Ed and the gang at ITV Racing bring us seven races this afternoon with five coming from the season’s National Hunt finale meeting at Sandown where the feature race is the bet365 Gold Cup to be run at 2.15. The ground is riding good on both the hurdles and chase course which is quite surprising when you consider Friday’s flat card was abandoned due to heavy ground! There’s also a good flat turf handicap from both Leicester and Haydock. Here are my thoughts on the afternoon’s fayre.
The day’s action kicks off with a highly competitive sixteen-runner class 2 bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle. Many with chances most notably the Nicky Henderson trained Under Control who’s looked like a horse of some promise in winning at Newbury and Cheltenham on good ground this season. She flopped on very soft ground in between at the Cheltenham Festival but if the ground isn’t too slow she should be thereabouts. She’s one of three JP McManus-owned runners in the field with Henderson’s other runner Iberico Lord holding the same chance as Paul Nicholls’ Beau Balko on Stratford form from a month ago.
Many others can be given chances including Ben Pauling’s Joe Dadancer who finally came good last time at Southwell and bottom-weight Kansas Du Berlais who’s been doing his winning at Fontwell and must have been hard for handicapper to rate.
Paul Nicholls is finishing the season in terrific form and saddles the top three in the handicap with Harry Cobden appearing to have chosen the four-timer seeking Killaloan who is maybe the best of the trio in a race that the master trainer has won twice in the last four years since it’s inception.
A tough race but I’ll stick with Under Control to step forward again for her recent Cheltenham win for which she’s been raised 7lb.
UNDER CONTROL 1 point each way @ 5/1 with Bet365 1/5th 12345
Five decent chasers face the starter for the Grade 1 bet365 Celebration Chase run over 1m 7F 99 yards. Nicky Henderson’s smart novice Jonbon is a surprise runner here having won four of his five starts over fences with his only defeat coming in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham behind the useful El Fabiolo. He had a virtual school round at Aintree when a big odds on chance a fortnight ago and has to be a player here.
His big danger and to my eyes the likely winner is the Paul Nicholls-trained Greaneteen who’s won this race comfortably for the past two years. The soft ground at Cheltenham was not in his favour and with conditions to suit and officially rated a 9lb superior horse to the novice Jonbon can get the hat trick up here under Harry Cobden.
Irish challenger Captain Guinness ran a stormer at Cheltenham when finishing runner-up in the Champion Chase behind Energumene with Greaneteen 24L back in third and Editeur Du Gite a further 3/4L back in 4th with Funambule Sivola crashing out at the third fence. He has claims but back on his favourite course and on less taxing ground conditions, it’s Greaneteen for me.
GREANETEEN 2 points win @ 9/4 with Bet365
A terrific renewal of the bet265 Gold Cup with a field of 18 facing the starter over 3M 4F 146 Yards. Many have claims here on the final big Handicap Chase of the National Hunt season which ends today. Check out my horse-by-horse guide to the Bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase.
Only seven line up for the Grade 2 bet365 Oaksey Chase run over 2M 6 1/2F, a race which Philip Hobb’s Menorah won four times on the bounce from 2014-2017. The one to beat is Shark Hanlon’s flag bearer Hewick who was pulled out of the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday due to the testing ground. He was very impressive on this card last year when taking the bet365 Gold Cup by 8L over a mile further trip than today. Today’s trip shouldn’t be an issue as he dropped down to this trip when winning the American Grand National last October. A versatile sort who officially is 10lb and upwards better than his six opponents he should be winning this under Rachael Blackmore.
Eldorado Allen looks far too short in the current betting to me for a horse who doesn’t win often enough whilst Paul Nicholl’s McFabulous has questions to answer now having flopped last time with an irregular heartbeat. He did however win over hurdles on the card last year. His stable mate Solo has 19lb to find with Hewick and will need to improve further.
This looks like Hewick’s to lose and unless the ground went soft is a confident selection.
