Despite a couple of flat races filtering into the mix in today’s coverage our main action hails over the jumps at Sandown where we open proceedings with a very open looking Class 2 hurdle.
With a whopping 20 horses set to lineup I’m throwing two horses in to the mix, the first of which is Taxmeifyoucan. Two starts back Keith Dalgleish’s charge finished a few lengths ahead of the subsequent Grade 3 winning Sam’s Gunner. That form looks like some of the best on offer and although somewhat disappointing on his return at Kelso may come on for that recent effort. At around the 20/1 mark odds wise he seems generously priced.
The other one that makes our shortlist is the bottom weight Grapevine. One of the lightest raced horses in the field and with that has bags more room for improvement. A win on soft ground in his penultimate start shows he should handle conditions and hailing from a top yard demands respect. If he can get to grips with tackling obstacles this former Charlie Hills horse may do a lot better than the bookmakers think.
Of the rest Mont Des Avaloirs is bound to go close but having the burden of top weight won’t make today’s task any easier and if Notre Ami has progressed further may be another runner that can outshine his odds.
As with Leicester later this afternoon the ITV camera’s turn up to Haydock for just the one contest. The second race on the card sees one of our recent Racing Post Nap’s Mjjack return to action after a very impressive success at Newmarket. The Karl Burke trained runner is likely to come on for that run but with a hike in weights today’s task looks much tougher and an each way alternative looks the more sensible way to go for punters.
Former course and distance victors Calder Prince and Amazour deserve a second look in the betting but with neither having the greatest form on soft ground only a minor role looks more likely,
The horse I’m left selecting is Robero who claimed the biggest success of his career when winning the Britannia at Ascot last season. He has conditions to suit and should go well at a big price.
Two of today’s big graded races from here at Sandown are dominated by short priced Nickey Henderson favourites. Top Notch was a tad disappointing when last seen but missing the major festivals may well be just what the doctor ordered. With fresher legs he should dominate a field like this and although the boring choice is very much the obvious one to side with.
For those punters who may want to dip their toe in to the market and look for a forecast then the Paul Nicholls trained Art Mauresque is my idea of the one to follow the favourite home and finish best of the rest.
TOP NOTCH (WIN)
Our one and only trip to the Midlands allows us to take in this seven furlong listed race.
Emmaus is the most interesting contender as the lightly raced four year old has claimed victory in two of his three starts to date. Returning to action after nearly 200 days away from racing it’s hard to say at what level the horse is at but by all accounts he’s working well at home. Roger Varian has his horses in great form recently but it’s hard to side with a horse at such short odds who has a tonne of question marks over his head.
A horse returning after an even bigger layoff is Lahore but with great form on soft going it may be worth taking the chance for each way punters. A likely player but as with the favourite it’s hard to overlook the lack of a recent run.
Ryan Moore travels over here from Ireland and picks up the ride on Jallota. Despite being aged seven he still seems to retain a tonne of ability and put in a good effort on his seasonal reappearance last year. With Moore in the saddle he’s definitely in with a chance and at a current each way price gets the nod.
As with the previous race at Sandown we’re once again presented with a Nicky Henderson “shorty”. There’s no doubt that Altior is very much in the running for the title of “Jumps Horse Of The Season” and it’s difficult to make much of an argument to say why he shouldn’t be. The Champion Chase winner has far less in the way of competition to deal with here and although it’s probably a kiss of death it’d be an almighty shock to see anything but an Altior victory.
As we have to cover every race broadcast on ITV I’ll be tipping Altior for the win but for those that are interested I feel it’ll be former course and distance winner Special Tiara who takes the silver medal spot.
The showpiece race of the afternoon is the highly prestigious and historic bet365 Gold Cup.
Top weight and likely favourite Blaklion was highly rated for this years Grand National but was brought down when travelling nicely. If the Aintree extravaganza hasn’t taken too much out of him he’s likely to be a big player once again today but in such a gruelling contest the eleven stone and twelve pounds he’s having to carry may take its toll.
There’s a handful of chasing veterans in this years field and two of them catch the eye.
Houblon Des Obeaux was another Grand National faller who, although at the back, travelled nicely enough around Aintree until falling at Beechers. A former course winner who continues to tumble down the weights and although his advancing years may well be starting to have its affect if he still retains some of his best could spoil the party.
As with Houblon Des Obeaux there’s another eleven year old in the race who also gets the nod. Theatre Guide has been a shadow of his former self this year but has a good record around Sandown. He finished third in the race last year and has less weight to carry this time around. It’s interesting to see that he’s the first pick for jockey Paddy Brennan and place money looks a distinct possibility.
At similarly big odds both Present Man and Band Of Blood are worth noting and if you see money come in for either of them has to be worth a watching brief.
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (E/W)
THEATRE GUIDE (E/W)
TODAY’S NAP: (15:30 Ripon) – DOMINATING
Written by Rory Paddock