Sandown stage today’s feature meeting including the 21-runner Heroes Handicap Hurdle which has been won by champion trainer Paul Nicholls in three of the last four years. Prince Tom is his sole representative and this lightly-raced 7-y-o looks to have been laid out for the race since breaking his maiden at Taunton back in November.
He looks sure to go close but in a desperately tight handicap preference is for Like A Hurricane (3.00) as long as the ground doesn’t deteriorate significantly between now and post time. The selection’s best form has been on ground no worse than good to soft and he looks to have been saved from the soft and heavy ground which has prevailed for much of the winter since his success at Ascot back in October.
Up 7lbs for that effort the selection will need to improve again given that was a much weaker novice handicap but he is less exposed than many of the field and as long as the rains stay away looks worthy of each way support at Victor Chandler’s current show of 10/1.
Heroes Handicap Hurdle; prices from : EW ¼ odds first 4
Lush Life 6/1
Mister Hyde 6/1
Alfie Spinner 7/1
Kilcrea Kim 8/1
Like A Hurricane 10/1
Prince Tom 10/1
The two Champion Hurdle Trials are uncompetitive events with reigning champion Binocular (1.55 Sand) and progressive stablemate Oscar Whisky (2.40 Ffos Las) having their final prep races ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. The latter also holds an entry in the World Hurdle over 3m and he will have to win well today to be considered a realistic contender for the Champion over the minimum distance of 2m.
Captain Chris looked ready for a return to 2m 4f when firmly put in his place at Newbury last time by Arkle favourite Ghizao and his tendency to jump slightly out to the right suggests that Sandown ought to suit. He is a potential improver but Medermit (2.25) also stepped up on previous efforts when trying this trip last time and the grey has previously hinted that he could go to the very top over fences.
Khachaturian (3.35) was recommended last week for the abandoned meeting at Doncaster and I see no reason to desert him in a lesser race against largely exposed rivals. At the time of writing Donald McCain’s last nine runners have finished either first or second so it would be fair to say his string are in good nick.
Adams Island was a game winner at Doncaster last month and with the winner having subsequently bolted up he must go close off a mark only 3lb higher. Preference is for Maktu (3.10) who ran a cracker in the Welsh National considering he pulled like a train for most of the race and with a good pace guaranteed he can give Pat Murphy a welcome winner.
The Henderson/Geraghty combination could have a field day at the Welsh track and Loose Performer (4.15) looks sure to appreciate the step up to 3m having lost out by a head on his hurdle debut at Doncaster. A winning point-to-pointer he is held in some regard by connections and ought to go one better this afternoon.
At Fontwell on Sunday the mare Guydus (2.50) has been bogged down in her two starts over fences to date but is considered a potential improver from the Venetia Williams camp. She is now 9lbs lower than when making her chase debut at Towcester and will have few better opportunities in a poor race.
The Irish Hennessy is the highlight on a terrific card at Leopardstown tomorrow with any number of stars on show including Mikael D’Haguenet (2.40) who has yet to win in two starts over fences but is still considered a potential Gold Cup winner. He is so talented (but fragile in equal measure) that connections are still considering this year’s Gold Cup rather than the RSA Chase if they can get him to Cheltenham in A one shape.
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