Pre-Cheltenham Saturday is upon us, with coverage of Imperial Cup day at Sandown and three races from Wolverhampton thrown in for good measure.

Beginning at the Esher track, first up is the EBF Paddy Power National Hunt Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at 1.50, with 16 standing their ground in a highly competitive opener.

6-1 the field gives a flavour of the race and our primary hope is the Emma Lavelle trained Sam Barton, which is available at 17-2.

Just 3 hurdles runs have resulted in a 5th, a 2nd and a win last time out at Doncaster, when Trevor Hemmings‘ 6-y-o stayed on takingly to master the race favourite, with the third a distant 18 lengths away.

The form of that race is working out nicely, with two of the ‘also rans’ winning since and a handicap debut mark of 132 looks workable. Have an each way bet.

Our other pick in the race is Beauport, from NTD‘s yard.

Although kept to ‘gaff’ tracks thus far, this 5-y-o looks on a very good mark for its first handicap and, hopefully, will outrun its 33-1 price – that’s the theory, anyway.

The big race, aka the Paddy Power Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle at 2.25 has been blighted by non-runners, presumably with the ground drying out, but 11 stand their ground with Natural History the 5-2 favourite.

Bought for a paltry £105,000, this 100+ Flat rated 6-y-o was beaten in its first two hurdle races, before making a bit of a mockery of an opening handicap mark of 116 by cantering to victory at Plumpton. The handicapper’s revenge has been a 16lb hike today’s 130 (so there) and, although it could still be good enough, 5-2 just ain’t much fun.

We prefer to have a whack at Langer Dan, which has the look of a well handicapped beastie.

A close sixth in the Fred Winter at the Festival off a 5lb higher mark last year illustrates that Dan Skelton‘s 5-y-o is off a decent mark and the latest tenderly handled 4th at Market Rasen after a break and a wind op seems to imply a better showing today.

Still just about an each way price, we recommend a bash at 11-2.

We are also sweet on the chances of Miranda from the Paul Nicholls operation. This 6-y-o mare does not know when she’s beaten and is still improving, so, with her burden much reduced by Angus Cheleda‘s 7 lb claim, we suggest an each way tickle at 8-1.

The 3.00, also televised, is a Listed Bumper, in which we are very definitely ‘no bet’, so it’s on to the Novices’ Handicap Chase at 3.35.

All 10 runners have stayed in as we write and we recommend a bet on the fragrant Venetia‘s potential improver Farinet at 6-1.

This 6-y-o grey jobby had good form in France and finished a staying on 3rd on stable debut at Haddock 3 weeks ago. That was its first run since last July, so, provided the slightly faster going is OK, we should get a run for the moolah.

Tapeta action starts with the Lady Wulfruna Stakes at 2.05 and this Listed contest appears to rest between the first three in the market.

With the admirable ‘oldie’ Documenting returning from a break and Mums Tipple trying today’s 7f for the first time, we suggest a slightly wimpy each way bet on the still improving Highland Dress at 4-1.

Fitness has to be assumed with many of the runners in the Lincoln Trial Handicap at 2.40 and that’s the case with our selection On A Session.

David Barron‘s 5-y-o makes stable debut today, having been last seen finishing 3rd of 16 in a valuable Galway handicap last August. Entered for the big race, OAS is undoubtedly the best handicapped runner in the race and we go each way at 9-2.

Finally to the Betway Handicap at 3.15.

Here we like the look of the top weight Summerghand, the mount of Adam Kirby. Winner of the Stewards’ Cup last season off 108, the two recent runs will have put this course winner spot on for today and it should be backed at 100-30.

That’s it – back on Tuesday with a full analysis of the meeting at Sedgefield.


Sam Barton 1.50 Sandown 1.5pts e/w @ 17-2 (5 places)

Beauport 1.50 Sandown 1pt e/w @ 33-1 (5 places)

Langer Dan 2.25 Sandown 1.5pts e/w @ 11-2

Miranda 2.25 Sandown 1pt e/w @ 8-1 (4 places Hills)

Farinet 3.35 Sandown 1pt e/w @ 6-1

Highland Dress 2.05 Wolverhampton 1.5pts e/w @ 4-1

On A Session 2.40 Wolverhampton 2pts e/w @ 9-2 (4 places Ladbrokes)

Summerghand 3.15 Wolverhampton 2pts win @ 100-30

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