Stratford preview: Lilac Tree to blossom on handicap debut

In-form trainer John Ferguson does tremendously well with his runners at Stratford, and Lilac Tree can take advantage of what looks a lenient mark to provide him with another success in the 2m handicap hurdle (15.10).

The Newmarket handler has a strike rate of 56 per cent at the venue in the past 12 months, saddling nine winners and four placed from 16 runners.

In Lilac Tree, he has a lightly-raced an unexposed gelding who had some useful form on the level and has progressed with each outing in three runs over the obstacles.

After shaping with plenty of promise to finish runner-up on his debut, Lilac Tree had little difficulty going one better when cruising home by seven lengths at Newton Abbot.

The five-year-old then lost little in defeat last time out at Bangor when beaten 3 1/2 lengths by a progressive sort in Curious Carlos.

Lilac Tree travelled strongly for much of the 2m 4f contest and stuck to the task well, and the pair pulled 19 lengths clear of the third home who was rated 118.

That gives the form a strong look and suggests Lilac Tree has got in lightly on his handicap debut off an opening mark of 120.

With the drop back to 2m holding no fears, and the prospect of further improvement assured, this looks a great opportunity for Lilac Tree to get back on the winning trail.


In the 2m maiden hurdle that opens proceedings (14.10), Low Key is going to be very hard to beat following a promising return to action.

The David Pipe trained gelding has shown progressive form in four runs over the obstacles, and caught the eye in a handicap at Newcastle last month when a tenderly handled fourth to Ittirad.

Low Key shaped as if needing the run, his first for 116 days, making good headway from the rear to lead until blundering two from home and weakening to be beaten 8 3/4 lengths.

That outing should have blow away the cobwebs and put the eight-year-old spot on for this, so Low Key’s official rating of 124 sets a high standard in what doesn’t look the strongest of class 4 contests.

14.10: Low Key (NB)
14.40: Top Chief
15.10: Lilac Tree (NAP)
15.40: Al Alfa
16.10: Duke’s Affair
16.40: Mrs Burbidge