Stiff test for Messire in Banks

Views from connections ahead of the 188Bet Sidney Banks Memorial Novices' Hurdle at Huntingdon on Thursday.

Daryl Jacob riding Messire Des Obeaux to victory in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury

Alan King feels Messire Des Obeaux faces a stiff task in trying to give 8lb to his rivals in the 188Bet Sidney Banks Memorial Novices' Hurdle at Huntingdon on Thursday.

The progressive five-year-old is burdened with a penalty for his victory in the Grade One Challow Novices' Hurdle at Newbury on New Year's Eve.

Messire Des Obeaux is also a Grade Two winner, having lowered the colours of Betfair Hurdle fancy Ballyandy in the Winter Novices' Hurdle at Sandown in early December.

"Messire Des Obeaux is three from three this season and has enjoyed a nice break since winning the Challow at Newbury six weeks ago, but this will be a tough task as he has an 8lb penalty," the Barbury Castle trainer told www.alankingracing.co.uk.

"However, he's in great form and learning all the time, so we hope for the best."

Warren Greatrex feels Keeper Hill is on the improve and is looking to see if the six-year-old is good enough to run at the Cheltenham Festival, where he holds entries in two of the novice hurdles – the Sky Bet Supreme and the Neptune Investment Management.

"He's done everything right this season. He's getting better and better. The form seems to be being franked all the time," said Greatrex.

"He's in great form. I'm very much looking forward to running him and it will point me in the right direction of which way we go – whether we go to Cheltenham or somewhere else."

Gary Moore is giving Benatar the chance to prove himself at a higher level after making a decent impression on his first run for the West Sussex trainer.

The five-year-old had no trouble landing the odds when coming home a 10-length winner of a maiden hurdle at Fontwell a month ago on his debut for the stable.

"He seems a nice horse. I don't know what he beat when he won at Fontwell, but he couldn't have done it any better, " said Moore.

"It's a tough assignment tomorrow, but at least we'll find out how good he is."

Harry Fry has had this race in mind for Bags Groove since he got off the mark at Taunton four weeks ago after finishing second in his first two races over hurdles, both at Newbury.

"This has been the plan since he won at Taunton last time," said the Seaborough trainer.

"Obviously he's got a little bit to find at the weights, but now he's got his head in front he can continue to improve."

Dan Skelton saddles Tommy Rapper, who ran promisingly when second to Willoughby Court on his first completed outing over hurdles at Warwick two months ago.

The Brendan Powell-trained Finula, who made a successful hurdling debut over two miles on this course in November, completes the sextet.

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