Paul Nicholls and Harry Skelton will be crowned champion trainer and rider respectively, the latter for the first time in his career, and they could team for a winner on the card at Sandown.
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1.55 – bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle (2m)
This is wide open, as the betting suggests. On To Victory didn’t fire in the Betfair Hurdle but efforts either side of that put Alan King’s charge in the mix. Pasvolsky, Flic Ou Voyou and Herbiers have finished ahead of ROYAUME UNI in recent runs at Kempton and Ascot but Gary Moore’s charge is progressing and, 1lb better off for a neck defeat behind Oliver Greenall’s charge latest, he can bag this off bottom weight and turn around that form with his fellow 4YO.
Selection: Royaume Uni @
2.30 – bet365 Oaksey Chase (Grade 2, 2m6½f)
King George winner FRODON was brave from the front on Boxing Day and, while the same tactics didn’t pay off in the Gold Cup last month, he was not disgraced in fifth there and this represents a sharp class-drop. Bryony Frost won this in 2019 on Black Corton and jumping will be a major asset for her partner here – not something that can be said of main market rival Mister Fisher, who has failed to complete in 3-4 starts this season and will really need to sharpen up in what is a tough test of jumping. Given that trend of incompletion, Born Survivor might be the one for the forecast.
Selection: Frodon @
3.05 – bet365 Celebration Chase (Grade 1, 2m)
Put The Kettle On made it 3-3 around Cheltenham when landing the Champion Chase last month but the mare needs to prove herself as effective away from the Cotswolds. Sceau Royal was set for a leading role in that race until nearly brought down three out, Alan King’s runner is a player. Greaneteen – fourth at Cheltenham – may want further. Nube Negra was second at Cheltenham and that was a nod to ALTIOR, the veteran superstar he defeated at Kempton over Christmas. Nicky Henderson’s charge was under the pump almost from halfway that day and it’s to his eternal credit he got second. Cheekpieces go on now and the three-time winner of this race can have a massive say over a C&D where he’s a perfect 5-5.
Selection: Altior @
3.40 – bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 3m5f)
Irish raider Plan Of Attack represents all-conquering duo Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore on their latest visit to these shores and has a chance, while Enrilo is unexposed and joins Kitty’s Light, Potterman and El Presente on the shortlist. They are all identified as such in the betting but maybe IRISH PROPHECY is less so. Emma Lavelle’s charge has form that ties in with El Presente and Potterman and won well over fences at Taunton (2m7f, good) in November, his second success in six chase starts. He’s 7lb higher now but will love the ground and had a spin over hurdles recently to sharpen him up. He also looks like he should get this trip and is each-way value.
Selection: Irish Prophecy @
4.15 – bet365 Select Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m5½f)
Call Me Lord and Younevercall have won the last two renewals of this contest and are players again, the latter set to benefit from a drop in trip and a return to good ground. Indefatigable and Pic D’Orhy are other likely sorts but maybe the market has overlooked CLONDAW CAITLIN in some haste. Ruth Jefferson’s mare was 3-3 over hurdles prior to finishing second at Newcastle (2m4½f, good) last month. She was attempting to lump a stone to the winner there and it was her first run in five months, so there’s every chance she builds on that. She must improve but is lightly-raced and capable of doing so. It wouldn’t be outlandish to see her bagging an end-of-season Grade 2 such as this one.
Selection: Clondaw Caitlin @
4.50 – bet365 Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase (2m4f)
Last-time-out C&D winner Farinet has to prove as effective on this much quicker surface from 9lb higher and therefore is taken on with KILLER CLOWN, who could cap a fine day for Emma Lavelle. He landed a good Kempton novice (2m4½f, good to soft) on Boxing Day by 7½-lengths from re-opposing Falco Blitz (6lb better off now/won next time) before a brave second in last month’s Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury having gone up 15lb. He’s inched up again now but is clearly still progressing and he looks primed for a big run.
Selection: Killer Clown @
5.25 – bet365 Handicap Hurdle (2m4f)
On the day they are crowned champion trainer/jockey respectively, perhaps Paul Nicholls and Harry Skelton can sign off this card with a winner together. Things haven’t gone to plan for SOLO since he won the Adonis at Kempton last year but he’s contested hot handicaps this season and is perhaps only now reaching a fair mark. He might also benefit from a slightly more aggressive ride, something today’s rider is adept at. Cascova shed his maiden tag in good style recently and might now start to make his own progress.
Selection: Solo @
*All odds correct at time of writing