The assembled punters that descended on Sedgefield back on February 20th for a seemingly ordinary Thursday of racing in County Durham may not have realised it, but at precisely 2:30pm they were treated to a glimpse of the future.
It was on that day that the 7/1 shot for the Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, Vieux Lion Rouge, well and truly announced himself as the one to watch this Friday, winning by some 12-lengths to send a signal of intent ahead of Cheltenham.
David Pipe’s charge has been in scintillating form of late, with that Sedgefield victory representing the third in a hat-trick of consecutive wins for the five-year-old ahead of his arrival on the big stage.
Vieux Lion Rouge has an unblemished record of three wins from his three hurdle races completed but he will have to be at his very best to claim a fourth victory on the spin come 4:40pm.
Nicky Henderson’s Full Shift, for instance, heads into this one following a similarly solid win last time out at Kempton Park and could be one to look out for at 6/1 with Ladbrokes, while 14/1 shot Don Poli is in search of a third consecutive victory following successes at Clonmel and Thurles.
Elsewhere, a quick glance at the history books suggests former Fred Winter winner Une Artiste could be a long shot to savour at 25/1, while Paul Nicholls’ previous in this particular Cheltenham contest means Caid Du Berlais cannot be ignored at 10/1.
Some doubt has been cast over the latter of the two following a brief foray over fences, but with Salubrious surging to victory under Nicholls in the 2013 edition of the Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, it would not be a surprise to see this horse go the distance with Davie Pipes’ charge.
Yet in a race shaping up to be quite the spectacle, this could be one victory for the son of Martin Pipe, and anyone who spotted his horse at Sedgefield that fateful Thursday, to savour.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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