Unibet Tolworth Novices Hurdle (Grade1) 2miles Sandown Saturday

nicky henderson oddsguru

Henderson saddles Son of Camas

Following the superb racing we have enjoyed over the holiday period, Saturday’s fare has a distinctly pedestrian feel about it, but Sandown, which hosts the only Grade1 action of the weekend, lightens the gloom a little with a pretty competitive looking field for their top level TolworthNovices Hurdle. Don’t expect to see a future Champion Hurdler on display at the Esher track on Saturday as the 38 runnings since it’s inception in 1976 have yet to produce one, but plenty of top class animals, including the mighty Desert Orchid in 1984, have graced the winners enclosure. Indeed more recently, the 2018 winner, Summerville Boy, went on to win The Supreme Novices, and the 2016 winner, Yorkhill, collected the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival. Nicky Henderson has won the race 5 times and Paul Nicholls 4, but the trainer with the best recent record, winning 2 of the last 3 renewals, has to be Colin Tizzard, and he fields another likely looking contender this time, the 6yo, Fiddlerontheroof.

Unplaced in 2 PTP’S, his sole success came in a Navan NHF race before joining the Dorset handler from Ireland in October. His first run for his new yard, in Chepstow’s Grade2 Persian War Novices Hurdle, (2m3 1/2f Gd/Sft Oct 11) was a highly promising one. Racing prominently throughout, he jumped ahead at the 2nd last, but was outstayed by the winner Thyme Hill, and was beaten by 2L. However, as the winner went on to win his next 2 races, including Newbury’s Grade1 Challow Hurdle, this was a pretty smart effort by the Tizzard horse on this his hurdling debut. Back at 2miles on Good ground for a Wincanton Novices 29 days later, he looked as if he would be suited by a stiffer test when going down by 3/4L to the subsequent Aintree winner, Edwardstone. He made no mistake next time, winning a 2 mile Novices on Heavy ground over Saturday’s course and distance very easily by 7L from the 128 rated Arrivederci, and if similar conditions prevail on Saturday, will be hard to beat.

The upwardly mobile trainer, Gavin Cromwell, will be hoping to become only the 2nd Irish based handler, (Willie Mullins won 4 years ago with Yorkhill) to land the spoils with his very promising mare, Jeremy’s Flame. The 6yo has won one of her 4 starts over timber, a Listowel Maiden on her hurdling debut last September, and has run well in her last 2 races, going down by 1 1/4L in a Mares Grade3 at Down Royal at the beginning of November, and again finishing a close 2nd, when beaten by the 138 rated Henderson Mare, Floressa, at Newbury 5 weeks ago. By the very successful dual purpose Stallion, Jeremy, there could be plenty more to come from the Irish mare, and her 7lbs Mares allowance, will also come in very handy on Saturday.

The market is headed by the Emma Lavelle trained, 6yo, Hang In There, and since coming to the Wiltshire yard from Margaret Mullins in Ireland last October, has won 2 of his 3 starts. Indeed if the market had it right, (he started a hot 1/2fav) he would have a 100% record for the yard, as following severe interference, he unseated at the first on his debut for the stable in October. Since that mishap it has been a case of upwards and onwards, with easy victories in an Exeter Maiden, and impressively last time, when taking a big step up in class, he landed Cheltenham’s Grade2 Supreme Trial Novices Hurdle by 3L from the 140 rated Pacify, (100 on the flat) 7 weeks ago. By the 4 times Ascot Gold Cup winner, Yeats, out of a mare that has produced the winner of the 3m4f Cork Grand National, Hang In There, could find Saturday’s trip on the sharp side, but he did show plenty of toe in that Cheltenham Grade2 heat, quickening impressively turning in, to go 5L clear, and putting the result beyond doubt. (Looks a big price at the 25/1 currently available about him for the Supreme at Cheltenham in March)

5 times winning trainer, N. Henderson, will be hoping to make it 6 with his contender, Son Of Camas. The son of Miler, Creachadoir, has only run 3 times, and was  sent off the 2/1 favourite for a valuable Punchestown Bumper on the first of them last April  where he finished last of the 19 runners. However, he has won both his starts since, a Newbury NHF race in November, and 3 weeks later a Maiden Hurdle in workmanlike fashion at the same venue. Saturday represents a serious step up in class, but Son Of Camas must have been showing plenty at Seven Barrows before that valuable Punchestown heat, and it won’t be the biggest surprise if he rises to the occasion.

