over obstacles and with a three pound swing in the weights he can improve past that rival after having a nice break. Winner of a heavy ground bumper he shouldn’t have any problems with the likely deep ground he will come across here.

Mount Mews is an exciting prospect for Malcolm Jefferson and with high flying Brian Hughes in the plate he has every chance. A winner of both his bumper races and two out of three over hurdles, he certainly knows what it takes to get his head in front. He has been around Kelso on a couple of occasions and triumphed both times. All ground seems to come alike to this son of Presenting and his 14 length demolition job of a rival who was receiving just under a stone last time out shows he is well above average. This is a big step up in class but he might just be up to it at a track he clearly likes.

After showing early promise over hurdles, Mirsaale hasn’t carried on his progression. A second behind Moon Racer really is a standout piece of form in this field, but I wouldn’t take that at face value based on his lack of achievements since. I’m willing to excuse his tailed off finish in the Fighting Fifth as he was way out of his depth there and his run in a Musselburgh handicap was too bad to be true. By not staying the longer trip last time at Wetherby he is dropped back in distance for this. Cheekpieces are being put on first time over hurdles which should help his concentration, however they didn’t bring out significant improvement on the flat. It’s obviously a risk backing him given his recent performances, but if he is back to his early season form he could outrun his odds.

Fairlee Grey was a long way behind Mount Mews here on his debut run for trainer George Charlton, subsequently though he has performed much better in two heavy ground maiden hurdles at Ayr. He ran out a close second in the first of those races at a monster price of 50/1 and then trounced his rivals in a similar contest a month later. He looks up against it here, but the ground looks like being very much on the soft side which will aid his cause.

1) Mount Mews
2) Chalonnial


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