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Category: National Hunt Racing (Page 1 of 13)

Great racing this weekend

We have some great National Hunt racing to look forward to over the next few days with the declarations ensuring that this an even better weekend than usual.

This is as much a reminder for me as anything so here goes:

Friday

Wetherby

14:05 Ahoy Senior (10/11) (one of the best horses Lucinda Russell has had for a while)

15:15 Porticello (11/8) (Gary Moore top prospect); Too Friendly (100/30); Sacre Pierre (6/1)

15:50 Magic Saint (9/2); Good Boy Bobby (11/4)

16:25 Larch Hill (9/2)

Uttoxeter

14:48 Flic Ou Voyou (9/4) (chasing debut for Nicholls)

Down Royal

13:10 Hollow Games (1/4) (a Ballymore prospect for G Elliott)

13:45 Party Central (13/8) (another top prospect for Eliott)

14:20 Zanahiyr (4/9) (leading Cheltenham candidate last season and potentially more to come – really should win this)

16:05 Arahecan (is the RP nap at 10/1)

16:35 The Mediator (5/6) (unraced for G Elliott)

Saturday

Down Royal

13:05 Fil Dor (debut for G Elliott – watch the market)

13:40 Mighty Potter (yet another interesting debutant for Elliott)

14:15 Charli Parcs (20/1) (not expecting anything from him (now with Aidan Howard) but may improve on 5th last time out). Hearts Are Trumps (22/1) is another who has lost his way but might just run into a place.

14:50 I favour a fresh Frodon (9/2) over Gold Cup winner Minella Indo (evens) at this early stage in the season.

15:25 Envoi Allen (4/11) should win this easily.

Wetherby

13:20 Gericault Rouge (7/2) a likely improver

13:55 Molly Ollys Wishes (100/30) is a confident selection and could have an exciting season ahead.

14:20 Paisley Park (9/4); Thomas Darby (7/2); Master Tommytucker (5/1 and interesting over hurdles). Take your pick.

15:05 Cyrname (6/5) on a redemption mission; Shan Blue (5/1); Fusil Raffles (13/2) my selection

Ascot

14:10 Boothill (7/2) an unbeaten and potentially exciting prospect

14:45 Editeur Du Gite (100/30) won the Red Rum and was followed home by Sully D’oc AA (6/1). A forecast for a repeat?

15:20 Vinndication (3/1) one to watch

Sunday

We await the declarations but races of interest include:

Carlisle 14:00 Chantry House, Fiddlerontheroof, Sporting John

Cork 14:25 Beacon Edge, Bleu Berry, Diol Ker, Run Wild Fred

Cork 15:00 Eleazar Des Neiges, Agent Boru

Overall, we’ll know a lot more after the weekend but it’s worth bearing in mind that, in Ireland, the Down Royal meeting tends to be a benefit for Gordon Elliott, particularly for debutants or near-debutants and WP tends to avoid it. My most interesting candidates?

Ahoy Senior

Porticello

Flic Ou Voyou

Hollow Games

Frodon

Envoi Allen

Molly Ollys Wishes

Fusil Raffles

Boothill

Chantry House

What a treat in prospect! Just for fun, a 9 fold on the Friday and Saturday selections would deliver a 10,000/1 return. Yes, of course I’ve done it! Much better odds than the Lottery.

I’ve also done:

Ahoy Senior, Porticello, Flic Ou Voyou, Hollow Games, Frodon, Envoi Allen and Fusil Raffles accumulator at 679/1

Ahoy Senior, Porticello, Hollow Games, Frodon, Envoi Allen and Fusil Raffles accumulator at 226/1

Ahoy Senior, Porticello, Frodon and Envoi Allen as a Lucky 15 for a potential return of £117.49.

Let’s hope that the first two at Wetherby on Friday deliver.

Good luck!

Chepstow 8 October

The Chepstow October meeting is, for me, the proper start of new National Hunt season and this year’s renewal is perhaps one of the best yet.

