Jonjo O'Neill's Doesyourdogbite puts his unbeaten hurdles record on the line in the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday night.
Live on Sky Racing the Lanzarote is raced over 2m5f (4225 metres) since the distance was increased in 2007 and as always Saturday's contest looks to be a competitive renewal. Doesyourdogbite is sure to be popular in the betting as this straightforward five-year-old has made a smart transition from Flat to hurdles and is unbeaten in three outings. The winning sequence started at Market Rasen in October and then after success in a competitive event at Hereford he again stepped up to win at Kempton last time. That was over the Lanzarote course and distance and he really saw out the trip strongly suggesting there's plenty more to come. All those three wins have come on right-handed tracks which have suited well as the five-year-old has shown a tendancy to jump out to his right.
The competition though looks strong and Venetia Williams will be looking to follow up last year's success of Yala Enki with Bennys King. The six-year-old had finished runner-up in four races in a row before breaking through on his sixth start at Uttoxeter on New Year's Eve. He appeared to really appreciate the step up to 2m4f there and the extra furlong and likely strong pace could well play to his strengths and offer further improvement.
Jaleo, a former Godolphin runner, made a pleasing debut for Ben Pauling following his move from John Ferguson when winning at Lingfield last month. This was his first run since a beaten favourite in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival last March and the five-year-old did well to overcome some trouble in running and a very unsatisfactory slow early pace. Like Bennys King, Jaleo will appreciate the extra distance and pace and looks another potential big improver.
Paul Nicholls won this in 2014 with Saphir Du Rheu and Nicky Henderson tasted success in 2013 with Oscara Dara and both trainers look well represented again this year. At the four-day-stage Nicholls still has Old Guard, Modus and Mr Mix entered but it is the latter who really catches the eye. Mr Mix was making headway to get involved when unfortunately falling at the final flight in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at the Festival and has since run a good fifth behind Ballyoptic in Chepstow's Silver Trophy before showing a great attitude in a battling success at Wincanton on Boxing Day.
Henderson has Argante and Protek Des Flos entered and the latter had shown some smart novice hurdle form last season but made a bad mistake at Newbury on his chasing debut in November and was tailed off thereafter. The five-year-old was heavily backed that day and remains a smart prospect if that experience hasn't dented his confidence too much.
The Lanzarote should prove another fascinating renewal and is Race 5 at Kempton on Saturday night.