Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Sandown and Wolverhampton on Saturday. View selections below.
VIBRATO VALTAT (3.15) is fancied to serve it up to handicap snip Regal Encore in the William Hill Imperial Cup at Sandown. Paul Nicholls’ ex-French five-year-old really got his act together at Exeter last month, pulling readily clear of Tiqris and Revaader. The runner-up may well have scored at Newbury last Saturday but was unluckily brought down, while Revaader would have hacked up at Exeter in midweek but for an unfortunate fall at the third last flight. Regal Encore, second to Briar Hill in the Champion Bumper, left connections shocked and bemused when beaten over hurdles at Hexham before Christmas.
However, his conqueror Seeyouatmidnight has been a revelation, peaking at an official rating of 155, so Regal Encore’s mark of 130 understandably has formbook students drooling. My one concern would be the abject form of trainer Anthony Honeyball, who has endured a wretched season. His last four runners are P7PP. The Pipe family boast a terrific Imperial Cup record, so top weight Swing Bowler and recent Ludlow scorer Baltimore Rock are worthy of respect.
David Pipe is also doubly represented in the William Hill NH Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final. Doctor Harper was a bit disappointing behind Ballyalton at Cheltenham in December but has since enjoyed a nice confidence-booster at Fakenham. Doctor Harper won a Sandown bumper last February in the famous David Johnson’s colours and should make a bold show. Stablemate KNIGHT OF NOIR (2.05) remains potentially unexposed, having routed the opposition at Wincanton last month. He had the 133-rated favourite eight lengths adrift that day, so Knight Of Noir’s mark of 135 is by no means draconian.
William Hill also sponsor the opening juvenile hurdle and punters could draw first blood with CARRY ON SYDNEY (1.30). A smart handicapper on the level for Richard Hannon, Carry On Sydney found himself bogged down on heavy ground when runner-up at Wincanton last month. He is better judged on his emphatic Market Rasen romp from Astrum (reopposes) or his second to classy Dawalan at Newbury. