We've run the rule over all seven races at Sandown on Saturday, when all eyes will be on the retiring Tony McCoy
The curtain comes down on the jumps season with a competitive seven-race Sandown card and there won’t be a dry eye in the house if Tony McCoy can go out on a winner.
2.00: bet365 Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, 2m110y
A tricky opener for punters with several holding chances. Lil Rockerfeller got off the mark over hurdles in a decent Ascot at Newbury last time and he may have more to offer. However, he’s worse off at the weights with ALZAMMAAR, who finished less than four lengths behind him at Doncaster in February and now enjoys an 8lb pull. Warren Greatrex’s charge has since won at newbury, where he clearly appreciated the better ground, and he’s taken to build on that here.
2.35: bet365 Oaksey Chase (Listed), 2m6f
Plenty of the runners have question marks over them having disappointed for a variety of reasons, including the forecast favourite AL FEROF (11/4 Coral). He was a distant fourth in the Melling Chase last time but that’s not the first time he’s disappointed at Aintree – beaten at 6/5 in a novice chase there in 2012 – and he could easily bounce back at the scene of his Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase success in 2012. He looked as good as ever when winning at Ascot in November and all ground comes alike to him. His trainer Paul Nicholls has a fantastic record in non-handicap chases at the track, with 12 of of his 26 runners since the start of 2013 obliging for a £1 level-stakes profit of £16.80. Last year’s winner Menorah ran no sort of race last time out in the Bowl at Aintree, where he’s gone well in the past, and he could be ready for his summer break.
3.15: bet365 A P McCoy Celebration Chase, 2m
The retiring Tony McCoy takes the first of his two rides on his final day in the saddle in a race named in his honour. Mr Mole would be a fitting winner for the soon-to-be 20-times champion jockey but it’s a worry that all his best form has come on ground much softer than today’s. Indeed, he couldn’t hack a good-ground Champion Chase and it’s hard to see him overturning the form with the second and third in that race, Somersby and SPECIAL TIARA (4/1 Ladbrokes). The latter horse has just under two lengths to find and he arrives here in better form than when finishing third in this race 12 months ago. A bold-jumping front-runner, he could take some catching around here, although Somersby looks sure to be on the premises again. Sprinter Sacre would demolish these if back to his best, but he has plenty to prove after pulling up at Cheltenham.
3.50: bet365 Gold Cup Chase, 3m5f110y
I’ve previewed this race elsewhere on this site, with the vote going to Irish raider GRAND JESTURE. He’s a 10/1 shot with the sponsors bet365 who are one of just two firms (the other being Paddy Power) paying on on five places. Don’t bet anywhere else!
4.25: bet365 Handicap Hurdle, 2m4f
All eyes will be on BOX OFFICE, McCoy’s final ride before he hangs up his boots. It’s great that he’s going out in one piece given his catalogue of injuries and it’s great that he’ll still be involved in racing so we’ll still hear plenty of him. However, he’s been one of my heroes for a long time now and I will sorely miss him. It would be great if he did go out on a winner and, while he couldn’t have picked a harder race to do it in, I’m going put up the four-year-old as the winner, even though he’s unlikely to offer any value – he could go off shorter than the current 4/1 on offer at bet365. That’s not just a sentimental tip either as he showed decent form when trained in France and hinted at Aintree last time, when 7th of 21, that he needed stepping up to this sort of trip.
5.00: bet365 Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase, 2m4f110y
Emotions will be running high in this race too if Nick Gifford can produce Generous Ransom to land a contest named in honour of his late father. He’s not without a chance, but he has his share of weight and I’m not sure he can 13lb to THE OULD LAD. Tom George’s runner was my fancy for the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival but a bad mistake three out cost him any chance there, and he was heavily eased after. The handicapper has dropped him 3lb to what looks a lenient mark of 127 and this sort of trip over a stiff track like Sandown looks ideal, with no worries over the drying ground. The stable has been in excellent form of late.
5.35: bet365 Select Hurdle, 2m6f
Bayan would have found the ground too soft at Musselburgh last time and should be far more competitive here. He does carry a penalty, though, and the concession of 7lb to POLLY PEACHAM may prove beyond him. Nicky Henderson’s mare is not far off top class when she get her conditions, as she showed when splitting Glen’s Melody and Bitofapuzzle in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. She was beaten a short head in this race 12 months ago by Southfield Theatre and she can exact a revenge of sorts by beating that horse’s half-brother Southfield Vic, who is chasing a four-time but may find this trip on the short side on the prevailing good ground.
Good luck with your Sandown bets!