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Imperial Leader can rule in Heroes Handicap Hurdle

The big betting race of the day is the Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown (3.00) and imperial Leader looks decent each-way value in a wide open contest.

The gelding has some smart form smart form to his name as a novice back in 2012, beating the now 146-rated Ballyalton by three lengths at Southwell to open his account over hurdles before going on to finish a solid 5 1/2 length fourth of eight to the classy 155-rated Melodic Rendezvous at Cheltenham.

Imperial Leader was then far from disgraced when third to Chiberta King in a decent novice hurdle at Newbury and was allotted an opening handicap mark of 134.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained seven-year-old has not managed to get his head in front in seven subsequent starts, but did run well to be placed on two occasions last season in competitive contests at Ascot at Exeter.

In the first of those the son of Flemensfirth stuck to the task well to finish runner-up to Irish Saint off 128, and Imperial Leader then posted a similar performance off 129 when third of 12 to Fingal Bay.

That is strong form in the context of this contest, and Imperial Leader is now able to run off a career-low mark of 124.
It gives Imperial Leader a huge shout at the weights on the pick of his form, and although he has been off the track for eight months his win at Southwell came after a similar absence and fitness should not be an issue given connections.
There are plenty of dangers and the biggest in my book is Junction Fourteen.

The Emma Lavelle trained six-year-old scored in facile fashion on handicap debut at Kempton last season and was in the process of running a big race at the same venue in the valuable Lanzarote Hurdle won by Saphir Du Rheu when coming to grief at the last.

The gelding ran off his current mark of 137 in the latter and has shaped as if coming back to form in his last two starts, most notably when a not knocked about fourth of 12 to Batavir at Wincanton last time out.

That was a huge step in the right direction, and if Junction Fourteen can build on that a big run looks on the cards.