Final target for Rowe raider

Minellatillmorning won the Happy Birthday Sarah Cotty Handicap Hurdle. Picture: Fontwell Park

Balding celebrates Glory at Fontwell

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Richard Rowe is targeting the EBF Final at Sandown with progressive Aikideau.

The five-year-old completed back-to-back hurdle wins at Plumpton on Monday, having stepped up in distance to two-and-a-half miles.

West Sussex trainer Rowe admits it will be a big ask for his 128-rated hurdler to notch a hat-trick at Sandown in March.

However, he already has one eye on switching Aikideau – 11th in last season’s JCB Triumph Hurdle – to fences next season.

‘We’ll head to the EBF Final now – that’s the most sensible thing to do,’ said Rowe.

‘I don’t think the handicapper will put him up too much after Monday.

‘If he gets in at Sandown off 130, it will still be a big ask but he may be capable off a light weight.

‘He only had one race in France and they are run in heavy ground at a slow pace.

‘So he has had a couple of two-mile races to sharpen him up and put some manners on him.

‘Over the longer distances he has seemed much happier and confident.

‘Chasing will be his game, though, but we have to take one step at a time.

‘He is one we could get excited about over the summer.’

Aikideau defied a penalty to beat Ruling Party and justify 5/4 favouritism in the Novices’ Hurdle at Plumpton on Monday.

He laid claims to a place in the EBF Final with his victory in the EBF At The Races New Predictor National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle (Qualifier) on January 2.