Match Book Imperial Cup Tips Handicap 2m Sandown

imperial cup oddsWith only 5 animals older than seven collecting in the last 70 years, this is definitely a heat for the less exposed, younger horse. In recent renewals weight has also played it’s part, as only one winner, (the now sadly departed London Prize in 2017) has carried more than 10-13 in the last 15 years. The Pipe family have an outstanding record in the race, with dad, Martin, leading up the winner six times and son David three. They have also managed to land the bonus, (£100,000 last year, on offer to any animal who wins a race at The Cheltenham Festival the following week) on three occasions, all of which has to make this year’s sole representative from Pond House, Extra Mag, of particular interest.

A 5yo son of the successful NH stallion, Kapgarde, Extra Mag has only been on a racecourse 4 times, and has quite an impressive 50% record. He won a modest maiden on the flat in the French Provinces before coming to Pond House last November.

david pipe imperial

David Pipe with father Martin

He made his British debut in a Wetherby Novices the same month, where, despite starting as an unfancied 14/1 shot, he had the race firmly in his grasp when unseating at the last. He made amends next time, despite some sticky jumping, and another stumble at the last, he comfortably won an Exeter Novices. Sent off the 6/4 joint Fav at Kempton six weeks ago, he had no answer to the Henderson trained, other co favourite, Precious Cargo,(Rec 7lbs) and was beaten by 3 1/4L. However, he did do enough to get into Saturday’s contest on the attractive mark of 132, leaving him on bottom weight of 10-0, (assuming top weight Call Me Lord takes up the engagement). With multiple entries for the 5yo at next weeks Festival, Family Pipe may just be dreaming of landing that bonus for a 4th time.

Nicky Henderson’s Top Weight, Call Me Lord, was only beaten a neck in last year’s renewal off a mark of 152, and has a tough looking task this time off an 8lbs higher mark. He did however earn that higher mark with a convincing win in a Sandown Grade2 over 5 1/2f further next time, beating Lil Rockerfeller by 16L. He made his seasonal debut in Ascots Grade1 JLT over 3m1/2f, and it looks as if connections feel that his future lies over staying trips, so Mr Henderson’s best chance of landing a second Imperial Cup, (won with the 6yo Daves Dream in 2009) would seem to lie with his second runner, another 6yo, Dream Du Grand Val.

Ex French, the 6yo failed to catch the judges eye in any of his 6 races over hurdles in his home country (placed three times) but since joining the Seven Barrows operation has won two of his three starts. Making his debut for the yard at Cheltenham in November, he put in a decent enough effort, finishing a respectable 6/20, despite taking a pretty strong hold, and some indifferent jumping. He was again pretty keen 72 days later when winning at Fontwell, but then had little difficulty landing the odds At Kelso last time, where he had the 119 rated Point Break (rec6lbs) 14L back in 3rd. His mark of 139 at the weekend, giving him a racing weight of 10-5, (so long as stable companion Call Me Lord stays in) looks very fair, and with entries in The County Hurdle and The Martin Pipe at The Festival, Dream Du Grand Val, (as low as 14/1 for The County) could be another with one eye on that bonus.

The Jane Williams trained Monsieur Lecoq has a very progressive profile, and following a pretty impressive performance over course and distance last time, deserves his place at the top of Saturday’s market. Making his handicap debut on a mark of 122, the 5yo took it up before the 2nd last, after which the result was never in doubt, and the son of Diamond Boy, won by 9L from the 128 rated, Our Merlin, and had the 135 rated, Eragon De Chanay a further 8L back in 3rd. Saturday’s mark of 132, putting him on 10-0 (2lbs out of the handicap) looks very fair, and Lizzie Kelly’s 3lbs allowance will be an added bonus.

The Kim Bailey trained 7yo, First Flow, hasn’t been on a racecourse since being pulled up in last year’s Supreme Novices at The Festival, but had impressed in his previous race, when winning Haydock’s Grade2, Rossington Main Novices Hurdle by 10l from the now rated 157 Midnight Shadow, (2mHeavy). A strict interpretation of that form would make him look thrown in on Saturday’s mark of 148, (the runner up has since improved) but nevertheless, he does look attractively weighted on 10-10 particularly if the ground turns heavy and the stable is in good form.

Harry Fry has done well with the ex flat racer, Winston C who has won 2 of his 3 starts over hurdles for the Dorset trainer, including last time, when winning a Class3 Novices over Saturday’s course and distance 5 weeks ago. There is  nothing special about the form but he was giving the now rated 129 runner up 6lbs and with his talented trainer in form is worth considering.

The Fergal O’Brien trained 6yo Benny’s Bridge made his handicap debut a winning one when coming home 2 3/4L clear of Flash Of Steel in a Cheltenham Class2 6 weeks ago. The form has worked out quite well and even from 8lbs out of the handicap, if getting a run, (needs 2 above him to come out) could be interesting, particularly as there seems to be plenty of support for him in the Markets.

