Swansong of the official National Hunt season takes place today at Sandown, with the centrepiece being the bet365 Gold Cup at 3.35, which may result in the first three home all being trained by Neil Mulholland.
What, you don’t think so? Read on, please.
Favourite for the race, but at a very backable 9-2 is the trainer’s Doing Fine, which comes here off a comfortable 6 length win at Cheltenham over 3m4f just ten days ago. Because this afternoon’s event is an ‘early closer’, Doing Fine can compete off the same mark of 129 and is officially 8lbs ‘well in’ compared with future runs. This 9-y-o doesn’t do anything quickly, but it jumps and it stays and won’t be stopping up the Sandown hill, so a win bet on Tom Scudamore’s mount is where we go first. (Wimps can go e/w if required)
Mr Mulholland’s other two runners ran in this race last year, when The Young Master narrowly prevailed, with The Druids Nephew finished a staying on 5th of 20. TYM runs off the same mark this year as last, while TDN is a whole 10lbs lower, having had just the two runs all season.
Both these horses ran in the Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham festival and both acquitted themselves admirably, finishing 6th and 7th and both will be suited by today’s ground conditions. The difference between them may come down to the pilots, with Noel Fehily on board Druids and ‘he who shall not be named’ on Master, although, to be fair, my continuing bête noire did actually scramble home last year.
The fact that Noel Fehily rides Druids, instead of Doing Fine, which he has ridden on all three runs for the yard, is more a weight decision than a form preference as he would struggle to do 10st 3lbs, but there is little doubt that his mount is one of the best handicapped horses in the race and has long threatened to deliver a big handicap like this one. An each way wager is suggested at 6-1 and, in case the almost unthinkable happens, a small (repeat small) win bet on The Young Master at 15-2 completes the portfolio.
The bet365 Oaksey Chase at 2.25 sees the admirable Menorah attempt to land a ‘four-peat’ in the race, having triumphed for the past three years and who’s to say it won’t. Not a nap, but certainly a bet at 2-1 in a race lacking strength in depth.
Favourite for the bet365 Josh Gifford Novices Handicap Chase at 4.45 is Shantou Village trained by that man again Neil Mulholland but although potentially quite well handicapped, its jumping is unlikely to stand up over the unforgiving Sandown obstacles and an each way bet on the Venetia Williams’ trained Plaisir D’Amour at 8-1 could pay dividends.
The season finale at 5.20 is the bet365 Handicap Hurdle and the best handicapped horse in this race, by a country mile, is the Charlie Longsdon trained Tree Of Liberty.
Not seen since early February, when winning a Musselburgh novice event, I can’t tell you that the horse has been laid out for this, because I don’t know it has, but if it turns up ready to go it could well crown a stellar season for Brian Hughes on his last and only ride. Get on e/w please, at a juicy 12-1. Thank you.