Imperial Cup day at Sandown and one of the biggest jumping occasions at the Esher course… our man on the ground in the UK Neil Morrice brings you his Best Bets for the meeting that provides the perfect curtain raiser to next week’s Cheltenham Festival.
Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle preview
Nicky Henderson sets a real poser saddling the established top weight CALL ME LORD as well as aspiring novice DREAM DU GRAND VAL and added to that puzzle is that they are both in the same ownership.
Dream Du Grand Val is however difficult to assess as he landed the odds galloping past trees at Kelso last time. This will be a different kettle of fish for Nico de Boinville’s mount.
In contrast, CALL ME LORD has the points on the board in terms of experience and although ultimately beaten a long way by Paisley Park at Ascot before Christmas probably found the three mile trip beyond him, whilst encountering traffic problems along the way.
His recent homework has brought a warming glow to the face of Henderson who is sticking to his policy of only running Daryl Jacob’s mount on right-handed tracks. He has a definite touch of class that is often required for victory in this two miler.
MONSIEUR LECOQ is another novice taking the leap into handicap company and has to be afforded the greatest respect in his bid to complete a hat-trick. He hacked up over this course and distance last time and with his conditional rider’s 7lb claim is getting heaps of weight from Call Me Lord.
FIRST FLOW attracted support in the ante post market in spite of having been sidelined for the best part of a year. He’s very difficult to weigh up, but his trainer Kim Bailey holds him in high esteem.
Neil Morrice Finish Prediction
1st – CALL ME LORD (Nap) – 8/1
2nd – Monsieur Lecoq
3rd – Dream Du Grand Val
4th – First Flow
5th – Malaya
European Breeders’ Fund ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final preview
Sandown Race 3 – 13:50 – 2m 3f 173y
One of the most competitive races of its type in the calendar, plenty come off the page with solid credentials but the one meeting the ‘safest option’ criteria is top weight ONE FOR ROSIE.
I watched the 6yo put in some spectacular work at trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies’s stables last week and can’t help but think he’s a bit out of the ordinary.
He travelled like a dream before sauntering home at Warwick, finishing in a manner that indicates this slightly longer trip and the final Hill will be right up his alley.
Stablemate MURATELLO is of interest granted that he looked the likely winner for much of the way at Market Rasen last time. The worry is that he appeared not to get home over that two miles and five furlongs yet this two and a half is at lest as demanding.
RUSSIAN HAWK is lightly raced and open to further improvement and there was no disgrace in his Ascot defeat by Dashel Drasher.
THIRD WIND hails from the Hughie Morrison yard and is another who is hard to assess given that it was in just a weak novice that he converted at Taunton last time. His position in the market is largely down to Morrison’s good record with this type of unexposed horse.
Neil Morrice Finish Prediction
1st – ONE FOR ROSIE – 7/1
2nd – Russian Hawk
3rd – Third Wind
4th – Muratello
5th – Boldmere