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Lancashire Telegraph racing column
7:49am Friday 31st January 2014 in Sport
With the wet spell is taking its toll on the National Hunt calendar, Kempton stages an impromptu bumper card for the jumpers on Friday and Nicky Henderson can take full advantage with Dawalan and French Opera.
Dawalan, a half-brother to such performers as Daylami and Dalakhani, is firmly in the Triumph Hurdle frame following two wins in three outings at Newbury.
An eight-length victor in December, he was not as impressive when having to make the running on his latest start but still held off all challengers to claim a cosy success.
Clearly a classy recruit, Dawalan will also be well versed on the level in the kempton.co.uk 'Jumpers' Bumper" National Hunt Flat Race having run multiple times for Alain de Royer Dupre in France, and Henderson has used this type of event before for top jumpers such as Oscar Whisky.
Henderson can also strike with French Opera in the Kempton For Weddings "Jumpers" Bumper' National Hunt Flat Race.
The 11-year-old needs good ground to be at his best and this looks an excellent opportunity to get an outing in before a possible Cheltenham Festival run.
French Opera shows no signs of slowing down despite his advancing years, most recently pushing Eastlake all the way to the line in a thoroughly competitive handicap heat at Cheltenham.
Beaten just a length, French Opera clearly still has plenty of ability and can see off his younger rivals here.
Aalim can strike gold for the second time in the BHEST Racing To School Juvenile Hurdle at Catterick.
The four-year-old suffered a surprise defeat when having to settle for second on his hurdling bow at Market Rasen in December, but he set the record straight at this track on his next start.
While it was not the strongest of events that day, Aalim could do little more than win and he did so with plenty in hand, strolling home by six lengths His jumping was perhaps not quite as good as John Ferguson would have liked, but he should continue to learn with every outing and become more fluent as time goes by.
Hartforth has not finished out of the first two in four starts so far this season and he can maintain his record in the Watts Fences Handicap Hurdle.
He triumphed at Hexham on his return but then had to be content with second at both Ayr and Carlisle, with both placings forcing him further up the ratings.
However, Hartforth showed his increasing mark to be no bar to success when coming home 12 lengths clear off a mark of 90 at Musselburgh at the start of January.
A further 12lb hike sees him line up on a mark of 102 but he is more than capable at that sort of level.
Swivel can spearhead a double for Mark Johnston as he lines up in the 32Red Handicap at Lingfield.
The three-year-old will be having just his fourth career start but has made quite an impression already, winning two of his previous three outings.
He disappointed when appearing very green on his initial run but made no such mistake when shedding his maiden tag at Lingfield earlier this month, before making a perfect start in the handicap sphere with another success at Southwell last week.
The handicapper gave the Shirocco colt an initial mark of 72 that day and it appears a lenient starting point given how easily Johnston's charge held off Our Gabrial.
Saddled with a 6lb penalty and stepping up to 10 furlongs, neither factor looks likely to particularly hinder Swivel's chance.
Mbhali should have been on the mark earlier in the day for the Middleham handler in the coral.co.uk Best Odds Guaranteed On Racing Maiden Stakes.
This 120,000 euro purchase has shown up fairly well in two outings to date, showing a flash of ability when fifth on his first outing before just getting run out of it by War Of Art at Lingfield.
He let down favourite-backers on that occasion, but stepping up to a mile and a quarter Mbhali's supporters can recoup some of their losses.
Daniel Loughnane has live chances with Matraash and Disco Dave at Wolverhampton.
Matraash takes his chance in the coral.co.uk Best Odds Guaranteed On Racing Claiming Stakes hot on the heels of a recent Dunstall Park success.
The eight-year-old has really found his level in this kind of company, scoring in two of his three runs this winter season.
He triumphed by a narrow margin back in December and while he suffered a shock eclipse earlier this month, he was soon back on the right track with a two-and-a-quarter-length verdict just over a fortnight ago.
Matraash did not have to improve to win what was a relatively uncompetitive heat, and this looks a similar task.
Disco Dave is another to have hit his stride this winter and is the pick in the Ladbrokes Handicap.
A penalty for an earlier Wolverhampton win did not really seem to make much impact when he was beaten into second last time out, going down by just half a length.
Racing off a 3lb higher mark, he still merits the utmost respect in such good heart.
CATTERICK: 1.10 Great Link, 1.40 Aalim, 2.10 Easydoesit, 2.45 Classic Move, 3.20 Hartforth, 3.55 Billy Cuckoo, 4.25 Philosofy.
DUNDALK: 5.45 Ask Dad, 6.15 Shield, 6.45 Enterprising, 7.15 Fix It, 7.45 The Black Devil, 8.15 Hoe Hoe, 8.45 Fairy Court, 9.15 Bog War.
KEMPTON: 1.50 Sirrah Star, 2.20 Molly Cat, 2.55 Saffron Prince, 3.30 Plan Again, 4.05 French Opera, 4.40 Georgian King, 5.10 Ranjaan, 5.40 DAWALAN (NAP).
LINGFIELD: 1.00 Mr David, 1.30 Lac Sacre, 2.00 Global Explorer, 2.35 Waterloo Dock, 3.10 Mbhali, 3.45 Swivel, 4.15 Obboorr.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 4.50 Mosman, 5.20 Matraash, 5.55 Like A Diamond, 6.30 Mount Glenn, 7.00 Disco Dave, 7.30 Trinity Lorraine, 8.00 Island Legend.
DOUBLE: Dawalan and Swivel.
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