Agrapart bids to follow up Cheltenham win and gain revenge on Zarkandar
Betfred Rendlesham Hurdle, G2 | 2m7f, 4yo+ | ITV4/RUK
Last year's third Agrapart is out to turn the tables on Zarkandar and confirm his place in the field for another crack at the Stayers' Hurdle, in which he finished ninth in 2017.
The Nick Williams-trained seven-year-old was four lengths adrift of Zarkandar when sent off 11-8 favourite a year ago, and looks set to be market leader again for the rematch.
Agrapart started this season with a couple of uninspiring outings in France in November, but showed he was back at the top of his game when winning the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in ready fashion last month.
Now on a career-high mark of 161 after his defeat of Wholestone in the Cotswolds, Agrapart will be many people's idea of a Saturday banker.
In contrast, Zarkandar is not getting any younger and the Paul Nicholls-trained 11-year-old is on something of a retrieval mission after being pulled up on his comeback run over course and distance in November.
Nicholls said: "Zarkandar has had one run this season when it didn’t happen for him in a big-field handicap. He’s always been better suited by small fields, so hopefully that will help. He's in very, very good form and we hope he runs tidily."
A more likely winner could be Boite, who waved goodbye to the handicap ranks when scoring by 11 lengths in testing conditions at Taunton last time.
The former Flat racer looked to have improved for a recent operation on his wind when scoring easily that day and could have more to give.
"He won very well at Taunton and although this is a better race I'd hope he'd improve for the step up in trip, which is something I've considered doing for a while," said trainer Warren Greatrex.
"He won over a mile and six furlongs on the Flat so should stay this far over hurdles, and he seems to be improving even at the age of eight."Donna's Diamond, who won by no fewer than 37 lengths over course and distance last time.
The grey still seems to be improving at the age of nine and is up 11lb for that triumph to a career-high mark of 140. He is another who is ready to step out of the handicap ranks.
Grant said: "I was a bit gobsmacked with how Donna's Diamond won last time and we were considering running him in the Pertemps qualifier, but there were never going to be many runners in this so we thought we'd have a crack. We know he loves the track and the ground so he must have a chance of upsetting at least some of the bigger names."
Dan Skelton's No Hassle Hoff completes the five-runner field but needs to bounce back from a moderate showing in a Pertemps qualifier at Warwick last time.
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