Scarlet Dragon is fancied to cash-in on what looks a handy mark and land the spoils in the Listed 2m Prelude Handicap hurdle at Market Rasen on Saturday (16:00).
This Alan King trained five-year-old is a smart performer on the level who has had just five spins over the obstacles, winning once.
That success came at Huntingdon back in January where the son of Sir Percy travelled well throughout, before drawing clear to win easily by 4 1/2 lengths from Kingofthecotswolds.
Scarlet Dragon was then sent off a well-backed 7/2 shot to follow-up in the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, but he was never really travelling well at any stage and made some costly errors when a 27-length fifth of seven to Southfield Stone.
Connections then gave him a break and there was much more to like about his run at Sandown when fourth of 15 to Getaway Trump in a decent class 2 novices’ handicap hurdle off a mark of 132.
After being held-up towards the rear, the gelding made good headway on the outside two from home before keeping on in eye-catching fashion to be beaten seven lengths.
That form is strong and reads well in relation to this, and Scarlet Dragon is able to race off an unchanged rating. It gives him a big shout from a handicapping perspective.
Scarlet Dragon comes into the race fit having run well on the level at Newbury eight days ago when a length third to Shailene.
He looks to have the perfect profile for this valuable contest, so at odds of 3/1 with Bethard looks well worth a wager.
Storm Rising a big player for Newland
Dr Richard Newland has won two of the last six runnings of the Prelude Handicap Hurdle, and looks to have another leading contender this time around in the shape of Storm Rising.
This six-year-old showed immediate improvement after joining the yard from Irish handler Denis Hogan and bolting up by four lengths from Magic Dancer in a competitive 16-runner conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle at Cheltenham off a mark of 123.
Storm Rising then duly followed-up at Wetherby off the same rating before his revised mark of 137 kicked in.
He was far from disgraced off it when a 13 1/2 lengths ninth of 18 to Nietzsche in the Grade 3 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Prestbury Park.
The son of Canford Cliffs also ran well in a similar grade affair at Sandown back in May when fourth of 13 to Malaya off 135 and went on to round off the campaign with a solid second at Newcastle off 131.
Storm Rising now returns to action off 2lb and a revised rating of 129 looks more than exploitable based on the pick of his form.
This is also likely to have been his early season target for a long time and he is sure to have been tuned to the minute by his shrewd handler.
Regular pilot Charlie Hammond also takes off a handy 3lb with his claim and underfoot conditions are ideal.
Everything looks in place for a huge run, and Storm Rising can be backed at 13/2 with BetVictor to notch a fifth success over hurdles.
Course specialist Earlofthecotswolds another with claims
Given his excellent course form, the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Earlofthecotswolds is another well worth considering in a wide-open renewal of the Prelude Handicap Hurdle.
This five-year-old has won three times and been placed once in four starts at the Lincolnshire venue.
He progressed nicely throughout last season when winning four times and was most impressive in the last of those here over an extended 2m 4f when making all and staying on strongly to beat The Sweeney by just over a length off a mark of 129.
The runner-up, to whom he was conceding 9lb, has won twice since to be rated 130 – so that gives the form a solid look.
It suggests that the assessor has been very kind in raising Earlofthecotswolds just 4lb for what was a career-best display.
He also appeals as the type to go on improving this season and hails from a yard in fine form and operating at a strike rate of just under 27 per cent in the last 14 days at the time of writing.
Earlofthecotswolds will also not be inconvenienced by the drop back down to 2m as he is 2-2 over the trip.
At 9/2 with Betfred, he looks a solid each-way contender and it will be disappointing if he doesn’t hit the frame at least.