The highlight of Sandown’s card today is the Grade One Totepool Challenger Novice Chase over two and a half miles.
Best of a Bad Lot?
While the roll of honour for the fixture includes Best Mate, there is nothing of that quality in the line up here this year. The leader on ratings and current favourite is Medermit from Alan King’s yard.
Having shown high class form over hurdles, the grey has had mixed fortune over the larger obstacles. His most recent run was a close defeat in a Grade Two over 2m 5f around Cheltenham, and that sets the standard here. However, he showed signs of temperament earlier in the season when refusing a fence at Huntington and for all his ability he isn’t always the easiest to get in front.
In a close race on betting; cases can be made for almost all of his eight rivals. Reve de Sivola is a dual Grade One winner over hurdles, but has failed to take to fences with the same gusto. Improvement may be coming though. JP McManus’ Rock Noir won the French Championship hurdle for juveniles two seasons ago, and is another that doubtlessly possesses some talent. Paul Nicholls has been responsible for four of the last five winners, and saddles Rebel du Maquis here. He has lots to make up on Reve de Sivola on past running, and he seems to be down the pecking order in the champion trainer’s novices.
Nicky Henderson’s Nadiya de la Vega receives a handy weight allowance, and she is unbeaten since her arrival from France. The form of her victories is short of what is on offer here, but the young mare is definitely an improver. In races of this nature in recent seasons it pays to follow the money pre-race, and it may well be worth looking out for the movers coming up to the off.
Nicholls to Breeze Through
In the Totesport Masters Handicap Chase over three miles later in the card, it may well pay to side with Nicholls’ Take the Breeze. Having run a fine second to the talented Massini’s Maguire in a valuable contest in Ascot, a rise in the weights is negated by the booking of promising claimer Ryan Mahon.
This is a far less competitive affair than his last run, and his subsequent absence shouldn’t be too much of a worry with his trainer maintaining that he goes well fresh. A reproduction of his previous form would give him an outstanding chance.
No Such Thing as a Good Thing?
Two Nick Henderson trained Champion Hurdle candidates take in a trial race en route to the main event today; and the good news is they are almost certainly going to win. The bad news is that someone told the bookies that too. In the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las Oscar Whiskey is currently priced at a skimpy 1/5. That may look gigantic when compared to Binocular’s odds to beat his three rivals home in the Listed hurdle in Sandown; a decidedly ungenerous 1/12. The double pays £13 for a £10 stake.
But before punters seek to remortgage their homes and avail of the “free money” on offer they are asked to cast their minds back to this time last year when Cheltenham fancy Zaynar was sent out by Henderson to have a run around before the big day…and lost at 1/14.
In the Grade One novice chase Medermit has the best form on offer and isn’t too skimpy at around 4/1, but any gambles before the off should be noted in a race where many of the runners have scope for improvement. Take the Breeze seems poised to run a big race later in the card, and is feasibly priced at 9/2.