13:00 Novices’ Hurdle 2m 11y

We get off to a great start with a Class 4 novices’ hurdle but featuring unbeaten Knappers Hill making his hurdles debut after an impressive win in the Aintree Grade 2 bumper. Unsurprisingly a 1/5 shot.

13:35 Novices’ Chase 2m 7 1/2f

A four runner Class 2 novices’ chase and another potential star, this time in the shape of Threeunderthrufive (6/4) who, as the Racing Post verdict says, “is a very exciting prospect for the season ahead”.

So, we have a winning double before race three (I love the early season).

14:10 Veterans’ Chase 2m 7 1/2f

Some great names here – Geordie Des Champs, Potters Corner, Vieux Lion Rouge, Double Shuffle and Dancing Shadow. Not a strong view here but I’m just inclined towards Geordie Des Champs (9/2) to make it a three timer after a break of 113 days.

14:45 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle 2m 3 1/2f

The first Grade 2 of the season and, generally, a good marker for what lies in store. It’s a Nicholls Henderson head to head on the face of it with Paso Doble and First Street but I’m going with Coeur Serein to make it four wins in a row at 5/1 for Jonjo O’Neill (senior and junior). I may also hazard a minor place bet on Hidden Heroics (14/1), a Fairyhouse point to point winner on his only previous outing, bought for £60,000 and could be anything.

15:20 Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow 4-y-o Hurdle 2m 11y

I don’t normally add the sponsor’s name to these previews but had to give credit to the excellent Paul Ferguson who many of us know from various Liverpool haunts (generally Dominic and Fiona’s). It’s great to see him recognised at this prelude meeting. That said, this is appropriately a very difficult race and I’m taking a chance with Hell Red (100/30), a promising horse who may have run with a lot more in store when 9th in the Boodles’ at the Cheltenham Festival and subsequently won well in a Class 4 at Newton Abbot last April.

15:55 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle 2m 3 1/2f

Nina The Terrier (13/8) should win this with something in hand.

16:25 Conditionals’ Handicap Chase 2m 7 1/2f

A total lottery. Best avoided.

Good luck!

Aintree 2021 – Grand National Day

13:45 Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3 – 3m 149y

This is a wide open hurdle but there is a lot to like about the current favourite, Come On Teddy* (15/2) who won a 3m Cheltenham handicap hurdle last December and was an excellent 3rd in the Pertemps Final. I also like Polish (9/1) for a place.

14:20 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1 – 2m 4f

The first Grade 1 of the day and I’m very keen on My Drogo*** (2/1) who I’ve followed all season and is unbeaten over hurdles. Distance, ground and course should all suit and he’s a confident selection.

15:00 Maghull Novices’ Chase – Grade 1 – 1m 7f

Shishkin***** (1/6) is the British star of the season and is impossible to oppose. He’s Timeform’s highest rated novice chaser (188P) and this is just another step on the road to greatness. He’s currently 6/4 for next year’s Champion Chase which, even with 339 days to go, still looks like good value.

15:35 Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle – Grade 1 – 3m 149y

The horses at the top of the market often turn up against each other and this season it’s one all between Thyme Hill** (9/4) and Paisley Park. The latter hasn’t been entirely convincing this season. Both course and ground should suit Thyme Hill better. Roksana was a decent second to If The Cap Fits in this race in 2019 and was third in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month. 10/1 bar the top three looks about right.

16:15 Handicap Chase – Grade 3 – 3m 210y

This isn’t the strongest of races and could easily go to a long odds shot. Happygolucky was second to Vintage Clouds in this year’s Ultima Chase but was a beaten 100/30 favourite.

Top Notch* (8/1) is no longer…top notch, but may still yet be good enough to win this. A 10-y-o, he was third in the Paddy Power Plate (behind The Shunter and Farclas). Although allocated top weight of 11st 12lb, claimer Luca Morgan (who rode him last time) takes off 7lb and both ground and course should suit.

17:15 Grand National – Grade 3 – 4m 2f 74y

Cloth Cap is the right favourite but has drifted slightly in the market. He’s still too short a price for me.

