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Dovecote preview: Carntop puts Cheltenham Festival claims on the line at Kempton

Fri 23 Feb 2018

Carntop bids to keep his Cheltenham Festival dream alive in the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices' Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday. 

The five-year-old is owned by the Duchess of Cornwall and Arsenal chairman Sir Chips Keswick, and is handed a tough assignment on his first start for Jamie Snowden after showing high-class form on the Flat when trained by Ralph Beckett.

The son of Dansili, who finished second in the 2016 Lingfield Derby Trial, was last seen finishing down the field in a Glorious Goodwood handicap last August, and Snowden is keen to find out whether his entry in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle is realistic.

"Obviously he was a decent horse on the Flat and then his form plateaued slightly and connections were keen to send him jumping," said the Lambourn-based trainer, whose charge was bred by the Prince of Wales.

"He jumps hurdles nicely at home and we have done plenty of work with him. We are throwing him in the deep end first time out as it is a Grade Two.

"Hopefully he will run a decent race and then we can think about the Supreme. We are going down this route rather than trying to win a small novice as if he doesn't win a big one, he will be a decent novice for next season."

The two-mile contest throws up a rematch between Carntop and his Lingfield conqueror Humphrey Bogart.

The latter went on to finish fifth in the 2016 Investec Derby at Epsom for Richard Hannon, but has not been seen in competitive action since finishing fourth in the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury later that year.

Trainer Nicky Henderson said: "I am very happy with Humphrey Bogart. He has schooled very well and looks a natural over his hurdles. He seems to enjoy jumping and is very slick.

"The race should suit him and he will go there with a good chance.

"The ground should suit him, he's a nice horse with a lot of quality and we are looking forward to seeing him run."

The Alan King-trained Scarlet Dragon is a third fascinating recruit to the jumping ranks having won five times on the level, including the Old Rowley Cup at Newmarket.

Like Carntop, Scarlet Dragon holds an entry in next month's Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser.

Owner Henry Ponsonby said: "Obviously we'll know more after this.

"He jumps very well, importantly, and he was bought with this (jumping) in mind. He's by Sir Percy, but it's taken us a long time to get here as he was so good on the Flat.

"Some of his Flat form is fantastic - he rarely ran a bad race.

"If he wins with his head in his chest, then we'll be excited."

A 10-strong field also includes Dan Skelton's Destrier, the Paul Nicholls-trained Mont Des Avaloirs and Global Citizen from Ben Pauling's yard.

King also has high hopes of landing the Betdaq-sponsored Adonis Hurdle for a fourth time with the exciting Redicean.

The four-year-old has been seriously impressive twice over the course and distance and will confirm himself a leading contender for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham if he can complete the hat-trick stepped up to Grade Two level.

King said: "This has been his target for some time and I've been very happy with his build-up to the race, but this is his biggest test to date. He is up against much stronger opposition so he will have to improve again.

"He did it very well last time, but this will be a much tougher race and he needs to step up into a higher grade now.

"He is a very good horse at home and I don't think the ground will be a problem for him."

Redicean faces six rivals including Nicholls' Malaya and Guillaume Macaire's French challenger Beau Gosse.

The first Grade Two prize up for grabs on the card is the Pendil Novices' Chase.

With Benatar a significant absentee and Acting Lass instead contesting the Betdaq Handicap Chase later in the day, just four horses go to post, with the Nicholls-trained Cyrname likely to be a warm order to see off King's The Unit, Skelton's Petrou and Philip Hobbs' For Good Measure.

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