Our racing guru is eyeing up a couple of Sandown runners.
Sandown’s card on Saturday offers a chance to boost the coffers for Cheltenham and the feature Imperial Cup over 2m is potentially the most lucrative with bookmakers going 4/1 the field.
There are 15 to choose from – sadly that means there are only three places up for grabs – and you can make a good case for 11 of them, though it could pay to stick with the most obvious one in the shape of the Harry Whittington-trained AFFAIRE D’HONNEUR.
He’s favourite I know but rightly so as he has posted solid placed efforts on his two British starts since coming over from France, and was perhaps unlucky not to finish closer than fourth in the ultra-competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last time. That race turned into a bit of a farce after a false start meant the runners had to regroup in a straight line, and the selection was left standing when the tape went up, which effectively ended his chance in a race dominated by prominent runners.
It was to his credit then that he made up so much ground under a cool ride from Gavin Sheehan (who is back on board today) to finish fourth of the 22 runners. The handicapper has bumped him up a 1lb (a bit naughty) but this unexposed sort is undoubtedly still well treated on a mark of 133 and it helps his chance no end that the class act in the race Rayvin Black is lining up under top weight as he has just 10st 10lb to carry.
His trainer is having a dream season with a strike rate of 22% over hurdles and is in form with a couple of winners and a place to show from his six runners in the last fortnight. He’ll be ruing the fact there is no bonus this year for a horse winning this race and following up at the Cheltenham Festival, but he wouldn’t have known that for long and he’s likely been plotting a stab at this race with a view to picking up a penalty for next week’s County Hurdle.
The selection is a 14/1 shot for that with BetVictor and that’s perhaps worth throwing a few quid at, but the bulk of the money should be on the same firm’s 9/2 to land this prestigious prize and a first prize of just shy of £40k.
The EBF Final run earlier on the card (due off 2.00pm) looks if anything even more competitive and Ben Pauling’s PADDY’S FIELD is a speculative choice at big odds. His third in a novice at Warwick last time (when sent off 7/4 favourite) doesn’t look strong form at first glance, but the ground was perhaps faster than ideal – some jockeys were calling it “good” – and it became more of a speed test, which wouldn’t have suited this staying type.
As a son of Flemensfirth, he’s got three-mile chaser written all over him but that didn’t stop him winning over 2m2f at Market Rasen on his penultimate start and today’s conditions (heavy ground, strong pace) are going to place the emphasis on stamina. He has that in spades and he’s also at the right end of the weights on 10st 12lb and enjoys a huge pull in the weights with Will O’ The West, his conqueror last time. All of which makes Coral’s 20/1 look a shade generous.