The Fergal O’Brien trained Silver Hallmark won an Irish PTP in fine style 13 months ago, and in his first race under rules (2m1/2f NHF Newbury March 2) finished 7L behind the Paul Nicholls trained, triple NHF flat race winner, Mc Fabulous, but in his next race, 249 days later, making his hurdling debut, he beat the Nicholls horse by 4L in a Chepstow Maiden. The runner up hasn’t exactly advertised the form, (last of 4 beaten 15L in an Ascot Grade2 next time) but Silver Hallmark remains an animal of some potential.

Selection.        : Hang In There
Danger             : Son Of Camas

John Gray

bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase 3m5f Sandown Saturday

oddsguru bet365 gold cupSaturday brings the curtain down on another excellent National Hunt season, and having already banked well over £3,000,000 in prize money, The Master Of Ditcheat, Paul Nicholls, has yet another Trainer’s Title safely in the bag. However, as a man who has won Saturday’s valuable prize four times, he is not averse to adding another substantial Pot to his seasonal winnings, and of his 4 contenders at the time of writing, the 9yo, Give Me A Copper, looks the most interesting.

A winner of his only PTP, he made his debut under rules a winning one, easily landing a Cork Bumper in March 2016. Having moved to the Nicholls yard, he followed up with a facile victory in an Exeter Maiden (December 2016). Sent off a hot 5/4 favourite for a Doncaster Grade2 the following month, there was clearly something amiss, as he finished tailed off with the “also rans”but redeemed himself with a comfortable Ayr victory, 83 days later. He made an inauspicious start to his chasing career, unseating pilot, Sean Bowen in a Kelso Novice’s at odds of 30/100, but made no mistake when landing similar odds in a better race at Kempton 16 days later, easily beating the 135 rated, Three Ways. Having suffered a setback, he was off the course for 446 days, and despite the long layoff, ran an excellent race over Saturday’s course on his reappearance to finish 4th of the 20 runners (Sandown 3m Soft 2Feb 19). He was a beaten horse when falling at the last on soft ground in The Ultima Handicap at The Cheltenham Festival last time, but his shrewd connections have persevered with this stoutly bred individual, and back on good ground, up in trip, and going right handed, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if their patience was rewarded.

The Nicky Henderson trained 9yo, Beware The Bear, is improving at a rate of knots, and having made a decidedly tardy start to The Ultima Handicap at The Festival last time, finished with a wet sail on a mark of 151, to win by 1 1/4L and 2L from Vintage Clouds and the 155 rated Lake View Lad. nicky henderson bet365 oddsguruA 9lbs rise on Saturday looks quite harsh, but the son of Shantou has probably earned it, and, out of the talented, Be My Native mare, Native Bid, (won all 3 of her starts) he is from a good staying NH family, and should be well suited by Saturday’s trip. He could be the first, since Tidal Bay 7 years ago, to carry top weight to victory.

The Neil Mulholland trained 11yo, The Young Master, won this 3 years ago off a mark of 148, and following a couple of seasons in the Doldrums, has come back to form with a bang, and gets into this year’s renewal on a 6 lbs lower mark. He won 2 of his first 3 starts on Good ground this term, and having got stuck in the Newbury mud in The Ladbroke in December, ran another fine race last time out, to finish 3rd in The Kim Muir at The Festival. Obviously well suited by Sandown, if he gets his preferred good ground is definitely one to be interested in, especially as he will have the benefit of the excellent 3lbs claiming amateur, Sam Whaley-Cohen in the plate.