The National always has a story and this year I think that it will be the first woman rider to win the race with Rachael Blackmore riding Minella Times** (10/1) for Henry de Bromhead. He has great form, particularly with Rachael on board and is easily good enough to win if he stays. He’s never run beyond 3m and most form is on soft or heavy but he’s a top class 8-y-o with an attractive weight of 10st 3lbs

Any Second Now is another for J P McManus and Ted Walsh has prepped him with this in mind and he knows how to win the race.

Another JP horse, Anibale Fly, was fourth and fifth in the last two Nationals and could easily run into a pace at an appealing 28/1. Another place prospect is Mister Malarky at 33/1).

18:20 Weatherbys Bumper – Grade 2 – 2m 209y

The meeting rounds off with this bumper in which the Nicky Henderson trained Balco Coastal* is the justified favourite at 15/8 based on his very impressive last outing at Kempton.

Good luck!

Aintree 2021 – Friday

It’s a busy evening so just the selections for tomorrow.

13:45 Pertemps Hurdle – Grade 3 – 2m 4f

A predictable wide open race and I’ll just about side with Wilde About Oscar* (17/2).

14:20 Top Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1 – 2m 103y

I’m willing to take another (or is it third?) chance with Third Time Lucki* (7/2).

14:50 Mildmay Novices’ Chase – Grade 1 – 3m 210y

Chantry House*** (7/4) should be well suited by the step up in trip to 3m after an impressive win in the Marsh at Cheltenham.

15:25 Melling Chase – Grade 1 – 2m 3f 200y

I’m hoping that Fakir D’oudairies*** (3/1) will do one better after following home the imperious Allaho in the Ryanair.

16:05 Topham Chase – Grade 3- 2m 5f 19y (National course)

Visioman** (8/1) has long been targeted for this although he is facing tough opposition. The top combination of Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead will hopefully add this to their impressive tally.

16:40 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1 – 3m 149y

Bravemansgame should win this after a decent third in the Ballymore but I’m siding with the fifth in the Albert Bartlett, Alaphilippe* at a very attractive 18/1 (e/w).

17:15 Pinsent Masons Conditionals’ and Amateurs’ Hurdle – 2m 103y

A bit of a lottery as usual and I’ll watch out for any market movers. However, for now, I’m inclined towards Leoncavallo* (10/1) who was a decent sixth in the Martin Pipe, the equivalent race at Cheltenham and could well improve.

Good luck!

Cheltenham 2021 – Gold Cup Day

For all that it’s not been the most profitable week so far, I’ve really enjoyed this week’s Festival.

The obvious star is not a horse but a jockey, Rachael Blackmore. I can’t emphasise enough how much her success has been down to her tactical skill and judgement of pace, which have been peerless. She has rightly made the news headlines and is favourite to be the leading jockey at the Festival. As the BBC’s Frank Keogh (@honestfrank) pointed out, the current tally is Rachael Blackmore 5 Great Britain 4.

So, here’s the summary so far. Appreciate It got us off to a great start in the Supreme and that should not be forgotten for a horse that has great potential. The same can be said for the short priced favourite and imperious winner of the Arkle, Shishkin, who is current 6/4 favourite for the Champion Chase 2022. Vintage Clouds was a great 28/1 winner of the Ultima and I recommend listening to Harvey Smith about him on the Nick Luck podcast. As for Goshen, well, I’m just very sad for the connections. He’s very talented but, like many in so many different disciplines in life, perhaps unsuited to the one that he’s been given. I’m still not giving up but there are perhaps shades of Might Bite about him.

Bob Olinger was all that I hoped for in the Ballymore, while Monkfish showed what a good horse he is by being far from his best and still winning. Although I couldn’t have him in a month of Sundays, it was clear from early on that Tiger Roll would win the Cross Country and it seems that he may now be aimed for the Betway Bowl at Aintree on Thursday. On the same Nick Luck podcast (Wednesday) that I mentioned above, racing manager Eddie O’Leary said:

“He seemed to jump off with a big smile on his face and as the race went on, he seemed to get better and better.

