With just a few days to go until the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, don’t expect to see any big-name horses in action on Saturday. However, Seymour Biz still has four terrific Lucky 15 selections for your weekend bet.
We have a good pre-Cheltenham meeting at Sandown to look forward to this weekend with ITV covering four races. They are also turning their attention to the all-weather meeting at Wolverhampton, to cover a Lincoln trial. I find this a bit of a shame really, this week is about National hunt racing and their programme should be dedicated to that, it would have been nice for them to turn their cameras onto Hereford for a change. This is a course that has only recently come back onto the calendar and they could have done with the limelight after putting on a nice little meeting prior to the big meeting just down the road at Cheltenham, the TV people could have shown what a country meeting has to offer. And so this weekend l will turn my attention to the Sandown meeting that showcases the Imperial Cup, with its £100,000 bonus to the winner if it goes on to win at Cheltenham, that has certainly attracted some high class handicappers with all the top trainers represented and after that pot. We also have, unusually, for TV, a bumper which has also got some up and coming runners.
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We kick off with the European Breeders Fund Matchbook VIP National Hunt Handicap Hurdle at 1.50, this is a Class 1 race, and as you’d expect has attracted some top class hurdlers. At the top of the betting is Dan Skeltons Al Shahir, this horse has been front running in his races and will look to take the legs off the field . He has never been out of the first two in his races and recently has come up against some top class horses, he was second to Kalashnikov in November, then again second to First Flow at Lingfield, but found his feet when hammering the field at Towcester last time out. Indian Hawk won well at Warwick last time beating Lygon Rock by twelve lengths but had previously been well beaten at Ludlow. Harry Fry’s Melrose Boy was third here at Sandown last time and was unable to quicken on the flat. I like the look of Highway One O One who won easily at Fontwell on Boxing Day but he is also engaged in the 2.25 here at Sandown. There are several to make a case for but I will take Al Shahir to run them all ragged.
At 2.25 is the Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle and the blot on the handicap appears to be Fidux. Alan King is looking to collect the big bonus with this horse, but while he has been running well he has not been in the winners enclosure since January last year. King states “I’d love to see him on better ground, although I don’t think that will be this weekend”, I think that shows he doesn’t rate his chance too highly. I particularly like the look of Le Patriote trained by Dr Richard Newland, he won last time at Ascot and looks the class horse in this race. Whatswrongwithyou for Nicky Henderson is another chasing the bonus and is also on his hat-trick, but the handicapper may have his measure. Highway One O One could go well at a big price if he targets this race, but I will stick with Newland’s charge.
The 3.00 is the EBF Stallions/TBA Mares Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race and what we are looking at here is basically Point to Point winners. The horses entered for this have a profusion of winners enclosure visits, so it is very difficult to pick one out. There are some top trainers sending entries for this race but I can only highlight Willie Mullins’ Relegate, this horse has won both his starts most recently at Leopardstown, he responded well to pressure beating two horses who are entered here, so he is the selection.
Finally, we come to the 3.35, this is the Matchbook Racing Is Commision Free Handicap Chase and I go for a big outsider to take this contest. Vice Et Vertu has clocked up two wins this season yet is still low enough in the handicap to look very well weighted for this Class 3 contest. Henry Daly’s charge has won this season at Bangor and Towcester and ran third to Cloudy Bob last time at Taunton. He is a bit in and out, but I think he can have a good day looking at those who are at the top of the betting who have lumps of weight to carry. Tanit River from Tim Vaughan’s stable looks the danger to the selection, he won last time out here at Sandown beating three rivals who he will re-oppose, however he does run in snatches so could get caught cold. The other worth a mention is Amore Alato who runs for the first time since February 2017, he has won at Sandown in a Listed race and his participation should be noted, he could however be bit ring rusty, so Vice Et Vertu is the selection.
Sandown Lucky 15 Tips
1.50 Al Shahir
2.25 Le Patriote
3.35 Vice Et Vertu
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