First class fare from the meetings at Sandown and Wincanton today, with by far the most valuable race being the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase on the Esher course at 3.00.
Now named ‘In Memory Of Houblon Des Obeaux’, a tribute to last year’s winner which was tragically killed in last month’s London Gold Cup, it would undoubtedly be poignant if Venetia Williams could win this race with Burtons Well and, indeed, on the form of its opening run this season, when winning at Aintree, this 11-y-o would have every chance. Trouble is, BW ran no sort of race next time out at Haydock and we regretfully pass it over.
Favourite for the race is Jepeck, who’s handicap mark has been carefully preserved by giving the horse three runs in Novice hurdles, two of which it won and this looks a good plan which may well come to fruition so we recommend a win bet at 9-2.
We also have no intention of deserting our last time selection Dark Flame, which can continue its love affair with Sandown and, hopefully, fight out the finish with Jepeck. Have an each way bet at 5-1.
Coverage starts with the New Unibet Uniboost Handicap Chase at 1.50 and in this we like the credentials of Delire D’Estruval, which is available at 7-2.
With a reappearance run under its belt and the Ben Pauling yard in much better form, trust the fast improving Luca Morgan to guide this 7-y-o home.
The Grade 1 Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle comes next at 2.25, with a high class field of seven, at least two of which are set to make the running. This should set it up nicely for Son Of Camas, trained by Nicky Henderson.
This 5-y-o was sent to Punchestown to contest their champion Bumper on its first ever racecourse appearance and was sent off 2-1 favourite(!)
Found to be ‘clinically abnormal’ after training in 19th and last, this son of, er, Camas, came out in November to cruise home in a Newbury Bumper before taking the scalp of Harry Fry‘s potential superstar King Roland again at Newbury. With that horse hacking up by half the track last week, it’s easy to assume that NJH thinks this horse is something special and 5-2 might look very big come 2.45. Have a decent win bet.
Final race on the Sandown card is the …Unibet..Handicap Hurdle at 3.35 and Hendo has the favourite in this with Gunnery at 100-30. Rated 90 on the level, Gunnery is still learning its job but improved markedly last time out when taking a Class 4 handicap by 12 lengths, just 6 days ago and will be going up much more that the 6lb penalty it carries today. However, the ground is a complete unknown and we prefer the chances of Smarty Wild from the Philip Hobbs camp.
This 6-y-o rattled up a hat-trick of wins at the end of last season and also won a Class 3 at Exeter in November. Slightly unlucky over CD last time, amends coud be made today under Dear Dickie. Back it each way at 6-1.
We also recommend a minor each way bet on Blue Cavalier, which has been revitalised by Ali Stronge and has the excellent Ben Jones aboard. 12-1 is available.
Three races are being shown from Wincanton and we have bets in two of them.
If Ar Mest can stay on its feet in the BoyleSports Handicap Chase at 2.05 it surely must have a belting chance and should be backed accordingly at 9-2.
Another ‘if’ comes in the BoyleSports Handicap Chase at 3.15, as follows:
If Le Rocher is fully tuned up and raring to go after 335 days, it’ll be there or thereabouts, so at 13-2 we’ll chance an each way bet.
Now we’re off to see if the England bowlers can do what the batters can’t – play cricket.
Jepeck 3.00 Sandown 2pts win @ 9-2
Dark Flame 3.00 Sandown 1.5pts e/w @ 5-1
Delire D’Estruval 1.50 Sandown 2pts win @ 7-2
Son Of Camas 2.25 Sandown 4pts win @ 5-2
Smarty Wild 3.35 Sandown 1pt e/w @ 6-1
Blue Cavalier 3.35 Sandown 0.5pts e/w @ 12-1
Ar Mest 2.05 Wincanton 2pts win @ 9-2
Le Rocher 3.15 Wincanton 1pt e/w @ 13-2 (2 places)