Tuesday’s NAP isn’t going to reach the respective heights of his Ukrainian namesake, but I’ll be disappointed if he can’t KO his five rivals for this handicap hurdle at Lingfield.
Given the style in which he won his bumper at Huntingdon in May last year, it would be fair to say that Alan King’s Klitschko was an underwhelming novice hurdler last season.
The five-year-old son of Blue Bresil returned to the Cambridgeshire venue later that year to make his debut over flights, but could only manage third in a modest contest. He did pretty much everything wrong that day. He was keen, jumped poorly and was flat in the finish – almost certainly as a result of doing too much in the early stages of the race.
His subsequent effort at Newbury was much-improved. He was second to the absolute livewire that is Jupiter Du Gite, who was receiving plenty of weight, but over seven lengths clear of the rest of the field.
Hot favourite Jet Powered was a disappointing fifth, but Inneston (3rd), Space Voyage (4th) and Palace Boy (6th) are now rated 127, 123 and 125 respectively, so the odds are that was a good race.
Klitschko, who sports the iconic green & gold silks of JP McManus, then went to Plumpton a couple of months later and got off the mark in a 12-runner affair. On the face of it, he didn’t win like an 8/15 favourite should, but the now 120-rated runner-up bolted up by 23L on his subsequent start and I thought the selection was worth a lot more than the official margin.
Held up in rear, he was given a lot of ground to make up when they got racing and he did so nicely, before showing a willing attitude to get his head in front. I’d say that performance should be marked up.
He could be fairly well-handicapped off an opening mark of 120, especially now he’s a year older and hopefully a lot stronger and wiser.
Only five pounds separate him and four of his rivals, whom I expect him to beat, but he has to give well over a stone to Gary Moore’s He’s A Latchico, who bids for a hat-trick over hurdles.
The latter is the main danger, but he’s nine pounds higher than his most recent effort in this sphere and was disappointing in a couple of outings on the flat in the meantime. His last couple of wins were also over longer trips, so he might find this a bit sharp.
Klitschko is undoubtedly the runner with the most potential, which I’m hoping he’ll start fulfilling as of Tuesday afternoon.
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