The sponsors have installed Fakir D’oudairies as their 10/1 joint-favourite for the Unibet Greatwood Hurdle, a valuable Grade 3 handicap and the feature race on the final day of The November meeting at Cheltenham.
This four-year-old, who carries the famous gold and green coloured hoops of leading Irish owner JP McManus won his first two starts after joining Joseph O’Brien from French trainer Guy Cherel.
He was very impressive in the last of those when trouncing Fine Brunello in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham.
Fakir D’oudairies then ran very well when pitched in against older horses and finishing an 11 length fourth of 15 to Klassical Dream in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Given that Klassical Dream was ultra-impressive when landing another Grade 1 Punchestown is currently favourite for the 2020 Champion Hurdle, it gives the form a very strong look.
Fakir D’oudairies also lost little in defeat at Aintree’s Grand National Festival when beaten just a neck by Triumph Hurdle hero Pentland Hills before rounding off the campaign with a fine 2 3/4 length second to Fusil Raffles in a Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival.
Judge on this efforts, and especially his run behind the now 160-rated Klassical Dream, I think a handicap mark of 149 for Fakir D’oudairies is exploitable. His proven course form is also a big plus, so he looks a worthy market leader for the 2m contest on Sunday, November 17.
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Fusil Raffles could be well-treated
The aforementioned Fusil Raffles is also 10/1 with Unibet to uphold the Punchestown form with Fakir D’oudairies despite the fact that he will be 3lb worse off with that rival. Prior to that taking success, the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned son of Saint Des Saints had been impressive when making a winning start for Nicky Henderson in the Grade 2 Adonis Hurdle at Kempton.
After tracking the leaders going well, Fusil Raffles took up the running on the bridle approaching the last, before lear on the run-in to easily account for Beat The Judge by nine lengths.
Fusil Raffles was fancied by many for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on the back of that very taking success, but was forced to miss the race through injury.
However, he gained compensation when scoring in good style at the Punchestown Festival and is clearly a very exciting prospect with bags of untapped potential. His handler believes he could make up into a Champion Hurdle horse, so if that is the case then he looks a huge player in this off a handicap mark of 152 and merits serious consideration.
Triumph Hurdle hero Pentland Hills a key player
Henderson also has another potential leading contender on his hands in the shape of Pentland Hills – a 12/1 shot with Unibet.
This four-year-old is unbeaten four four starts over the obstacles and enjoyed his finest hour when beating Coeur Sublime by three lengths in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival back in March.
He backed that with a game neck success success in the Grade 1 Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree where he travelled strongly throughout the two-mile contest and dug deep on the run-in to get up close home and collar long-time leader Fakir D’oudairies.
There was simply nothing not to like about the way in which Pentland Hills got the job done and it was a performance which showed that he had giots as well as class.
Those are the ideal attributes for the Greatwood Hurdle and another plus is that the son of Motivator is versatile as regards ground.
Festival winner Band Of Outlaws appeal each-way
Band Of Outlaws, a stable companion of Fakir D’oudairies, is another well worth considering at a tempting each-way price of 16/1 with Unibet.
This four-year-old was a smart performer on the level and came good at the second time of asking over the obstacles when landing a 17-runner contest at Limerick when keeping on strongly to beat Future Proof by 3/4 of a length.
Band Of Outlaws then pulverised the opposition in a six-runner novice hurdle at Naas before making a total mockery of opening handicap mark of 139 when landing the 21-runner Grade 3 Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival.
Under an ultra-confident ride under JJ Slevin, who waited until after the last to push the button, band Of outlaws burst between horses and easily beat Coko Beach by two lengths.
Although then disappointing on his final start of the campaign when fifth to Pentland Hills in a Grade 1 at Aintree, that race wasn’t run to suit and there was much more to like about his latest effort when a fine 1 1/4 length third of 18 to Tudor City in the ultra-competitive Galway Hurdle back in August.
Band Of Outlaws has been raised 4lb for that to a mark of 149, but that does not look unsurmountable and to my mind he undoubtedly has the ability to win a big pot like this in the 2019/20 season.