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Newcastle Preview: Azure holds all the aces

Trainer Nicky Richards has a tremendous strike rate with his handicap debutants at Newcastle and Azure Glamour looks weighted to further enhance it in the 2m 4f hurdle there today (3.10).

The Penrith handler is seven from 15 with handicap hurdle newcomers at the track this season, and also boasts a tasty overall strike rate of 25% at the venue in the past 12 months.

In Azure Glamour he has an unexposed gelding who looks to have been brought along steadily with handicaps in mind and could well be thrown-in at the weights of an opening mark of just 95.

The six-year-old shaped with plenty of promise on debut in a bumper at Wetherby 12 mnoths ago when a 2 1/2 length runner-up to the the smart Supasundae, and the winner ran a blinder to finish sixth of 23 in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival earlier in the month.

Azure Glamour has since had just three starts this season over hurdles, and caught the eye on the first occasion when fourth of 10 to Seldom Inn at Kelso.

The son of Golan tracked the leaders until getting outpaced three from home and then kept on nicely under tender handling to be beaten 22 lengths.

The fifth home Special Well has come out and won since and is now rated 117, and the sixth home was his stable companion Un Noble who landed a big gamble on handicap debut at this venue when bolting up off 103 and is now rated 116.

That gives the form a strong look, especially as Azure Glamour was sent off as the 9/2 second favourite and Un Noble 11/1.

It suggests that the selection has as much ability as Un Noble, and if that’s the case Azure Glamour could make a mockery of his opening mark.

In the 2m handicap hurdle (4.15), Dark Dune can maintain his unbeaten record over course and distance.

The Tim Easterby-trained gelding is 2/2 over it, and looked to have plenty in hand when making all to beat Midnight Legend two starts back off a mark of 126.

A 3lb rise for that success looks on the lenient side, and although the seven-year-old got no further than the first when blundering and unseating his rider at Haydock last week that was an uncharacteristic error and he is normally a good jumper.

The fact that connections are turning Dark Dune out so quickly also suggests he is none the worse for the tumble, and this looks a nice opening for the son of Diamond Green to get back to winning ways.

Selections:

2.10: Mossies Well

2.40: Shine A Diamond

3.10: Azure Glamour (NAP)

3.40: Montoya’s Son

4.15: Dark Dune (NB)

4.50: Ultra Du Chatelet

5.25: Conjola