Ante-Post Focus: Ladbroke Hurdle

The £150,000 Ladbroke Hurdle is growing in stature and prestige. Now Europe’s richest handicap hurdle, it has attracted a quality field of 48 entries with a strong challenge from Ireland. And while the Long Walk Hurdle will provide a small but select field on the same Ascot card on December 22, the Ladbroke promises to be one of the most competitive betting heats of the season. So there is plenty of ante-post value to be had…

Raya Star won the race off a handicap mark of 134 in 2011, but has gone up 21lb since then and will shoulder top weight if he runs. But he is vastly improved and his reappearance victory over the course and distance was a career best. He has a solid chance and may well be ridden by Wayne Hutchinson who gets on so well with him. His current price of 14/1 won’t last.

Alan King also runs Balder Succes, who will carry 8lb less than Raya Star. He will love the likely soft ground, is a CD winner and is on an upward curve. He is the current 8/1 joint favourite with Nicky Henderson’s Newbury winner Lyvius.

The first four home in last month’s Racing Post Hurdle at Cheltenham could reoppose. Olofi got the better of Cash and Go, Irish raider Cause of Causes and Bothy. But you could have thrown a blanket over them and it’s difficult to assess the form. Olofi is talented and Cause of Causes definitely caught the eye, so the 12/1 about the pair looks fair.

Elsewhere Claret Cloak would have a chance but Emma Lavelle says he needs good ground, while Thomas Mullins has targeted the race with King of Queens who is 14/1 at present. Ted Spread (25/1) is another who would only be a threat on decent ground.

But one horse near the bottom of the handicap that has already attracted support is Into Wain, who was a good second at Sandown last Saturday. He is 16/1 from 33s but is in danger of running from 6lb out of the handicap.

Selection: Raya Star 14/1
Each way: Into Wain 16/1

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