Nicky Henderson’s team remain in great form at present and he enjoyed another successful Saturday landing a double at Kempton, highlighted by the success of Oscar Dara in the feature William Hill Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle on January 12, writes Elliot Slater.
The two-mile-five-furlong listed contest has always been seen by tips horse racing hunters as a good guide to the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival a couple of months later.
Oscar Dara’s success saw him swiftly cut to a top-priced 12/1 in the Betfair Cheltenham ante-post market for that ultra-competitive contest after stepping up in trip for the first time and appearing to show significant improvement as a result of the longer journey.
The winner of three of his previous six outings and a highly respectable fourth to current Champion Hurdle contender and stable companion Darlan in the Grade 2 Tangle Teaser Top Novices Hurdle at the Aintree Festival last April, the gelded son of Oscar had always looked worth a try at a longer trip and was notably well backed on the morning of the Sandown contest before being sent off 5/1 second-favourite in the field of 18, under Barry Geraghty.
Despite a mistake at the fourth from home the eight-year-old came surging through the pack to lead at the penultimate flight and had the race apparently safely in his pocket when landing awkwardly at the last, before being gathered together to eventually win with plenty in hand from the 100/1 shot Romeo Americo who excelled himself to take second, with Buck Magic third, Araldur fourth, and the 9/2 favourite Black Thunder a one-paced fifth.
Having won the Lanzarote Hurdle easily off a mark of 140 it would be no surprise to see Oscar Dara raised around 10lbs which will certainly make his Cheltenham task significantly harder, but he could yet prove to be much better than a handicapper and has to be seriously considered as capable of following up at the showcase meeting.