Timeform Premier Kelso Hurdle Preview: Wind bet

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Who will come out on top in Saturday's Premier Kelso Novices' Hurdle?

Timeform preview Saturday's Premier Kelso Novices' Hurdle and pick out their best bet.

"This looks the perfect next step and, with further improvement to come, he looks the one to beat."

Timeform on Windsor Avenue

Paul Nicholls won the re-arranged 2016 renewal of the Premier Kelso Novices' Hurdle with Le Prezien, but may not have any runners on Saturday despite three high-profile entries; Pic d'Orhy isn't eligible to run and looks set to go straight to Cheltenham or Aintree, Dovecote-winning stablemate Southfield Stone is Imperial Cup-bound, while Betfair Hurdle fourth Getaway Trump will also go straight to a Festival engagement.

That takes quite a chunk out of the market, and it appears to leave the unbeaten Emitom with strong claims. He won a maiden at Ffos Las (by five lengths from subsequent Prestige winner Lisnagar Oscar) in November, and completed a simple task when following up in a 14-runner novice at Lingfield last time. He's a very exciting prospect who remains capable of better, but the slight concern is his entry over two and a half miles at Newcastle on Friday (his trainer has suggested that is his best trip at present).

In contrast, Rouge Vif has just one entry. He has improved for the application of a hood, winning a maiden at Southwell in December and a novice at Newcastle in January, producing his best effort when two and three quarter lengths second to Mister Fisher (trying to concede 5 lb) at Kempton in between. The way Rouge Vif rallied when winning last time suggests that this longer trip will suit, and he rates a leading contender.

Muratello has produced a similar level of form (useful) in two starts over hurdles in Britain, but has a bit to find on a form line through Mister Fisher, having been five and a half lengths third (receiving 3 lb) behind that rival at Haydock in January. Fellow southern raider/French recruit Dream du Grand Val appears to have more obvious claims, having won both starts since being fitted with a hood. He was made to work hard here last time (eventually won by seven lengths from Skiddaw Valleys), but looks the type who will continue to improve.

While Chica Buena gets plenty of weight now taking on her older, male rivals, she seems to have found her level and it's slightly below this one. Of more interest is Windsor Avenue, who has improved with each start over hurdles, paying the price for a change of tactics when only fourth in a tactical renewal of the Fighting Furze at Newcastle (behind subsequent graded winners Ask Ben and Beakstown) in December, before getting right back on track when winning readily at Sedgefield last time out. This looks the perfect next step and, with further improvement to come, he looks the one to beat.

The front-running The Some Dance Kid has earned this step up in grade, having beaten a subsequent winner at Catterick last time, while Taunton entry Thistledonicely was far from disgraced when a distant second to Elusive Belle at Wincanton last time. Colonel Custard has the distinction of a five-length beating of Glen Forsa on his ledger, and improved again when defying a penalty at Ffos Las in January. Both wins came on heavy going, though, and whilst he's not dismissed lightly here, his disappointing run at Cheltenham on good ground is not easy to shake off.

Ground conditions won't worry Aye Right, but he was beaten off a BHA mark of 126 in a handicap here last time, while Shantaluze is also adaptable in regards to underfoot conditions. He didn't need to improve when following up his hurdling debut win back at Bangor last time, and remains with potential.

Of the rest, Dashel Drasher took a big step forward when defying a penalty at Ascot last time, but was all-out to do so, while Buster Valentine will find this easier than when chasing home Birchdale at Cheltenham last time. Like many of these, he's the type who strikes as an exciting prospect for novice chasing next season.

Whoshotthesheriff's price suggests that he's probably unlikely to travel over from Ireland for this task, but his second to stablemate Galvin (who, along with the fourth Smoking Gun, has won since) looks very solid form despite the small field. Should he turn up here, he is entitled to plenty of respect, and is worth a saver on the day.

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