“Without getting too mad about him, I don’t think there’s been too many like him. Before this race came along, he kind of chucked racing. It was an amazing training performance by Gordon to get him back, and an amazing training performance by all at Cullentra to get him there yesterday in that kind of shape.

“Because he is what he is there are no races for him, and because of the famous handicap mark he has, there are no opportunities to get it down. He doesn’t really run on (conventional) tracks.

“We’ve absolutely no regrets about taking him out of the National as his rating is just too high. We’re probably going to have to run him at a park track, we’re even considering the Betway Bowl at Aintree.

“The way the horse won yesterday, retirement is off the table – he’s loving life and while he is we’ll listen to him.

“He’ll probably go for the Bowl and unfortunately he’ll prove he’s not that (166 rated), unless he is and then he’ll prove us all completely wrong.

“The Tiger we saw yesterday, you’d have to give him 10 out of 10, which is a testament to all at Cullentra.”

I was gutted to see Kilcruit beaten by Sir Gerhard in the Bumper but they are both great horses in the making.

Envoi Allen‘s unexpected fall did for all my accas but credit to Richard Hoiles on ITV who commented before the off and in the early stages that he was fizzing and didn’t jump the first few too well.

The victory of Allaho in the Ryanair was largely down to a superb ride by Rachael and I was pleased to see that my selection Fakir D’oudairies ran into a creditable (albeit not profitable) second place.

I can’t remember who it was who tweeted that The Shunter‘s comments in running should have been “settled in in the early stages and responded to lots of money” when he (unusually) collected a £100,000 bonus for winning at Kelso on 6 March and following up at the Festival. All credit to the tweeter and to Emmet Mullins for a cracking result. I should also add a mention to Farclas in defeat for another excellent Festival performance.

So, on to Gold Cup day.

13:20 Triumph Hurdle (2m 179y)

Regular readers will know that I chose Zanahiyr (11/10) months ago and I see no reason to change now. Rather like the the Supreme, it’s an unusually small field and that will help. While not in my top 5 for the week, this is a confident selection.

13:55 County Hurdle (2m 179y)

I’ve been a follower of Buildmeupbuttercup (18/1) all season but the time has come to desert her in favour of Third Time Lucki (8/1) who has an ideal profile for this race. For loyalty rather than confidence I’ll also have a few quid on Ciel De Neige who has let me down a few times. but I have to see it through.

14:30 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (2m 7f 213y)

The potato race (these previews would be incomplete without me saying that!). I think that this is wide open and I still like Alaphilippe at 12/1 for Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan. He has graded form and is rock hard with a guarantee to stay the distance.

15:05 Wellchild Gold Cup (3m 2f 70y)

My initial thought was to go with Champ (5/1). However, I was struck by Kevin Blake’s comment in a preview that he is a horse of “low intelligence”, particularly when it comes to fences, having a tendency to ignore or head butt them.

I understand that Al Boum Photo (3/1) is not a star, even though he is aiming for a three-time win in this race which would put him among the all-time greats. All the form suggests that he will do it again but I’m unconvinced.

Aso (125/1) will not stay.

A Plus Tard (100/30) will probably go off as favourite because of the Rachael Blackmore factor. He’s a leading candidate and Rachael could do it, given her superb riding to date but he’s not guaranteed to stay this trip.

Black Op (125/1) will be tailed off. Not up to this standard.

Frodon (12/1). Don’t discount him. Front running has been seen to work this week and the King George win shouldn’t be discounted. My choice for a longer odds win (12/1).

Kemboy (16/1) could run away with this but not for me because of dodgy jumping.

Lostintranslation (25/1) , politely, is not going to win this.

Minella Indo (8/1) was supposed to be the coming horse but I’m unconvinced. Could run very well but definitely not my choice.

Native River (14/1) doesn’t have the right ground and could be withdrawn.

Royalle Pagaille (14/1) was my choice for National Hunt Chase and I was gutted when he was withdrawn from that (at 2/1). I watched this horse (live on TV) when he first ran in the UK when beaten at Chepstow in a match behind Vision Des Flos and when he lost a shoe when beaten by Equus Secretus at Huntingdon. Since then he beat Espoir De Romay in a Class 2 at Haydock, Cap Du Nord and Double Shuffle impressively at Kempton and Potters Legend and Just Your Type in the Peter Marsh (Grade 2) at Haydock on 23 January. He’s a 7-y-o and I think that his time will come, starting with a place in this race.

