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Cloak and swagger for Lavelle at Newbury?
1:43pm Thursday 7th February 2013 in Hampshire Sport
Emma Lavelle can ruffle the feathers of some of her more powerful colleagues by saddling Claret Cloak to victory in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
The Andover handler nearly always does a solid job with relatively lightweight ammunition, and has a fine opportunity in which to land a sizeable blow at the Berkshire circuit.
Messrs Henderson, Nicholls and Pipe are well armed for this Grade Three handicap over an extended two miles, but value-seekers, as tends to be commonplace on weekends, should be advised to look elsewhere.
Step forward Claret Cloak, who appears to have the correct attributes to make quite a splash in this grade.
The five-year-old gelding is one of the most unexposed horses in the line-up, having had just four tries over hurdles - two of which last season ended in victory.
His comeback run, at Ascot in November, was particularly satisfying, too, as he got to within two lengths of Raya Star, who then finished second in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
Nothing was finishing quicker than Claret Cloak that day, which was very encouraging given it was his first run since last March, while Lavelle has publicly expressed her glee the handicapper has bumped up her charge by just 3lb.
But perhaps of even greater significance is the likelihood of a decent surface at Newbury.
It had looked at one stage that the ground would be very demanding at the weekend, but a prolonged dry spell could see the going as good as it has been for many weeks in that part of the world.
This is important, as Claret Cloak was taken out of The Ladbroke at Ascot on account of the testing conditions, with his three careers wins achieved on no worse than good to soft.
Unlike a clutch of his Betfair Hurdle rivals who will have even more grandiose ambitions at Cheltenham next month, this is likely to be Claret Cloak's chief aim for the season.