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13:15 Sandown

The recent form of the Paul Nicholls yard has started to cause alarm, with a few of his runners comprehensively beaten at short odds already this week, however, most of the multiple champion trainer's runners will have been having their first runs since the yard's round of annual flu jabs and one would expect normal service to resume before long. Double handed in this, Tamaroc Du Mathan ought to appreciate the drop in class although it is the apparent second string, Dolos, who makes most appeal. Twice a winner of this race and second on his two other attempts, he arrives with questions to answer but has slipped to a very attractive mark and Harry Cobden presumably fancies him more than his stable-mate.

Frero Banbou finally went in at Lingfield last time after a string of fine efforts, a winner over the course and distance and hailing from a yard in good heart, he clearly demands plenty of respect though this asks a little bit more under his six pounds penalty.

Bun Doran had the run of the race when reeled in by the re-opposing Gunsight Ridge here last time, strictly speaking there is every chance the Tom George trained eleven-year-old will get revenge off these revised marks though one suspects Gunsight Ridge has plenty of improvement left in him.

Moonlighter has a bit to find with a few of these but won last year's renewal off a lower mark, he could go well at fancy odds but a chance will be taken on Dolos bouncing back to somewhere near his best at his favourite venue and handing Nicholls a welcome winner.


written by Chris Connolly

13:35 Leopardstown

This Grade 1 juvenile hurdle is set to be a very intriguing contest. Fil Dor is unbeaten over hurdles and will likely come into this race as a warm favourite for Gordon Elliott. He has won his three races well enough and possibly his latest run was his best yet and he will be hard to beat.

I’m opting however, for Vauban. He got within half a length of the very impressive Pied Piper (who went on to land a Grade 2 at Cheltenham with ease.) That was his first outing and he is entitled to have benefitted from that experience here. Any amount of improvement on that opening run should see him go very close here.

Icare Allen and Ben Siegel are also capable of improving on their opening wins but will probably need to as the form of both races isn’t panning out well.


written by Tom Bates

13:50 Sandown

Guard Your Dreams won the Grade Two International Hurdle at Cheltenham, then placed third to Stormy Island in the Relkeel, the time after. He’s won over course and distance in heavy ground, when landing a competitive handicap last year. Moreover, the Twiston-Davies’ are in good form of late. However, he’s carrying more weight than when he defeated Song For Someone at Cheltenham and there’s the chance that he might find this two miles, on good to soft ground, a tad too fast.

Song For Someone has hit the post in both of his races this year, finishing behind the aforementioned Guard Your Dreams and Buzz. As mentioned before, he enjoys a six lbs swing, in his favour, against Guard Your Dreams, so you’d fancy him to reverse the placings here. He will enjoy the ground and distance but he hasn’t won over course and distance. Nevertheless, he’s definitely in with a shout.

Goshen has won over course and distance and should enjoy the ground. He probably would have won at Lingfield if it wasn’t for his temperamental antics. He might well enjoy going right-handed again and if he can find his form and sort his temperament out, he has as good a chance as any.


written by Kieran McHugh

14:05 Musselburgh These young conditional jockeys take centre stage in the third race on the card at Musselburgh this Saturday where we’re presented with a competitive veterans chase over 2 and ¾ miles.

If you’re a fan of siding with an in-form trainer then you’d do best than to look no further than any horses saddled by Charlie Longsdon. The yard have bagged three winners in their last six runners and their charge Glen Forsa looks to add to their tally. Prior to his last run the ten year old was competing in graded and listed contests so you’d expect he holds solid claims at this level. With a crack conditional in Lorcan Williams booked for the ride, racing over a trip that should suit and with a lot less miles on the clock than most of his rivals it’s hard to look elsewhere.

Olly Murphy’s Calipso Collonges has been ultra-consistent of late having only finished outside of the top three once in his last five starts. A very encouraging third in a better race than this at Haydock last time out should stand him in good stead and looks the most obvious threat to the selection.

Of the remainder jockey Alan Doyle looks a serious talent in the making and climbs aboard the Iain Jardine trained Cool Mix. With Doyle doing the steering it certainly improves the horses chances and should find itself finishing in the mix.


written by Rory Paddock

14:20 Sandown

Mister Coffey only just went down when finishing second to Jacamar at Kempton on Boxing Day. He has some nice form down the line and he’s the only one to have won at Sandown before. However, this is a much stiffer task and would require a remarkable step up in ability.

Pic D’Orhy won a Grade Two at Ascot last time out and could’ve been three out of three if he had stayed upright at Newbury. He commands a lot of respect and his hurdling form gives him even more of a boost. However, he could be the bridesmaid in this (presumably) two horse race.

L’Homme Presse has done nothing wrong this year. He’s unbeaten over fences and has been impressive in every race, none more so than when he won the Grade Two Dipper at Cheltenham by ten lengths. He has a lot of upside and his jumping has been near faultless throughout this year and there’s no reason for him not to make the step up to Grade One class.

