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Cheltenham Preview: Kingsmere can retain crown

Cheltenham stage another excellent seven-race card today, and Kingsmere looks to have been laid out to land back-to-back successes in the 3m handicap hurdle (16:25).

The Henry Daly trained gelding lost his confidence over fences but got back on track in no uncertain fashion over hurdles when running out the wide margin winner of this race 12 months ago.

After being held-up at the rear, the 10-year-old made stealthy headway to lead at the last before storming clear up the hill to slam Ballyculla by 10 lengths off a mark of 119.

Kingsmere then and then ran well when turned out quickly under a 6lb penalty to finish runner-up at Ludlow, before disappointing at Aintree last May.

It may well have been that race came too quickly, and Kingsmere ran much better at the same venue on his seasonal reappearance when a 4 3/4 length fifth of 10 to Spirit Of Shankly off a mark of 129.

Since than Kingsmere has had just two runs, and was not given a hard time last time out on soft ground when third at Ludlow.

The assessor has since dropped him 2lb to 126 and, although 7lb higher in the weights than when winning this last year Kingsmere, has been rated as high as 137 over fences and remains fairly treated on the pick of his form.

Another plus is that Kimgsmere comes into this after being given a break to freshen up and, with a good ground absolutely ideal, he looks to have been primed to retain his crown.

In the Listed mare’s handicap hurdle (15:15), L’Unique can make her class tell to defy top weight and land the spoils.

The Alan King trained six-year-old has won four times over the obstacles, and they include a Grade 1 at Aintree.

L’Unique also ran a stormer to finish third to Quevega in the 2014 running of the Mares’ Hurdle at this venue, and ran very well in this race last year when chasing home Polly Peachum off a mark of 141 before going on to score in good style at Sandown by eight lengths lengths off 142.

The daughter of Reefscape got put up 5lb for that victory to 149, and has failed to get her head in front in four subsequent starts.

However, L’Unique now gets into this off a reduced mark of 144 as a result, and that makes her look nicley treated now encountering the good ground she relishes.

Selections:
14:05 Twentytwo’s Taken
14:40 Top Totti
15:15 L’unique (NB)
15:50 Benbane Head
16:25 Kingsmere (NAP)
17:00 Midnight Request
17:30 Girly Girl