The Mark Bradstock trained 9yo Step Back won last year’s race on soft ground under an inspired ride from Jamie Moore. He took it up at the 5th fence and always in the first two throughout, drew right away after the 3rd last to win by 13L from Rock The Casbah. He seems to have been aimed at this all season, and even off a 10 lbs higher mark looks a danger to all.

Philip Hobbs has taken the prize back to Somerset on 2 previous occasions, and if
Rock The Kasbah gets his preferred good ground he could take his score to 3. He ran well to finish 2nd on soft ground last year, and on 2 lbs better terms on decent ground, must have serious prospects of reversing the form with the Bradstock horse. He had also run well in the 2017 renewal, finishing 2 1/2L behind the winner in 5th place, running on strongly on the good ground, and if Richard Johnson can keep him closer to the pace this time, could be interesting.

Nicky Henderson’s 10yo, Vyta Du Roc,  also finished with a flourish in that 2017 renewal, just failing to overhaul the winner, Hennlan Harri and is actually 4lbs better off with Rock The Kasbah who finished 2L behind him. However he has failed to fire in his last 3 races, but that said, they certainly know the time of day at Seven Barrows, and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see this current 25/1 shot, involved, particularly if the ground softens.

The Alan King trained Novice, Talkischeap, is very stoutly bred and could be well suited by Saturday’s trip. He was only having his 5th race over fences last time, contesting a handicap for the first time, he finished a respectable 5th in a valuable Sandown Grade3 off a mark of 145. He had earlier got to within 7L of the talented mare, La Bag Au Roi, giving her 7lbs over an inadequate 2 1/2miles, and had the 149 rated Lostintranslation, 6L back in third place. He looks fairly treated on 145, and despite his inexperience is a sound  jumper and has to be considered.

Selection : Beware The Bear
EW.           : Rock The Kasbah

John Gray

bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase Tips 3m5f Sandown Saturday


First run in 1957 under the sponsorship of the Whitbread Brewery, the race is now sponsored by the Stoke Bookmakers, bet365, and this valuable, always competitive Chase, which has been won by some of the greats of The Winter Game, brings the curtain down on what has been another terrific National Hunt season.

Nigel Twiston-Davies won this back in 2000 with the 7yo, beau, and will be hoping that his tough and talented Blaklion might achieve some compensation for his early departure in The Grand National a fortnight ago. Unluckily brought down at the first at Aintree, the son of Kayf Tara had made a good start to his season, finishing 1/2L second to his stable companion, Bristol De Mai, in The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November, and then putting up a career best performance the following month, when winning The 3m2f Beecher Chase at Aintree by 9L from The Last Samurai. Raised a severe looking 9lbs, he finished a distant second at Haydock on ground that was bordering on the unraceable in February to Yala Enki. His current rating of 161 leaves him with top weight of 11-12 to carry but his performances before Christmas showed him to be an improved animal this term, and it will come as no surprise to see this tough character involved at the business end on Saturday.

If Blaklion fails to do the business the Naunton yard has a strong looking second string with the 9yo Bigbadjohn. A winner of the Grade2 Reynoldstown Chase for Novices at Ascot in 2017 the future looked bright for the son of Vinnie Roe, but alas, his next five runs were most disappointing. However he got back into the winning groove at Kempton in February where, jumping soundly, he stayed on strongly over the three miles trip to beat the useful Brandon Hill by a length. He can be forgiven his fall at The Chair in The Topham Trophy at Aintree fifteen days ago and back on a more conventional track he doesn’t look badly treated on his mark of 138 giving him a lovely racing weight of 10-3.

