RACING: Valdez success for King

First published in Sport

VALDEZ made the most of having his sights lowered as he strode clear in the Race Passes At timeform.com Novices' Hurdle at Plumpton today.

A dual bumper winner last season for Barbury Castle trainer Alan King, the six-year-old opened his account over obstacles at the second attempt at Huntington in mid-November before coming up short in a race won by subsequent Tolworth hero Melodic Rendezvous at Cheltenham.

With no horses of that calibre to worry about in East Sussex, Valdez was a warm order, sent off the 1-2 favourite and the result was scarcely in doubt.

Never far off the pace over two miles, the market leader was pulling for his head in the early stages and jockey Robert Thornton let his mount stride to the front with a circuit to run.

Valdez gradually quickened the tempo and soon had his rivals cooked, pulling clear in the home straight to score by 10 lengths from Asker.

"We dawdled and he has always been a free-running type. He did settle better the last day, obviously in better company," Thornton told At The Races.

"I didn't want to be going that slow so I've let him run. I thought he'd settle in front and he's actually rushed a bit, but it won't do him any harm.

"He's won as he liked and he's going the right way."

Sprinter Sacre is one of nine confirmations for the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old is unbeaten in six starts over fences and was a brilliant winner of the Tingle Creek at Sandown on his seasonal reappearance in early December.

He is set to head for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March as a long odds-on favourite, provided there are no hiccups this weekend.

Sprinter Sacre would appear to face a relatively straightforward task, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Sanctuaire the second highest-rated horse in the field.

He was over 19 lengths behind Henderson's charge in the Tingle Creek and subsequently won the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.

MORE SPORTS NEWS & PICTURES IN THURSDAY'S GAZETTE & HERALD

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