Newcastle preview: Khalaas can score for in-form Haggas
Trainer William Haggas does tremendously well with his runners at Newcastle, and Khalaas looks a worthy favourite to provide him with another winner in the 7f maiden on today’s card at the Northeast venue (14.40).
The Newmarket handler has a 34 per cent strike-rate with his runners at the track over the last five seasons, and is also in terrific form at present.
In Khalaas, he has a gelding who shaped with bags of promise on his debut at Newmarket back in October when third to Ooty Hill.
The well-bred son of Iffraaj showed plenty of pace to race on the heels of the leaders before keeping on nicely under tender handling to be beaten 2 3/4 lengths.
It was an effort which suggested Khalaas would have no difficulty winning a race of this nature, and the form looks strong as the winner is a well-regarded sort who has gone on to finish runner-up in a conditions’ contest at Newbury and is now rated 105.
That reads extremely well in the context of this contest, and granted normal improvement Khalaas is going to be very hard to beat in the hands of jockey Paul Hanagan.
In the 2m handicap (15.45), Knightly Escapade looks decent value to land the spoils now returned to the scene of his last success.
The Brian Ellison trained gelding won twice last year, and the last of those successes came over course and distance where Knightly Escapade came from off the pace to readily beat Entihaa by 2 1/4 lengths off a mark of 69.
Knightly Escapade backed that up with an excellent neck second of 12 to Gabrial’s King in a class 3 affair at York off 75, and also ran well on his final start last season when third off 77 at the same venue.
The seven-year-old was then off the track for 222 days before finishing a good second of 12 to Wordiness at Newbury when given plenty to do and tenderly handled by jockey Richard Hughes, and was far from disgraced last time out in a class 3 contest at York when ninth of 15 to Lycidas after racing too keenly in the early stages.
Those two runs should have put Knightly Escapade spot on, and he looks nicely treated on the pick of his form off a mark of 78 now dropped back down into class 4 company.
15.15: Downtown Boy
15.45: Knightly Escapade (NB)
17.25: Lazy Sioux