Paul Ferguson has three selectiosn for us on Saturday, Cedre Bleu (EW) 14.00 Sandown, Quel Esprit 15.15 Punchestown and Imperial Monarch 16.15 at Sandown. Compare odds and bet.
Once again Willie Mullins has taken all before him at this year’s Punchestown Festival and he can round off another red-letter week by landing today’s rescheduled TheTote.com Gold Cup with Quel Esprit (3:15).
The eight-year-old was given a couple of confidence boosters in lesser company over shorter trips earlier in the season, before landing his first Grade 1 in the Hennessy at Leopardstown in February.
The grey jumped really well that day and had the race sewn up someway out. A similar round of jumping should see him have his field strung out by the turn in here and, assuming he’s over the setback that kept him out of the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, he will take a bit of beating.
Sandown stages it’s mixed card for Bet365 Gold Cup and Gordon Richards Stakes day, but it’s Imperial Monarch (4:15) that makes most appeal in the same sponsor’s Classic Trial over 1m2f.
Aidan O’Brien’s Galileo colt looked a horse of some promise when winning a backend maiden on soft ground at the Curragh in September, form that has taken a boost already this season when runner-up Azamata won a maiden last month.
The winner strode clear in the manner of an exciting middle-distance prospect for this season. It will not be a surprise to see him develop in to a genuine Derby contender and, if there is an Epsom colt in this line-up, this is the one.
The negative is that Aidan O’Brien’s horses have still yet to get going properly this season, but it’s surely only a matter of time and at 5/2 he is well worth chancing, despite facing a couple of race-fit opponents.
Earlier on the card, the quartet of jumps races have an end-of-season feel to them, with both the Gold Cup and Celebration Chase hard to way up. Sanctuaire is a horse I’ve had in mind for the latter since Paul Nicholls decided to swerve a clash with Sprinter Sacre at Aintree, but the ground is against him and he’s in pretty deep here for an inexperienced novice.
The Bet365 Handicap Hurdle looks really competitive, with Tour D’Argent greatly respected after a fine run at Aintree, but he looked to have a tough race just 15 days ago and a chance is taken on Cedre Bleu (2:00) who returns to hurdles a fresh horse and on a reasonable looking mark (135) for this handicap debut.
A soft ground winner at Newbury on his British debut last season, he then chased home the classy Spirit Son on heavy ground at Exeter and only returned 11 months later when beating Bellvano in a novice chase at Newbury in January.
The runner-up won his next two, including the Grand Annual at Cheltenham, before suffering a fatal fall at Fairyhouse earlier this month, while third home Lidar won at Haydock three weeks ago. Even the fourth home (only four run) Ballyallia Man has won twice since, while the selection failed to cut the mustard in Grade 1 company next time.
Absent since, he returns here after a 10-week lay-off and, as both of wins have come when fresh and with plenty of cut in the ground, there are plenty of positives about him here. Available at 12/1 with Stan James, he looks worth an each-way interest in a wide-open contest.
2:00 Sandown Cedre Bleu (each-way 12/1 Stan James)
3:15 Punchestown Quel Esprit (9/4 Hills)
4:15 Sandown Imperial Monarch (5/2 Bet365)
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Last Year’s Tips Included 40 Leading Prospects: £499.80 profit to a level £10!
- AL FEROF won Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 10-1
- BENSALEM won Stewart Family Handicap 5-1
- BOBS WORTH won A Bartlett 15-8, 4/4 for year
- CAPTAIN CHRIS won Arkle Trophy 6-1
- FIRST LIEUTENANT won Neptune Investment 7-1
- (plus Grade 1 in Ireland 16-1)
- JAMES DE VASSY won Lanzarote Hurdle 8-1
- LONG RUN won King George 9-2, Gold Cup 7-2
- OSCAR WHISKY won Aintree Hurdle 6-1
- Peddlers Cross (Fighting Fifth Hurdle)
- Medermit (Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase)
- FINIAN’S RAINBOW (Maghull Novices’ Chase)
- WISHFULL THINKING (Manifesto Novices’ Chase)