A winner of his only PTP and Bumper, Missed Approach went on to win his first race over hurdles and indeed his first handicap over the smaller obstacles, (3m Soft) but his future was always going to be as a staying chaser and so it has proved. He has to date put up some sterling performances in that discipline, including a second to subsequent Grand National Hero, Tiger Roll in the 4mile National Hunt Chase at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival and a superb win over Mall Dini in the 3m2f Kim Muir at this year’s Cheltenham Jamboree. He has been raised 8lbs for that victory but still doesn’t look overburdened with 10-11 at the weekend, and I suspect we have still to see the best of Warren Greatrex’s 8yo.

The Philip Hobbs trained Rock The Kasbah, having got behind, stayed on strongly from the second last to claim 6th place, only 2 1/4L behind the winner Henllan Harry, in last year’s renewal when racing off a mark of 142. phillip hobbs oddsguruHe made his seasonal reappearance a winning one off the same mark at Chepstow nearly six months later, and was then pulled up on unsuitable heavy ground in his only other race at Haydock in January. A year older, and a stronger animal this time, who will enjoy the likely good ground, he looks well treated on his mark of 149, giving him a racing weight of 11-0, and is well worth considering.

The David Pipe trained 6yo, Daklondike, has looked a seriously progressive young chaser. He won over fences for the first time at Wetherby in November off a mark of 114, and only eight weeks later saw him winning The Mandarin Chase at Newbury (3m2f Heavy) in facile fashion from that good yardstick Grand Vision off a 19lbs higher mark. He looks very well handicapped on Saturday racing off a mark of 140, giving him the featherweight of 10-5 to carry and the only reservation I have is the ground. He has done all his winning with plenty of give underneath and it remains to be seen how he will cope with conditions at the weekend. However in his favour his very talented half brother, Great Endeavour had no problem with good ground and neither had the grand dam, Ross Gale.

One who will cope if the going is on top on Saturday is the Nicky Henderson trained Sugar Baron. A winner on Good/ Firm, the 8yo was 7th in last year’s race, only 2 1/2L behind the winner Henlland Harry despite some sticky jumping and a weak finish. Jumping better and finishing strongly over course and distance in December he just failed to catch Benbens off a mark of 135. He is easily excused his last run behind Missed Approach at the Festival on unsuitable soft ground and should have his optimum conditions at the weekend. Again racing off 135, giving him a lowly 10-2 to carry he has to be worth considering.

Selection: Rock The Kasbah

E.W. : Sugar Baron

John Gray

Preview: Matchbook Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle 2m Sandown Saturday

There are some very strong trends for Saturday’s Imperial Cup, not least the poor record of the more mature contender, as only seven horses older than six have passed the winning post in front in the last thirty three years. In the same period the lighter weights have also dominated, with only five carrying 11-0 or more to victory. The most successful training establishment has been the Pond House Operation of the Pipes with dad, Martin, winning on six occasions, and son, David, collecting three times. They have also been terrifically successful at targeting the bonus, (£100,000 this year) for doubling up with the winner at next week’s Cheltenham’s Festival, landing it three times, with Olympian in 1993, Blowing Wind in 1998, and Gaspara in 2007, all of which makes David’s contender this time, Friday Night Light, Of particular interest.

A 5yo son of Air Chief Marshal, Friday Night Light, won just one of his ten starts, (12f Heavy) on the flat when trained by Elie Lellouche in France, but since joining the Pond House operation last August, he has proved progressive over hurdles. He was successful off a mark of 111 in his third race for the yard, a Newbury Class4 Handicap, (Jan 17 Soft), and put up a decent performance two weeks later to finish second in a Taunton Class3 off a 10lbs higher mark. Stepped up to Class2 level three weeks ago at Ascot, (2m3 1/2f Soft) he was only beaten 1L by Saturday’s opponent, Le Patriote, off a mark of 123. He meets the winner on 3lbs better at the weekend, and with one eye on that bonus, (has two entries at The Festival) it could be close between them.