15:40 Hunters’ Chase

Well, this is an oddity because it is the amateurs’ Gold Cup but amateurs are not allowed to take part.

The Hunters’ calendar has been a bit of a mess this year so we should look for the outright best horse. There is a good case for looking for an Irish horse but I’m going with Bob And Co (9/2) for Paul Nicholls and with the excellent Sean Bowen on board.

16:15 Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase (2m 4f 127y)

I don’t know why Elimay isn’t 1/2 (currently 4/5). The only other challenger is Shattered Love (7/1).

16:50 Martin Pipe Conditionals’ Handicap Hurdle (2m 4f 56y)

Normally a random choice But Gentleman Du Mee (3/1) has attracted a lot of support in recent weeks. Langer Dan (13/2) has made it in for the bonus after winning the Grade 3 Imperial Cup last Saturday and could follow The Shunter in this regard. However, I’m with Frontal Assault (12/1) for Denise “Sneezy” Foster, “((former) trainer said, regarding improvement in form, gelding was tried in blinkers on his most recent run which seemed to make him too keen)” !! I’ll leave you to draw you own conclusion!

Good luck!

Cheltenham 2021 – Thursday

Just quick selections for tomorrow.

13:20 Marsh Novices’ Chase (2m 3f 168y)

Envoi Allen (1/2)

13:55 Pertemps Final (2m 7f 213y)

Imperial Alcazar (5/1)

14:30 Ryanair Chase (2m 4f 127y)

Fakir D’oudairies (6/1)

15:05 Stayers’ Hurdle (2m 7f 213y)

Sire Du Berlais (11/2)

15:40 Paddy Power Plate (2m 4f 127y)

A Wave Of The Sea (6/1)

16:15 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (2m 179y)

Gauloise (13/2)

16:50 Kim Muir Handicap Chase (3m 2f)

Diese Aba (8/1)

Good luck!

What do the trainers think?

Nicky Henderson (courtesy of ATR):

Willie Mullins (also via ATR):

Paul Nicholls (via Sporting Life)

Kim Bailey (via Sporting Life)

Henry de Bromhead (via Coral/RP)

Dan Skelton (via Coral/RP)

Donald McCain

ATR full preview with Barry Geraghty

Betfair preview day one:

Cheltenham 2021 – snapshot preview

The weather forecast

Of course we always start here. The going will, of course, be good to soft on Tuesday but it’s looking like it will get faster during the week.

Early views – all subject to declarations and changes in the main previews

All selections are subject to final declarations (and late withdrawals or other late news) so I’m just setting out my initial thoughts.

It’s sad that the featured image includes a crowd that won’t be there but, in reality, I’ve watched the vast majority of Festival races on TV and the excitement for me is undiminished.

These selections are without watching a single preview so they’re all down to me and what I’ve watched on TV (probably too much during the current constraints!).

Tuesday

Supreme – Appreciate It (7/5) – 5/1 bar. Place Keskonrisk (25/1)

Arkle – Energumene (9/4 – no value). Place Franco De Port (20/1)

Ultima – Escaria Ten (10/1)

Champion Hurdle – Goshen (4/1)

Mares’ Hurdle – Concertista (6/5). Place Dame De Compagnie (13/2)

Boodles – Saint Sam (11/2)

National Hunt Chase – Royale Pagaille (2/1 – nap). I think that this horse will love Cheltenham. I hope that he runs here and not in the Gold Cup (for which he’s currently 14/1). Next year please.