HEWICK 2 points win @ 6/4 with Bet365
It’s off to Leicester now for the 1M class 2 King Richard lll Cup Handicap. Eight have declared for a race to be run on soft ground. The favourite and easily the most likely winner is William Haggas’s Al Mubhir. He went off 4/1 favourite for the Lincoln four weeks ago and despite racing freely finished a credible 5th beaten 4L behind Migration. He was 2 1/2L ahead of one of his dangers here today in Bopedro who went in to win at Newmarket and re-opposes Al Mubhir on 6lb worse terms.
It’s hard to fancy top-weight Notre Belle Bete who’s been pushed up 7lb for his win on All-Weather Championships day at Newcastle and looks weighted out of this back on the turf.
Sir Michael Stoute saddles Aerion Power and he too may struggle on the likely soft conditions.
Bottom weight Maysong won under a 7lb claimer last time and is 5lb higher now and with no claimer on his back is up against it in this grade whilst Wobwobwob won’t mind the ground and should strip fitter for his latest re-appearance effort.
Al Mubhir has won on heavy ground and off of the same mark as the Lincoln run will be hard to beat under William Buick.
AL MUBHIR 2 points win @ 2/1 with Bet365
The Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase is a valuable 2m 4F contest which has attracted a field of nine this year. This year’s renewal looks like an open contest with several holding chances. Top weight Cap Du Mathan looks the pick on jockey bookings of the two Paul Nicholls runners and with the horse he was runner up to at Kempton last time Whistleinthedark winning well on Thursday at Perth can take this despite having to give weight to all under the stable’s number one jockey Harry Cobden.
Nicholls’ other runner Quel Destin will be ridden by Bryony Frost and his latest form ties in with Gary Moore’s Hudson De Grugy who loves this track having won four of his seven starts here.
Ben Pauling’s Quinto Do Mar is lightly raced over fences and holds Nicky Henderson’s runner Fable on his recent Fontwell win which has been boosted since by the subsequent success of the runner-up Grandads Cottage. He can run well and is favoured over Pauling’s other runner Harpers Brook.
A tough race to call but with Paul Nicholls being crowned Champion NH Trainer for the 14th time today his Cap Du Mathan can take this valuable contest.
CAP DU MATHAN 1 point win @ 4/1 with Bet365
The only race covered by ITV at the Lancashire track is this 7F class 2 handicap which has attracted a dozen runners. It has an open look about it with the weights headed by Richard Hannon’s Witch Hunter who surely has been weighted out of this with a 6lb rise for a Newcastle 2nd to Diligent Harry pushing him up to 108.
Spycatcher would have to be on my shortlist having taken the scalp of the well-regarded King Athos at Thirsk last Saturday on soft ground. Whether this comes too soon for him only time will tell. Ralph Beckett saddles his progressive 6-year-old Biggles, a triple winner as a five-year-old but has a 175-day’s absence to overcome.
David O’Meara has yet to get really going this turf season and saddles a trio of runners here in Orbaan, The Horse Watcher’s Rhoscolyn, who’s had his wind tinkered with since last seen some 196 days ago and maybe of more interest is the ex-Charlie Hills-trained Tuscan. He’s been gelded since last seen in September and new connections went to 35,000 guineas to buy him a month later. He won first time out last season from a horse now rated 107 and with O’Meara’s excellent record with other peoples cast offs has to be part of the staking plan.
The other horse I like is Marco Botti’s bottom-weight Rainbow Fire who bumped into the smart all-weather performer Kingdom Come at Kempton 24 days ago and with that run behind him can run well back on the turf off of just a 3lb higher handicap mark with Neil Callan in the saddle.
RAINBOW FIRE 1 point each way @ 7/1 with Bet365 1/5th 1234
TUSCAN 1/2 point each way @ 14/1 with Bet365 1/5th 1234
All odds are accurate at the time of writing.
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