Cracking fare in front of the ITV cameras – EIGHT races live on Saturday
1:15 Read Nicky Henderson’s Unibet Blog Handicap Chase Class 3 2m 4f 10y
1:50 Unibet Horserace Betting Operator Of The Year Handicap Chase (GBB Race) Class 2 1m 7f 119y
2:25 Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (GBB Race) Class 1 1m 7f 216y
3:00 Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase (2022 Veterans’ Chase Series Final) Class 2 3m 37y
3:35 Unibet New And Improved Bet Builder Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) 16 Runners, Class 2 1m 7f 216y
1:30 Virgin Bet Handicap Chase (GBB Race) Class 2 2m 4f 35y
2:05 Virgin Bet Fives Handicap Chase Class 3 1m 7f 149y
3:15 Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle Class 3 2m 5f 82y
Can’t help feeling a bit obsessed with a certain meeting in mid-March. No change there then. Always the same, just after Xmas and New Year. Thoughts stray Gloucestershire-way … just over nine weeks, ish? Another of my tablets please, nurse …
Joking aside, all roads inexorably lead to Prestbury Park from here on in, and the greatest National Hunt Festival on the planet. In the meantime, what a brilliant afternoon we have in store, with the Tolworth arguably top of the shop.
Last year’s Tolworth hero? Constitution Hill. He’s done ok, eh? Let’s look at today’s races in greater detail, and try and find one or two that could go close, or even better.
All prices are at time of writing – markets can and do fluctuate between now and post time. Kindly check in at betfred.com for all the very latest.
Sandown 1:15 Read Nicky Henderson’s Unibet Blog Handicap Chase Class 3 2m 4f 10y
The decidedly-warm stable of Venetia Williams provides the likely fav in Gemirande (around 7/4). He appears progressive but this is a step up, and Sandown’s chase track is certainly an exacting test.
Finding one with promise to pressure the probable market leader isn’t easy though, but Lydia Richards’ Certainly Red (circa 7/1) might just fit the bill. Impressive in a career-best at Wincanton last time, at nine years young there shouldn’t be too many mysteries being unveiled, but the ability to stay further than this trip (he does) on ground with give should be a real advantage.
Selection – Certainly Red to win.
Wincanton 1:30 Virgin Bet Handicap Chase (GBB Race) Class 2 2m 4f 35y
Lovely little race for a nice pot. 5/2 the field-ish, only six slated to face the starter, but lots of live chances. The Tizzards’ Elixir De Nutz returned to form last time with a grand effort at Donny, and at 9/2 is value in my eyes.
Celebre D’Allen trades at around 5/2 presently, and was a beaten fav on reappearance at Warwick. His mid-season form from last term puts him bang in this picture, no doubt about it.
Alan King and Paul Nicholls are among trainers providing interesting opposition (Messire Des Obeaux and Magic Saint respectively), but both must overcome long lay-offs.
Tizzard-time, methinks ..
Selection – Elixir De Nutz to win
Sandown 1:50 Unibet Handicap Chase (GBB Race) Class 2 1m 7f 119y
Seven scheduled to line up here, and another 5/2 the field potential value-fest IF you can find the right one. Three course-and-distance scorers head the betting in Corrigeen Rock, Grey Diamond and Freo Banbou.
Sandown is certainly a track that needs some knowing, with stiff fences and that unforgiving, stamina-sapping hill to finish. ‘Corrigeen’ was impressive last time here, has a nice racing weight of 11st 1lb, and is a Lucinda Russell raider all the way from Perthshire. I’m prepared to take the hint.
Selection – Corrigeen Rock to win
Wincanton 2:05 Virgin Bet Fives Handicap Chase Class 3 1m 7f 149y
Venetia again holds a bright chance here with Desque De L’Isle. Goes for a three-timer, but has the handicapper now got this admirable ten-yr-old where he wants him? I like Not Available, (9/2), who ran with great credit at Newbury last time.