Wednesday

Ballymore – Bob Olinger (9/4 – nap) (an exceptional horse)

Brown Advisory (RSA) – Monkfish (4/6 nap of the meeting)

Coral Cup – TBA

Champion Chase – Chacun Pour Soi (evens n/b)

Cross Country – Easysland (evens but no bet for me)

Grand Annual – TBA

Champion Bumper – Kilcruit (9/4 – great value)

Thursday

Marsh – Envoi Allen (4/5 superb value)

Pertemps – TBA

Ryanair – Fakir D’Oudairies should be declared for this but apparently won’t be. No bet for me but should therefore be Min (6/1)

Stayers’ – Sire Du Berlais (8/1)

Plate – The Shunter (with a run – 12/1)

Mares’ Novices’ – no bet

Kim Muir – Achille (20/1 e/w); Le Breuil (20/1 e/w)

Friday

Triumph – Zanahiyr (9/4 nap)

County – TBA

Albert Bartlett – Alaphilippe (10/1)

Gold Cup – Champ (5/1 – great value)

Hunters’ – maybe It Came To Pass (9/1) – TBA

Mares’ Chase – Elimay (7/4 – nap)

Martin Pipe – Gentleman De Mee (6/1 – n/b)

If you like combination bets, now is the time to get on before the main favs shorten. Make sure that you take the prices and here are my selections:

  • National Hunt – Royale Pagaille
  • Ballymore – Bob Olinger
  • Brown Advisory – Monkfish (next year’s Gold Cup favourite and likely to be horse of the week)
  • Champion Chase – Chacun Pour Soi
  • Marsh – Envoi Allen

For guidance I’ve done the following with Paddy Power, all non runner no bet:

4-folds x 5 (single bet – five selections – really a “5-fold”) (£5 – return £97.51)

Royale Pagaille

Bob Olinger

Monkfish

Chacun Pour Soi

Envoi Allen

Fixed accumulator (5 selected at fixed prices) (£2 – return £79.52) (i.e. bets accumulate from one to the next)

Royale Pagaille

Bob Olinger

Monkfish

Chacun Pour Soi

Envoi Allen

Lucky 31

The 31 bets at £2 each are:

  • 1. 5 Singles
  • 2. 10 Doubles
  • 3. 10 Trebles
  • 4. 5 Fourfold Accumulators
  • 5. 1 Fivefold Accumulator

This one costs £62 at £2 per line with a potential return of £575.76 but lots of lower returns if not all of them come in. The selections are the same.

I will take a look at the non-championship race bets when we know the declarations but, for me, Cheltenham is all about the horses that are comfortably the best in their categories. Do I think that they will all win? – probably not – but the Lucky 31 provides a bit of value if you take it now.

Good luck!

Eurovision 2021

For the first time in a number of years the UK has a strong Eurovision entry from James Newman:

Unfortunately, recent history and the voting audience’s predisposition against the UK mean that it’s trading at odds between 34/1 and 130/1.

Current favourite (4/1) is Switzerland’s rather glum entry:

Ireland seem still to have lost their way with this 200/1 shot:

This is quintessentially French and my current favourite:

The French don’t have a great recent record (last won in 1977 – L’oiseau et L’enfant) but the current 8/1 looks like good value to me.

This year’s contest takes place on 22 May in Rotterdam. Most contestants will perform live at the venue with the possibility of a limited audience.

Dublin Racing Festival

What a weekend of sport! England cricket and Joe Root. Six Nations Rugby, Man Utd v Everton, Liverpool v Man City and the Superbowl. But for me it’s all about the Dublin Racing Festival. What lockdown?

Leopardstown

The going is soft (yielding in places) on the chase course and and soft, soft to heavy in places for the hurdles and bumpers. First, a Saturday spectacular with four Grade 1s.

13:05 Nathaniel Lacy Novice Hurdle 2m 6f (Grade 1)

Gaillard Du Mesnil is the current 9/4 favourite for Mullins/Townend. Won a maiden here in December and is progressive. However he was beaten by 8 lengths by Holymacapony (8/1) at Punchestown. Holymacapony was pulled up in his next race but that was too bad to be true and I’m relying on him to bounce back to form.

