Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Raya Star states clear County Hurdle case

Alan King's progressive two-mile handicap hurdler Raya Star has enjoyed a very fruitful campaign and once again showed that he continues on the upgrade with a fine third place finish in the prestige Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Friday, writes Elliot Slater.

A winner at Wetherby on his seasonal reappearance in October off a mark of 120, the six-year-old then ran a rock solid race off a 12lb higher mark to finish third to the smart Rock On Ruby in the listed Gerry Fielden Hurdle the following month before bravely seeing off Rigidity and a host of challengers to win the extremely valuable Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot off a rating of 134. Anyone looking at the best 2012 Cheltenham betting odds will have been impressed.

Off a 5lb higher mark Raya Star was partnered by Robert Thornton at Newbury (in the race formerly known as the Totesport Trophy), on his first day back in the saddle after a long absence through injury. Putting up another great effort in holding every chance at the last, King's charge  kept on really well to finish a close third to Champion Hurdle  hope Zarkandar and Get Me Out Of Here in the showcase Newbury contest.

The lack of early pace at Newbury almost certainly counted against the gelded son of Milan who is ideally served by a strong end-to-end gallop over the minimum trip, something that should be all but guaranteed at Cheltenham on March 16 when he is expected to take his chance in the cavalry charge that is the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle. Clearly improving  and able to show his form on most ground from good to heavy, Raya Star was trimmed by most firms in their ante-post list for the Cheltenham contest and is now on general offer at 14/1 co-favourite alongside old rival Rock On Ruby, former group-winning Flat racer Ted Spread, and the classy Prospect Wells.

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