By Samantha (28/4/18)
So the National Hunt season is coming to a close and what a season it has been! We’ve seen super performances of every shape and size- the pint-sized Tiger Roll winning the Cross-Country Chase and the Grand National and Altior demolishing his rivals at the minimum trip in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He runs in the Celebration Chase on this card as he tries to make it back-to-back wins in this race, following in the footsteps of Sprinter Sacre who won the race in 2016. This meeting at Sandown can round off the season with a bang. Sadly, Cue Card will not be having his final run of his career here as he was retired earlier this month but him and other stars, including Tingle Creek winner Politologue, will be paraded for racegoers to see. The parade can add further magic to a truly spell-binding day of National Hunt racing.
Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle
The first race on the card looks a very competitive one. Mont Des Avaloirs has top weight and is highest rated in this. He won last time out at Market Rasen but the weight he has to carry may be an issue for him though. He has been behind some very nice types including Kilbricken Storm and Summerville Boy. Paul Nicholls’ gelding definitely has a shot. Highway One O One won last time out and is four from seven. He has never been out of the top two apart from a below par effort in the Grade Three Imperial Cup here. Harry Reed is a great jockey and takes off five pounds. Taxmeifyoucan, Act Of Valor and Oistrakh Le Noir are the only four year olds in the field. Taxmeifyoucan is the most inexperienced in the field. He has ran four times over hurdles, winning twice. He was third last time out, finishing three quarters of a length and a head behind the winner. He showed a bit of inexperience when push came to shove but looks progressive and is an each way contender. Act Of Valor won last time out and it was his second win over jumps. The other win came on his debut for Paul Nicholls. He is well regarded and looks a nice horse. Oistrakh Le Noir is the second string for Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. He is one from four and was second behind Act Of Valor last time out. He carries two pounds less than the latter and runs off 131. BALLYMOY is the first string. He comes from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard and has won his last two starts by a combined twenty-eight lengths. He has improved so much this season. When writing this, he was a lovely price at about 15/2. Notre Ami is the only course and distance winner in the line-up and won last time out. Burrows Edge has been really consistent recently.
To Win- Ballymoy
Each way- Highway One O One
bet365 Oaksey Chase
Double Shuffle brings the class into this race. He is rated 166, 4lbs higher than Top Notch. He finished seventh in the Gold Cup but before that, he ran a blinder to finish second behind Might Bite in the King George. The last time he won was in December 2016 and he is 23lbs higher than then. Tom George’s gelding was beaten by Art Mauresque in a handicap chase in October 2016. That was the last time Art Mauresque won. He hasn’t shown much good form at all since and looks up against it. TOP NOTCH had Double Shuffle eight lengths behind in second in this grade in November. He was forth in the Ascot Chase last time out and won the Peterborough before that. He is only seven and looks the pick. Alcala was looking for a six timer when unseating his rider in October. He hasn’t run since finishing fourth a couple of weeks after that and it looks like he would prefer better ground. O O Seven was pulled up last time out and Sadler’s Risk looks up against it.
To win- Top Notch
Each Way- Double Shuffle
bet365 Celebration Chase
There are two previous winners of this race in the field today- Altior won this in 2017 and Special Tiara won this in 2015. The latter was meant to run at Punchestown earlier this week but he was pulled out because of the going. Age seems to be creeping up on this lad and he isn’t as good as he was. ALTIOR, on the other hand, looks in the prime of his career. He put up a fantastic performance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, after looking beaten on the home bend. He has been unbeaten since October of 2015 and should win this. Diego Du Charmil is the only other last time out winner in the field. He won the Grade One Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree. He will be Altior’s main challenger. Ar Mad is a course and distance winner. His trainer won this twice with Sire De Grugy but he doesn’t seem up to that standard. Ar Mad and Special Tiara were pulled up behind Altior in the Queen Mother. God’s Own was third in that race and showed a good return to form but it looks like he will struggle and so will San Benedeto.
