The long road to Cheltenham has nearly been fully-traveled and the world’s most important jumps festival begins on Tuesday. Saturday’s cards are not the most exciting, but Seymour Biz has looked at 4 interesting contests and provides you with his Lucky 15 selections. Check out his guide to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the traditional Cheltenham curtain-raiser and get ready for a fantastic 4 days of action in Gloucestershire next week.
The quiet before the storm on Saturday when TV is focusing on an all-weather meeting at Wolverhampton and a jumps meeting at Sandown. The weekend before the blue riband meeting at Cheltenham is always somewhat nondescript as the best horses have been saved for the following week, however we do have the Imperial Cup and what currently looks like some large fields in the other televised races. Hopefully the large fields mean we may have some decent priced winners so there may be some value to be had. Here are my thoughts for the four races at Sandown.
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First up at 1.50 is the European Breeders Fund Matchbook VIP National Hunt Novices Handicap Hurdle Final. The top weight and current favourite is One For Rosie from Nigel Twiston-Davies’s yard. The grey has had a fine season to date winning two out of three at Carlisle and Warwick however he wants good ground and the forecast is for rain, that and being saddled with top weight does not help his prospects. Donald McCain’s The Some Dance Kid has won his last three but this is a step up in class and he has risen sharply in the weights. Nicky Henderson has a good pair entered in Mill Green and Before Midnight. The former won a couple of novice hurdles in the summer but could only manage third on his reappearance at Fakenham in February. Before Midnight looks the better option with a fine win at Taunton in January, however he was beaten by Senior Citizen last October. Alan King says of Senior Citizen, “This has been his target for quite a while. I was pleased enough with his last race at Market Rasen, the greater emphasis on stamina at Sandown will suit him better.” That said I will take King’s charge to take this contest.
The Matchbook Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle is at 2.25 with Monsieur Le Coq from Jane Williams’s yard is near the head of the betting. He is on a hat-trick after fine wins here at Sandown and Ffos Las, but he is out of the handicap here and would have to improve considerably to take this. Last year’s second Call Me Lord really loves this track having won here three times for trainer Nicky Henderson. But he has got lumps of weight and may have to settle for a place once again. First Flow is having his first race since being pulled up in the Supreme Novices last year, but I think he is best watched at this stage in his career. Winston C has won his last two for trainer Harry Fry, but even though his latest victory was here at Sandown this is a major step up for him. Paul Nicholls is carrying all before him at present and he has Malaya in the lineup. This horse came from France in 2017 with a massive reputation and hopes were high for him after a win at Wetherby that year. He came so close on several occasions finally getting his head in front last March at Ascot. He fell in his first two races this year but returned to form last time at Ascot finishing a close up fourth to Brio Conti. Nicholls’s charge is a class act and this drop in trip will suit him and he can take this.
At 3.00 we have the unusual case of a National Hunt Flat Race taking centre stage. This Standard Open Series Final has some classy horses involved from top stables including one from across the water. That is Gordon Elliot’s Daylight Katie, the current second favourite, who won by 8 lengths last time at Gowran Park. She absolutely hammered the rest of the field that day and is a worthy fancy. That said, there are plenty of others with chances including Alan King’s Eyes Right who ran a fair fourth at Ascot last time in a race where several of these were involved. The winner that day is the favourite here, Silver Forever, a Paul Nicholls trained mare, she will relish the promised rain but is not unbeatable. Second that day was Mystic Dreamer and that was a fine run on her racecourse debut. Another contender is Misty Whisky, trainer Harry Fry spoke well of her after her Ludlow victory but I will side with Elliot’s charge to take this.
3.35 sees the Matchbook “Best Value Exchange” Handicap Chase and top weight Strong Pursuit is among the favourites. Phillip Hobbs’s gelding won well at Newbury in November then had a break before coming here to Sandown running third behind Venetia Williams’s Achille who asserted himself to take the honours. Joint top weight is Ami Desbois from Graeme McPherson’s yard, he ran a good second one here in early February on one of his rare excursions south of the Watford Gap. But he hasn’t won for 15 months and I can’t see him improving on that here. Carlos Du Fruitier won last time here at Sandown last month in an amateur riders contest, this may be a different matter. The one I like is Lough Derg Farmer who also won last time out. That was at Carlisle and Sue Smith’s charge has been running well and has been in the frame on his last five occasions, he is my idea of the winner here.
Saturday Lucky 15
1.50 Senior Citizen
3.00 Daylight Katie
3.35 Lough Derg Farmer
You can find all previous analysis and previews from Seymour Biz in his weekly Saturday Horse Racing Tips column on EveryTip.co.uk.