Selection: Monsieur Lecoq

EW.          : Extra Mag,  Dream Du Grand Val

John Gray

Peter Marsh Chase (Grade2) Handicap 3m1 1/2f Haydock

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Gold Cup - Cheltenham - 1981First run in 1981, 4 of the first 9 winners went on to collect Cheltenham’s Blue Riband,
Little Owl (pictured), Bregawn, The Thinker, and Jodami. However subsequent renewals have seen The Peter Marsh become the preserve of tough, established handicappers, and it is hard to envisage any of this year’s contenders (with the possible exception of Nicky Henderson’s recent French import, Valtor, who has ambitions in that direction) troubling the judge at Prestbury Park in March. West Yorkshire trainer, Sue Smith, with 3 successes in the contest, has the best record, and her sole entry this year,
Wakanda, is certainly tough, and wont fail for lack of experience.

A son of Westerner, and a half brother to the useful Irish pair, Shanahan’s Turn, and
Kings Song, Wakanda is certainly bred for the job and has won 7 of his 25 starts over fences. The 10yo put in an excellent effort 12 months ago when winning Doncaster’s valuable Sky Bet Handicap Chase off a mark of 145, staying on strongly, to get the better of Warriors Tale and the Nicky Henderson trained warm favourite, L’Ami Serge, in a close finish. His 2 subsequent efforts last term were disappointing, but both starts this season, 5th in a Wetherby Hurdle over an inadequate 2 miles, and a respectable 4th in a Grade3 Chase at the same venue 24 days ago, suggest that he may be nearing his peak. He is only 1lb higher than Doncaster on Saturday, and if turning up,
(also entered in next week’s Sky Bet Handicap) has to be seriously considered.

David Pipe won with the 12yo, Our Vic, 9 years ago, and fields 3 interesting looking contenders this time, Two 7yo’s, Ramses De Teillee, and Daklondike, plus the 10yo Vieux Lion Rouge.

david pipe trainer

David Pipe could travel to Haydock mob handed

While it is 23 years since a 7yo has won, both Ramses De Teillee and Daklondike have plenty to recommend them. The former, a winner of 3 of his 9 starts over fences put in a career best performance last time when going down by 1 1/4L to Elegant Escape in The Welsh Grand National 23 days ago, (Indeed might have won but for a bad mistake 4 out). He looks an improving stayer and may be capable of defying his 5lbs higher mark on Saturday. Daklondike has won 4 of his 8 starts, and also put in an excellent effort last time, sporting a visor for the first time, he won the 2m7f Tommy Whittle over the course 4 weeks ago. A length down at the last, he responded gallantly to Tom Scudamore’s driving, and ran on strongly on the heavy ground to beat Saturday’s opponent, Ballyarthur. He is 6 lbs higher at the weekend but should be well suited by the extra 2 1/2f, and as a course winner, (not every animal handles Haydock’s upright fences and clay surface) has plenty going for him.

The third runner from Pond House, the 10yo, Vieux Lion Rouge has become inconsistent. It is nearly 2 years since he last got his head in front where it matters. However, following wind surgery, he did run well to finish 2nd in The Beecher Chase, over the National fences on his reappearance, but then never looked at all interested  in The Welsh National 3 weeks later, where he was pulled up at the 20th. However, racing in the same colours as Daklondike, and as a double course winner, he is difficult to entirely dismiss.

Having joined Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard in mid November from France, the 10yo veteran of 51 races, Valtor, put up an amazing performance only 5 weeks later, winning a valuable Ascot Class1 Listed Handicap at odds of 33/1. Always travelling well within himself, and handling the British fences, which he was seeing for the first time, with aplomb, he came home 8L clear of Jammin Masters, with the 149 rated Benatar a further 1/2L back in third. A strict interpretation of the form I suppose justifies his 12lbs rise to 160, giving him top weight of 11-10 on Saturday, and if connections Cheltenham ambitions are to be entertained, a very prominent showing this weekend will be required.

The second Henderson runner, O O Seven was ending a 23 months drought when getting his head in front at Doncaster 5 weeks ago. Racing off a mark of 147 he stayed on well to beat Go Conquer by a head. There probably isn’t that much more to come from the 8yo, and off a 5 lbs higher mark on Haydock’s holding surface, Henderson’s best chance of landing the prize lies with his recent French import.

Colin Tizzard won last year’s renewal with The Dutchman, and relies this time on the lightly raced 10yo, Robinsfirth. A winner of 2 of his 6 starts over fences, he hasn’t been seen since winning a Cheltenham Grade3 off a mark of 142 13 months ago. He beat the now 137 rated Shanroe Santos, to whom he was conceding 15 lbs, by 2L, which makes his mark of 146 on Saturday look generous. He has solid course form, finishing 2nd on his only other Haydock appearance, goes well after a break, and with the talented Tizzard Team doing the training, the son of Flemensfirth has plenty going for him.

Selection : Robinsfirth
EW.           : Wakanda   (If Abs. Daklondike)