After such an intense period of high class racing Saturday’s fare comes as something of an anticlimax. However the finale at Sandown, a class 2 handicap chase over 3ml 1/2f with a guaranteed pot of £50,000. Promises to be a highly competitive and interesting affair. Favourite backers should beware as the ” jolly ” has failed to hit the back of the net over the last decade. Weight has been significant in the same period with no animal carrying more than 11st 6lbs to victory. Age has not been significant, with 7yo’s to 11yo’s winning. No stable has dominated over the past ten years, but the currently high flying Venetia Williams has had a winner and a placed horse from only seven runners. Gary Moore’s only entry in the same period was placed and the Nicholls yard has managed two places from ten runners. Philip Hobbs has had two placed from only three runners. So what of this years renewal?
Having won last year with the 7yo Katenko, Venetia is going for the double with the 11yo veteran Relax. A course and distance winner last Febuary, following a nine month absence, he reappeared at Chepstow four weeks ago, and acquitted himself well, finishing fourth 15l behind Rebecca’s Choice. Now racing off a mark 2lbs lower than Chepstow he is well worth considering, particularly if conditions deteriorate as he handles testing going well.
Despite some indifferent jumping, Paul Nicholls 8yo Unioniste made a highly satisfactory reappearance in the Hennessy Gold Cup at the end of November. Considering he was struggling in last place after fourteen fences he did well to finish in sixth, running on strongly through beaten horses. As this was his first outing for nearly eight months considerable improvement can be expected. He has yet to win going right handed but there is no reason to think that he will be inconvenienced by Sandown. The handicapper has been generous in dropping him 3lbs since Newbury so it is not difficult to imagine him running on strongly up the Sandown hill, so definitley one for the short list.
Leading trainer at Sandown Nicky Henderson runs top weight Triolo D’Alene. He looked to be a chaser going places when winning two good races in April 2013 and was as short as 10/1 when running in the Gold Cup where he finished 10th. He got as far as Beechers the second time when pulled up in the National,and was diagnosed with a breathing problem. He again failed to complete on his reappearance in the Hennessy, but as it was his first run since Aintree perhaps he can be excused, and coming from this yard it would be no surprise to see this classy animal involved on Saturday.
Winner of his last two races Philip Hobbs’s Bertie Boru is of interest. He stayed on well in a truly run race at Newbury ( 2ml 6 1/2f sft ) to suggest that Saturday’s trip will be well within his compass. Relativley lightly raced, he has been raised 6lbs for his Newbury efforts,but this still leaves him with a nice racing weight of 10st7lbs. As all ground comes alike to him, and he is effective going right handed, his prospects of bringing up the treble on Saturday look rosy.
Bob Buckler’s 8yo Tinker Time is two from two over the larger obstacles. He ran a fine race on his reappearance ( his first run over fences ) to beat Bucks Magic, jumping well over Kempton’s tricky obstacles. He went on to surprise much better fancied opponents in a conditions race at Newbury sixteen days ago beating Masters Hill and Easter Day. The handicapper has raised him 11lbs but it is unlikely we have seen the best of this very progressive animal. ( Interestingly, the conditions of Saturday’s race state that a horse such as Tinker Time, who has competed in only two chases, in order to qualify to run, must have been placed in the first four in both races. )
Tom George’s ex Irish What’s Happening with his light weight of 10st3lbs is worth a second look . He ran well last time over 3ml 5 1/2f at Sandown finishing third. He probably didn’t quite stay that day and will be better suited by Saturday’s distance. A winner of two chases,both going right handed in his native country, the weekend test may well be right up his street.
Course and distance winner Firm Order is stepping up in class, but with only 10st2lbs to shoulder he must be considered. Last time out he stayed on well to beat the 13/8 fav Handy Andy over course and distance, and has only been raised 3lbs, so it would be no surprise to see him involved at the business end.
A reproduction of vino Griego’s Aintree form in April, when just run out of it by Duke of Lucca, with Unioniste back in eighth would give him every chance. However he ran so poorly in the Hennessy, despite his excellent trainers good Sandown record, is passed over.
E.W : What’s Happening