Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card at Aintree and Sandown with six tips on Saturday’s card. View selections below
The Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase sees the eagerly-awaited return to the track of the two exciting second season Chasers Paul Nicholls’ Sanctuaire and Nicky Henderson’s Sprinter Sacre (3.05) and preference must be for the latter who turned the Arkle into a procession at the Festival and is unbeaten in five starts over fences.
His seven length eased-down demolition of Cue Card at Cheltenham was given a massive boost when the runner up routed a strong field in the Haldon Gold Cup on his return and Sprinter Sacre really does look something special.
Sanctuaire is also unbeaten over the larger obstacles having won all three starts over fences by a total of 74 lengths including twice over today’s Course & Distance. He thrashed Grade 1 Victor Chandler Chase winner Somersby by 17l on his final start but this is the acid test and one unbeaten chase record will go later this afternoon. It promises to be a fascinating renewal of this famous event.
The other Grade 1 event at Sandown on Saturday is the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase and Captain Conan (1.55) is a confident selection for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty; a wonderful stamp of a horse he scored at Cheltenham on debut over fences, was a Grade 1 winner over hurdles previously and although he may get further in time looks another Arkle candidate for Seven Barrows.
When you think the yard also have Simonsig (3/1 favourite with BetVictor) for the Arkle it does show what a strong hand the Lambourn handler has in the Novice Chase division; that said he has a good hand in most divisions. The 4-y-old Hinterland cut his own throat by going off far too quickly at Exeter on his chase debut and it is fascinating that Nicholls’ put the maiden in Grade 1 company; he receives 6lbs from his older rivals but preference is for the Henderson runner.
Lively Baron (3.40) ran a cracker in a decent Bangor event last time and although there must be a concern that he will get involved in a fight for the lead with Golan Way he is taken to outstay that rival in receipt of 21lbs in the marathon handicap chase that concludes the Sandown card. Team Nicholls’ have a fascinating contender in Temp De Cotte but he was reported to have a wind problem after his British debut at Plumpton and will have his tongue tied down today.
Today is the only day in the racing calendar when there are two races over the Grand National fences and in the Becher Chase the hope is that Big Fella Thanks (2.10) can finally win a race over the unique Aintree fences; the selection has finished 6th (2009) 4th (2010) and 7th (2011) in the Grand National and was in the process of making a pleasing reappearance when unseating on the Mildmay course at Aintree back in October.
Formerly trained by Paul Nicholls he is now with Tom George and as long as his confidence has not been affected by that mishap he must go well; he obviously doesn’t quite get the four-and-a-half mile trip of the National but this intermediate 3m 2f trip should be ideal.
Becher Chase: Aintree Saturday: prices from BetVictor:
West End Rocker : 11/2
Join Together: 15/2
Big Fella Thanks: 8/1
Problema Tic: 8/1
Any Currency: 12/1
Quito De La Roque (1.05) has never scaled the heights I thought he was capable of but he looks to have found an ideal opening at a track where he landed the big Novice Chase at the 2011 Grand National meeting.
Nacarat has his first sight of the National fences in the Grand Sefton and the grey and Tranquil Sea add a touch of class to proceedings but a chance is taken on Carrickboy (3.20) who doesn’t quite get 3 miles and will appreciate dropping back in trip; owner Trevor Hemmings’ likes nothing better than to have an Aintree winner and he also has Gansey in the race although he got no further than the first in this year’s Topham.
Remember we are now Non Runner Free Bet on the 2013 Cheltenham Festival.