Turning out of the back straight in Sandown’s Listed hurdle contest on Saturday, it looked as if Lil Rockerfeller was about to be left lacking a turn of foot, but in sticking to his guns admirably, Neil King’s charge emerged as a real contender for another big prize before Christmas.
Jockey Trevor Whelan went after the four-year-old from quite a way out at the Esher track, but his mount’s guts and tenacity got him home in front to score the £34,000 first prize.
The duo’s next target wasn’t immediately confirmed by the trainer, but with his gelding’s odds for the Ladbroke Hurdle on December 19 cut from 25/1 to 16/1 it could be worth a trip to Ascot.
King had spoken of how a bigger test of stamina was ideal, but the Grade 3 contest looks an ideal compromise.
“The step up in trip appeared to help last year and while we dropped him back today it was a stiff two miles and the hill has won it for him again,” he said after the race.
It would be a similar scenario if taking in the Ladbroke with Ascot’s two-miles providing a similar uphill finish that will sort the men from the boys in the latter stages.
The Berkshire track and Sandown remain the only two venues Lil Rockerfeller has triumphed at over hurdles, with all three of his wins coming over the minimum trip.
As well as a testing track, the pre-Christmas contest is likely to see a strong pace for the Listed winner to aim at when push comes to shove.
And with last year’s renewal in which Bayan got the better of Pine Creek by a neck, showing that an honest and game attitude is required to take the race, things could fall perfectly for the son of Hard Spun.
His rating before his Sandown win stood at 146, and with that set to go up in the future, he will likely carry a hefty burden if he lines up, but having been saddled with 11-11 on Saturday, should have no problems shouldering that weight.
The form of his weekend success looks solid as well with Triumph Hurdle fourth Devilment back in second and former Grade 3 winning chaser Savello a further five lengths back in fourth.
He had subsequent Greatwood Hurdle winner Old Guard 16 lengths behind when winning in April, and with the pair likely to meet on similar terms should their paths cross at Ascot, Neil King’s horse could be a solid spot of value to confirm the placings and a first Graded prize in the process.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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