Another French import is the Alan King trained Fidux, and he also did all his racing in France on the flat, winning two of his nine starts for handler, K.Borgel, before joining the Barbury Castle operation in November 2016. He won his first two races for Mr King, lboth Novice Hurdles. He has drawn a blank in his eight races since, but did seem a tad unlucky unseating his 10lbs claiming rider, Kevin Dowling, at the last when looking the most likely winner of a course and distance heat, (Good/Soft) last November. The winner that day, Maria’s Benefit, is now rated on a mark of 147 and was receiving 7lbs, (Not including Dowling’s 10lbs claim) which does make the King horse look well treated on a mark of 134 at the weekend. He again showed his liking for the track a month later finishing 4th in a Class1 Handicap and can be excused his last run at Taunton,( 2m3f Soft) where he pulled far too hard. He wouldn’t be suited by testing conditions but if the ground is reasonable is one for the shortlist.

One who won’t mind testing conditions is the Dr Newland trained Le Patriote, and as his talented handler trained the 2015 winner, Ebony Express, he will know exactly what is required. Yet another French import, the 6yo son of Poliglote never raced on the flat in his home country but did win two of his seven starts over hurdles, both over 2m2f on testing ground, before joining the Newland yard last November. Taking a very strong hold on his first run for the stable in January, he travelled well but faded before the last (2m5f Kempton Soft) and finished 7th. He was a respectable 4th at Cheltenham a fortnight later but looked much more the finished article when winning that Ascot race from Friday Night Light three weeks ago( 2m3 1/2f ). He is 8lbs higher on Saturday but we may not have seen the best of Le Patriote yet.

The John Quinn trained 6yo Master Of Irony, rated 81 on the flat, won two of his first three Hurdle races last winter, and was second in the other, to leading Stayers Hurdle hope, Sam Spinner. He won comfortably at Wetherby in October and put up his best performance to date two months later, when getting to within 2 1/4L of the very useful High Bridge in the Class1 Gerry Fielden at Newbury. Improved for the addition of cheek pieces he doesn’t look badly treated on a mark of 133 giving him a racing weight of 10-7 and is worth considering.

Assuming Nicky Henderson leaves top weight, Call Me Lord in the race, his other contender, Whatswrongwithyou, will be left with just his original burden of 10-13 to shoulder. The very lightly raced 7yo has only run three times over hurdles, winning the last twice and getting to within a length of the useful Ainchea over Saturday’s course and distance first time up. He was quite impressive when winning his second race from that good yardstick, Ok Corrall, under a largely hands and heels ride, and as the runner up won next time out by 7L, the Henderson horse looks well treated on a mark of 139. It does seem a big ask for such an inexperienced animal to tackle such a competitive heat, but bear in mind that thirteen of the last seventeen winners were Novices, and seven of the last ten had run only five times or fewer over hurdles. Additionally Whatswrongwithyou had no problem dealing with the demands of a sixteen runner point to point, a race he won easily.

Selection: Whatswrongwithyou

E.W. : Friday Night Light

John Gray

Sandown Gold Cup Handicap Chase Tips

Sandown Gold Cup Handicap Chase Tips

bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase 3m5f Sandown Saturday – First run as the Whitbread Gold Cup in 1957, it was the first commercial sponsorship in British sport, and in its early years, the classier animal at the top end of the handicap tended to dominate. It’s first two decades saw five Cheltenham Gold Cup winners come home in front, but in the subsequent fourty years, Desert Orchid in 1988, has been the single winner of Cheltenham’s Blue Riband, to figure on the role of honour. Indeed it has become a contest where the lighter weights have had the better of the argument, with twenty three of the twenty eight winners since “Dessie’s” victory, carrying less than eleven stone. Experience counts for plenty with eight of the last ten winners having had a minimum of ten outings over the larger obstacles, and significantly all ten had a previous run within eight weeks of their victory. A win going right handed, and success over at least three miles, have also proved essential. Paul Nicholls with three wins holds the training honours with Henderson and Hobbs sharing the runner up spot with two each.