To win- Altior
Each way- Diego Du Charmil
bet365 Gold Cup Handicap
BLAKLION won the Becher Chase at the start of the season over three miles one furlong and then was fifty-four lengths back in second behind Yala Enki. He had a breathing operation after that but connections never got to see whether it worked because he got brought down at the first in the Grand National, where he was one of the big contenders after a good performance the year before. He stays very well so can take this despite his big weight. Regal Encore was meant to run in the Grand National but was taken out due to the ground. He won last time out with Minella Daddy behind. That was over two miles seven furlongs but he does stay as he was eighth in the Grand National a few years ago. Rock The Kasbah has been a fantastic servant for Phillip Hobbs. His horses have returned to their best now but Rock The Kasbah was pulled up last time out so this may be tough for him. Missed Approach won the Kim Muir at Cheltenham over two furlongs less than this but stayed on in the finish so there is a likely chance he will stay. Bigbadjohn won first time for Nigel Twiston-Davies but unseated Jamie Bargary last time out. The Young Master won this in 2016. He hasn’t shown much good form since. Rathlin Rose fell last time out in the Topham but won before that over two miles seven. Dawson City has ran very well recently and stays all day. Three miles one may have been on the short side last time out so he is has a good each way chance in this. Step Back won well last time out and is very unexposed. He has been very consistent and goes a nice weight. Sugar Baron and Minella Daddy look to have each way claims.
To win- Blaklion
Each way- Dawson City
bet365 Select Hurdle
Diakali blitzed it around Aintree in the Aintree Hurdle on his first start for Gary Moore. He used to be with Willie Mullins and looks a fascinating contender. Call Me Lord and Wholestone look two good horses in their own right. Call Me Lord is only five but is second highest rated. He is very consistent but highest rated WHOLESTONE looks hard to beat and is Daryl Jacob’s choice out of the two. He won the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham in November and put in three good runner-up performances since and can get back to winning ways in this. Old Guard was seventh in the Stayers Hurdle, five places behind Wholestone. It doesn’t look as though he will be able to switch the placings. Lil Rockerfella has been struggling recently and Boite looks out of it.
To win- Wholestone
Each way- Diakali/ Call Me Lord
bet365 Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase
GEORDIE DES CHAMPS has won his last two nicely and will enjoy the ground and trip. Rayvin Black comes from Oliver Sherwood’s yard and he has won twice in 2018. Those victories were split by a trailed off third in a handicap chase. His trainer had his first winner since Rayvin Black won last time out on the 9th April, yesterday. War Sound has been very consistent this season. He isn’t very exposed and is yet to win over chase fences. This may be on the long side for him as he has won mostly over two miles but he won a novice hurdle over two miles three furlongs. Stynes hasn’t ran since June when he won a handicap chase. He has won off a long lay-off before but he has a step up in trip to deal with too. Silverhow likes it round here. The others look as if they need their summer holidays.
To win- Geordie Des Champs
Each way- Rayvin Black
bet365 Handicap Hurdle
Le Breuil was brilliant in the way he went about his win last time out. That was over three miles four furlongs so he should stay. He preferred the better ground than the going his two previous starts were on. Enniscoffey Oscar looks hugely over-priced at 20/1 he is a Grade Two winner but didn’t seem comfortable in the Albert Bartlett as he didn’t seem to enjoy the ground. He has won over three miles before and is the value in the race. BALLOTIN was last seen on a racetrack in November finishing second to Fortunate George in a race over two miles five. He didn’t seem to stay that and will prefer this. He won over today’s trip (two miles three furlongs) at Wetherby in October and it would be great to see him win for David Maxwell, who is a great supporter of the game. Jester Jet won at the Aintree Grand National Meeting in a Grade Three so isn’t without a shot and her trainer’s horses are flying. Soul Emotion won over this trip on debut in this country for Nicky Henderson and he is similar to Terrefort- by the same stallion and came from the same yard to Nicky’s. Skipthecuddles has a good chance.
To win- Ballotin
Each Way- Enniscoffey Oscar