THE winner of Saturday’s Paddy Power Imperial Cup at Sandown will be chasing a £75,000 bonus at Cheltenham and the two horses at the head of the betting look the most likely candidates. Bookmakers took evasive action after a midweek plunge on Master Of Arts and the Pipe team have lined their pockets too many times in the past for the money to be ignored. The last time they trousered the bonus pot was with Gaspara in 2007 but this time they could be thwarted by TED SPREAD (3.15), representing Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh. Ted Spread finished out with the washing in the 2010 Derby but had earlier landed the Chester Vase for Mark Tompkins. Ted Spread clicked into winning mode at Taunton at the end of January and looks capable of defying the handicapper’s 15lb imposte. Master Of Arts had a spell running in Dubai for Mark Johnston after leaving the care of Sir Mark Prescott and has clearly been showing plenty at home. A lively outsider at big odds may be course winner Cicerone, best when held-up off a strong pace. He didn’t stay the longer trip at Ascot and then found the company a bit too hot in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Venetia Williams’ six-year-old likes soft ground and Sam Thomas will try to produce him late in the day.
The William Hill Lincoln Trial is the highlight of an above-average card at Wolverhampton and MIA’S BOY (3.30) has run some his best races here, most notably when beaten a neck by Dunelight in a Listed event. Mia’s Boy had a spin round Lingfield last month and could be considered an unlucky loser as he ran into traffic problems inside the final furlong.
SWITZERLAND (2.55) wilted in the closing stages over a mile at Lingfield but can pick up the winning thread now dropped in trip. Mark Johnston’s Shamardal colt will find this company less exacting.
Lucy Alexander and Ferdy Murphy are forging quite an eyecatching partnership and they have solid prospects at Ayr with SOPHANIE (4.00). The French-bred mare was a winner over hurdles on heavy ground at Uttoxeter in January but will be equally at home here over fences, having run well in defeat at Wetherby behind a smart sort in Best Lover.
ALEXANDER OATS (5.10), trained by local permit holder Robert Goldie, ran much better than his finishing position would suggest in a competitive handicap at the seaside course last month and could pop up at a nice price.
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