The latter’s sole representative, Rock The Kasbah, racing off a mark 8lbs lower than his rating over hurdles, (150) looks interesting. The 7yo has won going right handed, winning a Grade3 Hurdle at Ascot, and won a Chepstow 3m Chase on soft ground in February. He looked a bit one paced finishing second over three miles at Uttoxeter last time and could be suited by the step up in trip. Worth considering!

The 2016 winning trainer, Neil Mulholland is triple handed. He runs last year’s short head victor, The Young Master, fifth placed, The Druids Nephew, and the recent easy Cheltenham winner, Doing Fine. The first named races off the same mark but with 11-5, (including Walley-Cohen’s 3lbs claim) has 7lbs more to carry than last year and has been disappointing in his three races this term. The same can be said of The Druids Nephew, but with a 10lbs lower mark than last April, and with Noel Fehily riding, he is not so easy to dismiss. He was slightly hampered at the 19th in last year’s contest, so did well to finish 5th, 7L behind the winner, and I suppose 7th of 23 runners (although beaten 29L) at the Cheltenham Festival last time, doesn’t read too badly. However, Mulholland’s third contender, Doing Fine, with the featherweight of 10-03 in the plate looks to have the best chance of the trio. He had been a promising young horse for Rebecca Curtis, winning twice, and on one occasion, gave the useful Cogry, a run for his money over 26f at tricky Warwick in February 2015, before losing his way. The move to The Mulholland yard has proved a success. He went down by a neck, over Saturday’s course and distance, to the useful Rocky Creek in December, followed by a good second at Wincanton, and last time he got back to the winners’ enclosure, with that impressive win at Cheltenham over 28f, ten days ago. He will enjoy the good ground at the weekend, has won going righthanded and with his light weight will think he’s running loose.

Paul Nicholls, who after his Scottish National win last week, must be still entertaining hopes of retaining his Trainers’ title, also runs three. However with 11-12 and 11-9 to carry both Southfield Theatre and last year’s short head runner up Just A Par have a very difficult task indeed, so perhaps the Novice, Present Man (pictured top), represents the best chance of keeping the Master of Ditcheat in the title race. A winner of four of his eight chases, including a Doncaster 3m Grade2, he won at Ascot 27 days ago over an inadequate 21f, and as a son of Presenting, out of a Strong Gale mare, Saturday’s test over eight furlongs further, on good ground, might prove right up his street. With Jack Sherwood taking 3lbs off he will have a nice racing weight of 10-13, and looks to have plenty to recommend him.

Considering he is a double Grade2 winner over hurdles, and a winner at the same level over fences, Nicky Henderson’s 8yo Vyta Du Roc, looks very well treated on a mark of 137 which puts him in Saturday’s race with 10-11 on his back.

Horse Racing - Tingle Creek Christmas Festival - Sandown Park Racecourse

Vyta Du Roc looks well handicapped for Saturday’s big one.

He has disappointed in his last two races, (lost a shoe last time) but did run a decent race in the Hennessy Gold Cup when finishing 6th, nine lengths off the winner Native River off a mark of 143. Having avoided the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals he will strip a much fresher animal than many and is worth considering.

Paddy Brennan who usually partners Theatre Guide has jumped ship to take the ride on Fergal O’Briens Viva Steve. The 9yo looked good when winning at Ayr in November following a six-month break, but disappointed in his next two races. Perhaps he is best caught fresh, and following a nice nine week holiday, might prove the surprise package.

Selection: Doing Fine

E.W.         : Present Man

Racing Betting Tips Bet 365 Gold Cup 3m5 1/2f Sandown Saturday

Warren Greatrex

Warren Greatrex’s prolific scoring hunter chaser, Paint The Clouds will think he’s loose with just 10st on his back, having been used to humping around 12st and more in the amateur division.

