Super Saturday at Sandown
Lovely stuff at Sandown Park this afternoon. A meeting to warm the winter cockles, and all that rhubarb. Let’s have a look at what’s in store.
12.05 Unibet Juvenile Hurdle Class 3 2m
A small field of just four scheduled to face the starter. The Moore family run Bo Zenith, and he’s long odds-on to take this. This French import makes his UK debut today, and is pretty low in the betting for the Triumph at the Festival, so plenty is evidently expected.
Philip Hobbs runs Mombasa, for intrepid owner/jockey David Maxwell. Another from across the Channel, but this one has had a UK spin – a modest effort at Fontwell. Big shock if the Moore conveyance doesn’t win doing cartwheels.
Selection – Bo Zenith to win
12.40 Unibet Mares’ Hurdle (Listed) Class 1 2m 4f
Another ‘shortie’ is forecast in the betting – it’s presently 4/9 about Love Envoi for Harry Fry and Jonathan Burke. She won well here last time, and is hopefully Festival-bound. Stayed on well up this hill – a good sign.
Chief opponent appears to be Martello Sky (11/4), winner of this last year and after two runs this term could be coming to the boil nicely at just the right time.
Arguably this is her Festival-type target race right here, right now, and I’m going for what would be a slight but hardly earth-shattering upset.
Selection – Martello Sky to win
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.
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
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
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
3:35 Unibet Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) Class 2 1m 7f 216y
Tasty-looking handicap hurdle ends the card on Saturday, and boy does it look competitive. That talented 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 in testing ground 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
Enjoy a brilliant afternoon of high-quality racing, take care, have fun.