Racing: Native looks powerful ally

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The Independent Online
IT IS not often that anyone wishes for more rain in Ireland, but by this evening punters on both sides of the sea may be cursing the fact that an extra inch or two did not fall on Leopardstown this week. On Tuesday, the going on the hurdles course was heavy and the forecast poor, putting today's Ladbroke Hurdle in doubt. The rain did not materialise, though, and 25 runners go to post for one of the most unpredictable events in the calendar.

Even by its standards, today's Ladbroke is daunting. The ground is bottomless and the field handicapped to finish in a multiple dead-heat, while the tight inner hurdles course at Leopardstown will wreak its usual havoc on a tightly-bunched field which goes a strong pace all the way.

None the less, most punters will dabble, and Advocat, the ante-post favourite, will remain a popular choice. Noel Meade's principal hope from three runners has form in several top handicaps, including a fifth place in this race last year. But he will need to have improved, and at nine, that seems unlikely.

Impulsive Dream is another leading fancy, but he too is old and exposed, and more appeal rests with Slaney Native (2.20). Jessica Harrington's runner was a solid third behind Joe Mac, the best two-mile novice in Ireland, last time out, and runs off a fair handicap mark.

With Haydock abandoned, the Cazalet/Mildmay Chase at Sandown is the interest in Britain, as the Welsh National winner, Kendal Cavalier, attempts to confirm that form against Eudipe and Dom Samourai, who ran no race at Chepstow. That was an impressive performance by Kendal Cavalier, who carried 13lb more than his true handicap weight, but relished the deep ground and extended trip to outstay his rivals, marking himself down as a contender for the Grand National in the process. The conditions today may not place such an emphasis on stamina, however, and while Glitter Isle (3.05) won only a two-horse race last time, he seemed back to his best and is weighted to go close.

It is difficult to suggest any reason why Hidebound should not win the Tolworth (Novices') Hurdle, a fact which will be reflected in his price, and Kurakka (2.00), too, is difficult to oppose. There is more to consider in the getting-out race, though, not least some of the splendid names of the runners, which include Tellaporky, Royrace and I Do The Jokes.

The most likely winner, though, is UPHAM LORD (nap 3.40), who found the ground too soft and the distance too far at Newbury last week. Today's conditions are ideal.