The race was first run as the Whitbread Gold Cup in 1957 at the instigation of the Brewers chairman, Colonel Bill Whitbread, who as an amateur had ridden in two Grand Nationals. The first commercial sponsorship in British sport, the race continued under the Whitbread banner until 2002. The race’s roll of honour boasts six Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, Pas Seul (1961), Arkle (1965), What a Myth (1966), Mill House (1967), The Dikler (1974), and Desert Orchid (1988). Alas the Wonderful grey was the last Cheltenham hero to collect at Sandown, but perhaps the 2013 Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth may have something to say about that on Saturday. It is highly unlikely that the legendary Fulke Walwyns record of seven victories in the contest will ever be equalled, but Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, and Philip Hobbs, with two wins each, have certainly got a record to be proud of.

Henderson, who won last years renewal with the 7yo, Hadrians Approach, is represented on Saturday by his 2013 Gold Cup Winner, Bobs Worth, and has been given a real chance by the handicapper. Rated as high as 180 in the past, He races off a mark of 159 at the weekend. He has been very disappointing since his win in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in December 2013, but it is worth noting that the last time He ran on good ground, (2014 Gold Cup) He did run a decent race, beaten only 4L. It is interesting that his highly talented trainer is persevering with him, so perhaps Saturday’s less demanding test may bring about a revival.

Market leader, (9/1) at the time of writing, is the Emma Lavelle trained 7yo Milan gelding, Le Reve, and he does seem to have a lot going for him. Particularly well suited by going right handed, (5 wins 4 places from 12 runs) He has an enviable record at Sandown, where He has won twice, and been placed twice from six course appearances. He ran a fine race at Ascot in December, finishing 4L behind the very progressive The Young Master, and then beat that good yardstick Theatrical Star easily over the course six weeks later, off a mark of 139. Second to the talented Rocky Creek, (with whom he is 8lbs better off on Saturday) he was put away with the weekend contest in mind. He has never won on good ground, (only 2 runs) but his sires offspring like it, so it shouldn’t be an issue. A slight reservation would be the stables lack of form but with jockey of the moment Leighton Aspell in the plate He is definitely one for the short list.

With his exceptional record in the race, Philip Hobbs’s Duke of Lucca is worth a second look. This is certainly his time of year, with his last four wins having come in either March or April, and he will be well suited by Saturday’s forecast good ground. He stayed on with great reseloution two weeks ago over the Mildmay course at the aintree festival to deny Your Busy, and the Nicholls trained Wonderful Charm, by a nk and a nk. He meets Wonderful Charm on the same terms on Saturday, so if fully recovered from his Liverpool exertions, with only a featherweight of 10st. To carry (He is 1lb overweight) is worth considering.

Warren Greatrex’s prolific scoring hunter chaser, Paint The Clouds will think he’s loose with just 10st on his back, having been used to humping around 12st and more in the amateur division. He ran well in the Fox Hunters at the Cheltenham festival finishing third to the runaway winner On The Fringe. He couldn’t match Nora Carberry’s mount for speed from the last, but as the winner repeated the dose at Liverpool, it was certainly no disgrace. He is another animal who reserves his best for the Spring and Early Summer, (9 wins from March to June) likes good ground, and stays forever, so with his nice racing weight is another for the short list.

Henry de Bromhead’s 7yo Grand Jesture belied his odds of 25/1 when running the hugely progressive The Druids Nephew to 3 3/4L at the Cheltenham festival, off a mark of 143, on only his 7th start over fences. He ran like an improving stayer at Prestbury park, so off a mark only 4lbs higher and ridden by the very promising 3lb claimer JJ Burke He is well worth considering.

Selection: Le Reve.

E.W. : Paint The Clouds.

Racing Betting Tips Preview Betfred Mobile Heroes Handicap Hurdle Sandown

David Pipe Trainer

David Pipe’s Batavir heads the market at around 5/1, and certainly looks the pick of his two runners, as the second string Taj Badalandabad seems better suited by shorter than Saturday’s test.

Having been successful in three of the last ten renewals, Paul Nicholl’s two candidates bear close inspection. Last time out his 6yo Silsol ran as well as could be expected, when finishing 5th, (btn 18l) behind Rock on Ruby and co, at Cheltenham on New Years Day. Prior to that he had looked very progressive, winning three races in a row, culminating with a victory at Newbury off a mark of 144.