Staying on nicely after losing his pozzie, this son of Milan might be ready to strike for the combo of Matt Sheppard and jockey Tom Bellamy. Of the others I like Another Crick (5/1), a course-and-distance scorer who should give a good account.
Selection – Not Available to win
Sandown 2:25 Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (GBB Race) Class 1 1m 7f 216y
Always a treat – and after Constitution Hill’s romp last year, added interest to boot. Three horses dominate the market, after which it’s 11/1 bar. Is it that cut and dried?
7/4, Authorised Speed. Trained by Gary Moore, ridden by son Jamie. Won its last couple, including a novice here at Sandown. Tahmuras represents P Nicholls/H Cobden, is around a 9/4 shot, and arrives in peak order after a career-best at Haydock in November. Only around a 20/1 shot for the Ballymore at the Festival.
Arctic Bresil (3/1) raids from Ireland (De Bromhead/Blackmore), and steps up after taking a little Cork maiden with minimal fuss. Could, frankly, be anything, and has another 20/1 Ballymore quote to his name. What a hot race this could be!
There could of course be an upset, but I think the winner will come from these three. Of the trio I’m most taken with Tahmuras who saw out a testing trip at Haydock in style and that resolution will be needed up that nasty old hill.
Selection – Tahmuras to win
Sandown 3:00 Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase (2022 Veterans’ Chase Series Final) Class 2 3m 37y
Some popular heroes we’ve enjoyed for many moons clash here. Big field, wide-open, and we’re paying five places each-way. What’s not to like ..
Ramses De Teillee (5/1) romped home at Warwick in November – a terrific effort. Represented something of a return to form, and if in similar mood today will have a bright chance. Carries 12st though- something to consider, though he’s earned it.
Saint Xavier won a similar event at Haydock, and has the excellent, flying Lily Pinchin up top. At 8/1, of definite e/w interest. Ballyandy, (10/1), for the Twistons, is in decent fettle too. Runs with honour at some of the biggest tracks on the circuit, and testing ground holds no terrors.
Elegant Escape has enjoyed some very big days in the past – can he turn the clock back this afternoon? One to savour, as we salute some fabulous talents at the end of tremendous careers.
Selection – Saint Xavier each-way
Wincanton 3:15 Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle Class 3 2m 5f 82y
Kim Bailey’s Chianti Classico is on the upgrade all right and will be all the rage for this. Paul Nicholls runs Sir Psycho, an early Bangor faller when reappearing in November after a gap of two years. He’s only seven, so the master trainer must retain some faith in him.
Stoner’s Choice looked good at Kempton in May but hasn’t been as effective in three subsequent outings. All things considered, I’d much rather be with the proven recent well-being of Mr Bailey’s runner.
Selection – Chianti Classico to win
Sandown 3:35 Unibet Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) 16 Runners, Class 2 1m 7f 216y
Tasty-looking handicap hurdle ends the channel’s coverage on Saturday, and boy does it look competitive. That lady V Williams is again at the forefront with her Djelo, (10/3), beaten at odds-on last time at Haydock. That was over three furlongs further, but with Sandown’s hill to consider the potential stamina angle might put one or two off.
Harry Fry saddles Lightly Squeeze, (10/3), now nine years of age but an easy winner for his new trainer last time at Kempton. Paul Nicholls runs Iceo, just four years old and with very few miles on the clock. At around 11/2 his promise and chance to improve again is obvious.
Dr TJ Eckleburg is interesting – around the 8/1 mark – and possesses some very respectable form at the trip with give in the ground. Could come on for his November effort when placed at Leicester. Nice racing weight of 10st 7lb.
A tricky puzzle to solve, and it will surely come down to who wants it most in that uphill slog to the line after the last.
Selection – Dr TJ Eckleburg each-way
Have a brilliant afternoon’s racing, good luck, and as always, take care.
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