Space Bandit looks to cash in again

Nicky Henderson: Puts finishing touches to Verdana Blue's Champion Hurdle preparations at Kempton. (Picture: PA)
Nicky Henderson: Puts finishing touches to Verdana Blue's Champion Hurdle preparations at Kempton. (Picture: PA)
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Space Bandit has won each of his two starts at Southwell so far and he can add to his tally in the Handicap.

Course form is usually a big plus at the Nottinghamshire venue – with the Fibresand not suiting all horses – and Michael Appleby’s charge clearly relishes it, having won a maiden there in November before following up at the end of January.

Admittedly neither race was spectacular, but he came home five lengths clear in an apprentice heat last time without really having to hit top gear, prompting an 8lb hike in the ratings.

That rise is partly offset by Theodore Ladd’s 5lb claim, and the unexposed Space Bandit can kick on again here.

Appleby could also be in the money with Epitaph in the Betway Live Casino Handicap.

The five-year-old does not have many secrets from the handicapper nowadays. But his current perch of 65 does not look totally beyond him despite toiling in third at this track last week.

He won off a 10lb higher mark last year and perhaps just needs things to go a little more in his favour this time.

Nicky Henderson puts the finishing touches to Verdana Blue’s Champion Hurdle preparations with a spin on the Flat at Kempton.

An evening all-weather meeting might not be the most obvious place to find a true Cheltenham contender, but this versatile mare has proved equally as capable in both the Flat and hurdling spheres.

Her undoubted career highlight came last time out when foiling odds-on stablemate Buveur D’Air to claim a shock Christmas Hurdle victory, having previously finished second in a Kempton Listed contest on the level.

Spark Plug just did her for a bit of pace that day, but there was no shame in that defeat given the winner had been placed at Group level and won an uber-competitive Cambridgeshire a few years ago.

Verdana Blue is clearly a pretty adept individual and while her initial prep run was scuppered by the equine flu outbreak, the 32Red Casino Novice Stakes looks an ideal stopping-off point on the way to Prestbury Park.

Collate recently hit the mark at Lingfield and can capitalise on that in the first division of the Handicap.

A winner in France a couple of years ago, she has taken time to find her feet in Britain, but now Amy Murphy has found her level she should be followed.

Just Minded is the choice in Musselburgh’s HGP And Partner’s 800 Homes Chase following a fair effort at the track last time.

Now with Olly Murphy, Just Minded had one run for him before undergoing a wind surgery, which appeared to have done the trick given a fine second on New Year’s Day.

It has been the best part of four years since Call The Cops last got his head in front, but the time could be right in the You’ll Get More With ESPC Handicap Hurdle.

The 10-year-old has not won a race since landing the Pertemps Final at the 2015 Festival when trained by Nicky Henderson, and has obviously had his issues in the interim.

Now with Ben Haslam, his rating has tumbled from a high of 153 to a lowly 102 and Call The Cops must surely take advantage soon.

Monsieur Gibraltar can triumph for Rose Loxton in the Frome Scaffolding Group “Grassroots” Hunters’ Chase at Wincanton.

This eight-year-old has won both his point-to-point starts this year, and a big Spring Festival is surely in his sights.

The concept of City Racing appears a step closer to reality as organisers hope agreements may be in place by the end of next month to stage fixtures in 2019 and 2020.

Peter Phillips, one of the brains behind the innovation to take racing on to the streets of major cities across the world, reports negotiations continue to be encouraging.

The intention, with backing from various stakeholders including the Jockey Club, is to lay down a special all-weather surface, which can then be taken up again within 72 hours.