This was fully 20lbs higher than his previous handicap win off 124 at Ayr in April. Now raised to a mark of 151, one feels He can still be competitive, as stamina shouldn’t be an issue, (has won over 2m6f Newton Abbot) and is one for the shortlist. Nicholl’s other runner, the ex French 5yo Rothman is interesting. On only his 2nd racecourse appearance, in testing ground, he collected a £12,000 first prize at Pau in the French provinces, last January. He disappointed, when odds on for his British debut at Newton Abbot in April, and further disaster followed when falling at the first on his seasonal reappearance in November. He showed considerably more promise last time at Taunton finishing 4th 5 3/4l behind Pull The Chord. Although a 5yo has failed to win this over the last decade four have been placed, so coming from this yard, and with his featherweight of 10st1lb it would be no surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday.

David Pipe’s Batavir (also engaged Welsh Champion Hurdle Saturday) heads the market at around 5/1, and certainly looks the pick of his two runners, as the second string Taj Badalandabad seems better suited by shorter than Saturday’s test. Batavir, a French bred 6yo has been highly progressive since making his British debut at the end of November. He has collected a cl3 hurdle at Ascot (Dec19th 2m6f sft) of a mark of 119, and followed up seven days later with a win in a cl2 at Wincanton off 125 (2m6f gd/sft). Raised another 7lbs for Saturday, he still looks well treated, and has a nice racing weight of 10st7lbs. He is also entered in the Welsh Champion Hurdle (2 1/2mls) on Saturday, but the right handed track and distance of the Sandown race should be much more in his favour, so presumably he will be heading in the Esher direction at the weekend. Definitley one for the short list!

Neil Kings highly consistent 7yo Saffron Wells, ran one of the best races of his career, over the Sandown course last March ( 2m4f cl1 ) where he finished a staying on second on soft ground off a mark of 126. Back to the scene of that sterling performance it isn’t difficult to envisage him running another good race, but it has to be said, that despite failing to hit the back of the net since, the handicapper has been relentless, and he is now racing off a mark of 135.

Harry fry’s Polamco is another with a progressive profile. A winner of his last two races he is only 4lbs higher than last time, where he had Saffron Wells 2 3/4l back in third. ( Dec2 Newbury 2ml 5f ). He did race very freely, so ridden with more restraint on Saturday, although 3lbs worse of with Saffron Wells, he must have excellent prospects of confirming the form.

Despite mistakes three out and at the last, Emma Lavelle’s 6yo Junction Fourteen got to within 7l of Batavir at Wincanton, and is now 7lbs better off. He also holds another of Saturday’s contenders, Little Boy Boru on Newbury running in November, so it would be no surprise to see this son of Kings Theatre getting involved.

Fourth of four doesn’t seem like much of a recommendation, but the race that Foryourinformation finished last in at Newbury in November worked out extremely well, with the three animals ahead of him all winning next time out. The third horse that day, Tea For Two ( who was receiving 2lbs ) and 2l ahead of him, absoloutely hosed up in a cl1 handicap at Kempton by 16l and 1l from Little Boy Boru and Saffron Wells. A strict interpretation of the form would give Rebecca Curtis’s lightly raced 6yo every chance on Saturday, but he is more likely to take up his engagement in the Welsh Champion Hurdle.

Of the Longsdon two runners I prefer the stoutly bred Harristown, ( by Bering out of a Sadlers Wells mare ). So far he has been campaigned at shorter distances, and is bound to be suited by Saturday’s step up in trip. He wasn’t stopping last time out over 2m3 1/2f on testing ground at Lingfield where he was just held by Lightentertainment, who has gone in again since. He seems to handle heavy ground particularly well, so any deterioration in conditions would be in his favour.

Selection: Batavir.

EW : Harristown.