Action from the meetings at Sandown and Ayr fills our screens today, with seven races to pick the bones out of.
Centrepiece of the Esher card is the final of the Veterans’ Handicap Chase series at 3.00, which has a field of 16 due to go to post.
With these old ‘uns running against each other throughout the season in the qualifying heats, there is more connecting form than you can shake a stick at and serious form analysis is unlikely to predict the result.
Thus we will pick a couple of darts to small stakes and hope for the best – true professionals to the end.
Ballydine at 14-1 and Gold Present at 22-1 are the choices.
The real racing starts at 1.50 with the Unibet Handicap Chase and in this we give another chance to Early De Lemo.
Gary Moore‘s 8-y-o came back from nearly two years off to run an absolute stormer over CD in early December, just being denied victory by its stable-mate Darebin, which re-opposes today. Next time out, EDL went butt over mammary at Ascot when travelling well and we hope compensation awaits.
Have an each way bet at 6-1.
The Grade 1 Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle is at 2.25 and we hope that the Harry Fry trained Metier can maintain its unbeaten record after its second easy win at Ascot in November, after which esteemed trainer nominated today’s event as the next target.
Fairly short at 5-4 we grant you, but well worth a few shekels.
Final race at Sandown is the Unibet Handicap Hurdle at 3.35, for which Monsieur Lecoq has been installed 5-2 favourite.
Frankly, we are not sure why and much prefer the chances of Gemirande at a more palatable 17-2.
The fragrant Venetia‘s 5-y-o improved dramatically from first stable run to win a Wetherby Novice hurdle in taking style and a mark of 122 for its handicap debut may just be a gimme.
Three races at Ayr complete the televised coverage and all three have small but trappy fields.
The Ayrshire Handicap Chase at 2.05 has just the six runners and we are gonna take on the fav in this by suggesting a bet on the quirky but talented Flowery at 5-1.
Iain Jardine‘s 9-y-o warmed up for today with a good second over too short a trip on this course and, back to the right distance today, should go close.
We make the danger the old boy Guitar Pete and recommend a minor reverse forecast.
In the Injured Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at 2.40 we will give another chance to Illegal Model, which disappointed when our Preview selection at Sandown under The Twister.
We get Brian Hughes this afternoon and we keep the faith with a win bet at 5-2. Like the previous race, there is a danger, this time in the shape of Portstorm, so another reverse forecast is suggested.
Finally we come to the RoR Handicap l at 3.15, in which only two runners carry their correct weight, the remainder being out of the handicap by varying degrees.
One of the two is Late Romantic, which carries the additional burden of being our selection. Oliver Greenall‘s 11-y-o was originally going to run in the Veterans’ final but has been redirected to Ayr to get the deep ground that the trainer describes as essential ‘otherwise he gets out of his comfort zone’.
This is tantamount to saying that the horse is a slow old boat but with the favourite being a year older and, hopefully, even slower we recommend a decent bet at 11-4 and leave Robbie to get the job, er, Dunne.
Let’s hope we start 2021 in the manner we ended 2020.
Ballydine 3.00 Sandown 0.5pts e/w @ 14-1 (5 places)
Gold Present 3.00 Sandown 0.5pts e/w @ 22-1 (5 places)
Early De Lemo 1.50 Sandown 1pt e/w @ 6-1
Metier 2.25 Sandown 4pts win @ 5-4
Gemirande 3.35 Sandown 1.5pts e/w @ 17-2
Flowery 2.05 Ayr 2pts win @ 5-1
Flowery/Guitar Pete 2.05 Ayr 0.5pts RFC
Illegal Model 2.40 Ayr 3pts win @ 5-2
Illegal Model/Portstorm 2.40 Ayr 0.5pts RFC
Late Romantic 3.15 Ayr 4pts win @ 11-4