L’HOMME PRESSE (WIN) written by Kieran McHugh

14:30 Wetherby

A disappointing turn out for this Grade 2 race, with just four runners and Ahoy Senor a short-priced favourite. A convincing thirty-length victor in a similar contest at Newbury in November (comprehensively beating Ashtown Lad who reopposes today), Ahoy Senior followed up with a solid enough second behind Bravemansgame in the Grade 1 Kauto Star on Boxing Day, however hasn’t always looked the most fluent over the larger obstacles and for that reason I am happy to take him on with Saint Palais. Harry Bannister’s five year old is unbeaten in three over fences, winning well over course and distance on penultimate run, and should find conditions here in his favour. Victories to date have come in lower grades, however he is progressing well so deserves to take his chance and for me offers a little more value than the odds-on favourite.


written by Dean Kilbryde

14:40 Musselburgh

Wild Max may start favourite for this event but will need to improve on recent efforts to take this. A repeat his performance at Doncaster, fourteen months ago, would see him go very close here but his current form is worrying and I would look elsewhere for win purposes.

Fiveandtwenty will also likely be very popular for this event as the mare does love it here. She will probably try and burn them off from the front but she isn’t exactly screaming out that she is well handicapped for this event.

Anna Bunina only finished half a length behind Fiveandtwenty in their run here last month and though she has been well beaten again since then, she may not have benefited from more prominent tactics that day, and I would be willing to give her another chance at a huge double-figure price to turn things around here with Tom Scudamore taking over the ride.


written by Tom Bates

14:55 Sandown

This looks absolutely brutal though Dans Le Vent produced a fair old rattle to claim a respectable fifth when last seen and this step up in trip looks sure to suit. Already a winner this season and now seven pounds above his last winning mark, there is every chance he has little margin for error though he should have a good clip to aim at and Isabel Williams claims a valuable five pounds.

Orbys Legend won a Pertemps qualifier at Wincanton last time and did so in impressive fashion, penalised five pounds for that, he is difficult to weigh up although he would have plenty of room for improvement and respect is afforded.

Green Book can be forgiven his unseat at Kempton as he simply had no chance of avoiding the carnage in front of him, twice a winner before that and apparently progressing at a rate of knots, he could bounce back though his mark demands more of him today.

Call Me Lord and Ree Okka make plenty of appeal of the rest but a chance will be taken on Dans Le Vant appreciating today's extra yardage and running on into at least a place.


written by Chris Connolly

15:15 Leopardstown

Kemboy won this last term and looks almost certain to make a good fist of defending his crown this time around. Eighth and beaten out of sight on his return at Punchestown was bettered in no uncertain terms when third here last time and that run really does look a top-class effort. Often there or thereabouts, the Willie Mullins trained ten-year-old will likely be very difficult to beat in what surely amounts to his seasonal target.

Frodon won last season's King George under an enterprising ride from Bryony Frost, a lot of people rather unkindly threw stones at the merit of that victory though he silenced the doubters when beating Galvin and Minella Indo at Down Royal earlier in the season and he can be forgiven for his Kempton effort (Went too hard) last time. At his best when able to dictate, Frost will likely attempt to make all and a terrific amount of respect is afforded to the Nicholls challenger.

Minella Indo has twice failed to fire here and was comfortably beaten by Kemboy in this last season, at his best there is every chance last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner is a cut above these though he is said to be a spring horse and his most recent effort was concerning. Attempting to guess how he will go here is something of a thankless task and he is taken on, on the basis of his form at this track and with a view to perhaps revisiting in March.

Asterion Forlonge would have his followers bald by this point, unquestionably high class, he certainly has the ability to play a part and is feared although his off-putting habit of failing to complete is a significant worry once more.

Delta Work is another former winner of this, he could go well at a decent price but his recent form is patchy and he needs to bounce right back to his best. Janidil, Conflated and Ciliaos Emery require a serious amount of luck to play significant parts and so the vote is handed to Kemboy in what looks a cracking renewal of the Irish Gold Cup.


written by Chris Connolly

15:30 Sandown

Deise Aba bids for a third successive victory in this race and should find the return to this trip and a sounder surface more to his liking after failing to finish in the Welsh Grand National in heavy ground when last seen. He’s 5lbs higher in his hat-trick bid but shouldn’t be underestimated.

Five Star Getaway and Linlee King both won in point-to-points over this trip, with the former also winning over three miles at Kempton last time out and the latter unlucky not to have made it two from two over fences, rallying well after almost going down four from home. Both look likely to continue progressing but for the winner we turn to Farinet who is two from two here at Sandown. Both those victories came over a shorter trip but highlighted his battling qualities and strong staying power in the finish, suggesting that the step up to three miles should cause no issue, and with both trainer and jockey continuing in excellent recent form he gets the vote.


written by Dean Kilrbyde

15:45 Musselburgh

There should be a fierce battle for favouritism between the Olly Murphy trained The Wolf and the Paul Nicholls runner Highland Hunter. The latter has been impressing over marathon trips this season although there’s just a concern for me that he didn’t really see the Welsh National out that well and that three and a half miles might be more his thing than this four mile test.

The Wolf steps up massively in trip here for his first attempt at a marathon distance and it has looked the way to go with him as he has been finishing his races off well. I am tipping him to go one better today and land the spoils here.

Mighty Thunder is an interesting runner who could get involved if reproducing the form he showed when winning this race last year. He was disappointingly pulled up in the Welsh National though and others seem better treated.


written by Tom Bates


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