Imperial Cup day at Sandown, with the eponymous race at 2.25 attracting a field of 17, all trying to land the £42 grand (and change) prize.
Nicky Henderson runs two, including the 4-1favourite Whatswrongwithyou, a novice which has won its last two races, with well-regarded stablemate OK Corral among its victims.
Much as we respect the chances of this beastie, we prefer the trainer’s other one, Call Me Lord, available at a more palatable each way price of 8-1. This 5-y-o is unbeaten in two tries over course and distance and, although only third in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last time out, that run can be forgiven, in that the jockey chose to go after the runaway no hoper and was left vulnerable in the finish.
With Daryl Jacob back on board today and a truly run race assured, we predict a weight carrying performance akin to the great Lanzarote in 1973, which was the last time a horse has carried more than 11st 10lbs to victory in this contest.
In case that does prove beyond Call Me Lord, we suggest an each way bet on John Quinn’s charge Master Of Irony at a general 10-1.
This 6-y-o was last seen finishing like the proverbial rocket to be a close fourth in a Listed handicap at Newbury in December, off today’s mark of 133. Since then, it has made an abortive trip across the waters to contest a valuable handicap at Leopardstown, being withdrawn on vet’s advice after a rough trip over and today could provide adequate compensation for that. Dickie is one ride, one win on the horse so let’s hope he can make it 2-2.
The (deep breath) European Breeders’ Fund Matchbook VIP ‘National Hunt’ Novices Handicap Hurdle Final at 1.50 is worth just as much as the main feature, which is probably why 18 have turned up to have a go.
Favourite at 5-1 is the Dan Skelton trained Al Shahir, which has been saved for this race since winning a qualifier at Towcester back in December and, off a mark of 127, it’s not hard to see why. Before the Towcester exercise gallop, Al Shahir was runner up to Maria’s Benefit, Kalashnikov and First Flow, which are now rated 147, 154 and 144 respectively, so let’s go each way on this one, shall we?
In similar vein, young Mr Henderson has held back Turtle Wars since winning a maiden hurdle at Huntingdon in January and, with wonder-boy James up top, the hint should be taken, again each way, at 12-1.
Eager to start your day with a winner, we turn our attention to the first race on the card at 1.20, the Matchbook Betting Exchange Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, in which we recommend a win bet on Quothquan at 11-4. Rated 79 on the level, this gelding starts its handicap career off a mark of 116, which, on its placed form behind the likes of Sussex Ranger, Jukebox Jive and Lisp may be a serious underestimation. Quothquan has not run since Boxing Day so let’s hope the 4Ms (My Mate Michael Madgwick) has his pet fully tuned to do the biz.
At 4.10 the Matchbook Betting Podcast Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (Burnt Oak & Special Cargo Trophy) (give me strength) takes place with just four runners but a definite bet at 3-1 on Rayvin Black is suggested.
Coming late to fences (9-y-o), this gutsy little fella has shown an aptitude for the larger obstacles and retains all its zest for racing. Back in handicap company today off an attractive mark, Tom Garner can bring home the streaky.
Call Me Lord 2.25 Sandown e/w @ 8-1 SkyBet (5 places)
Master Of Irony 2.25 Sandown e/w @ 10-1 PaddyPower (5 places)
Al Shahir 1.50 Sandown e/w @ 5-1 Ladbrokes
Turtle Wars 1.50 Sandown e/w @ 12-1 Coral
Quothquan 1.20 Sandown win @ 11-4 10Bet
Rayvin Black 4.10 Sandown win @ 3-1 Betbright