13:35 Ladbrokes Dublin Chase 2m 1f (Grade 1)

This is not a betting option but features the best horse of the day in the shape of Chacun Pour Soi (1/2). Rated 185p by Timeform and the defending champion in this race. He is confidently expected to win again and justify his current position as 6/5 f for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

14:10 Patrick Ward Irish Arkle 2m 1f (Grade 1)

Another odds on favourite – Energumene (5/6). This is a very exciting horse. Unbeaten over fences and won very impressively at Naas last time out. Currently 6/1 for the Arkle at Cheltenham, if he wins well today he will be the main threat on either side of the water to Shishkin (currently 8/11 for the Cheltenham equivalent). I’m hoping to watch a really impressive performance.

14:45 Matheson Handicap Chase 2m 1f (Grade B)

This is a very competitive race and I’m siding with Port Stanley (9/1) for Jessie Harrington and Robbie Power. Others to consider are Entoucas (current 5/1 favourite) and Pont Aven (7/1).

15:15 Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle 2m (Grade 1)

Honeysuckle is an amazing mare with a blemish free record of 8 wins from 8 races. She won this race last year but I thought that her win last time out in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse was a bit workmanlike. She gets the 7lb mares’ allowance and the ground is not a problem. If she wins today the owner has confirmed that she will take her chance in the Cheltenham equivalent.

However, I think that Patrick Mullins has now worked out how to get the best out of Sharjah (3/1). He won the Matheson for the third time over course and distance in December and is never better placed to add this to his roster of wins.

Willie Mullins had made no secret of the fact that he really rates Saint Roi (6/1) and this was confirmed again by Ruby Walsh a few days ago. However, he is yet to bring his A game to the racetrack and is best watched.

It’s a great race and even the outsiders Saldier (12/1) and Petit Mouchoir (18/1) are not without a chance.

15:50 Ladbrokes Hurdle 2m (Grade B)

A wide open race and not one that I’ll be getting particularly involved in. I like Ciel de Neige (10/1) and Buildmeupbuttercup (16/1) and might back both each way.

16:25 Goffs Future Stars Bumper 2m (Grade 2)

Kilcruit is the right favourite at 9/4. Timeform top rated at 120p but my preference is for another Willie Mullins horse, Ramillies (9/2) (114p). Letsbeclearaboutit (15/2) was a creditable second to Sir Gerhard last time out and could well be in the mix.

Sandown

An all-chase card should provide some exciting racing, particularly when facing the challenge of the railway fences.

13:15 Virgin Bet Handicap Chase 1m 7f (Class 2)

I prefer Dolos (3/1) ahead of current favourite Caribean Boy (5/2).

13:50 Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase 2m 4f (Grade 1)

This is an excellent race and should help to sort out the pecking order for novice chasers over this distance. Paul Nicholls is very keen on Hitman (9/4f). Shan Blue (5/2) is an excellent jumper and won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase impressively at the Kempton Christmas meeting. Messire Des Obeaux (4/1) has clearly had training issues but was an impressive winner of the Grade 2 Dipper and is looking to make it three from three over fences.

The Timeform ratings demonstrate what a good and close race this is likely to be:

  • Shan Blue (168p)
  • Messire Des Obeaux (167p)
  • Hitman (166p)
  • Dame de Compagnie (164p)
  • Paint the Dream (160)

14:20 Virgin Bet Cotswold Chase 3m (Grade 2)

Thank goodness this race has been saved by being transferred from Cheltenham’s abandoned meeting and the move to Sandown plus the ground should favour my nap Bristol De Mai (5/2). Santini (11/4) beat him in this race last year but he’s a confident selection to reverse the form.

Native River (11/2) is getting on a bit and the Tizzard horses have just not fired this season. If the ground was really bad then Yala Enki (11/2) might stay on past them but he’s had two hard races in recent weeks.

Ruby Walsh has put up Saint Calvados (13/2) as one to pick up the pieces while Lake View Lad (18/1) beat both Santini and Native River in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree on 5 December.

Overall, an exciting race that I’m really looking forward to.

14:55 Virgin Bet Warriors Handicap Chase 2m 4f (Class 3)

Alnadam and Benatar are the current 100/30 joint favourites and I prefer the latter.

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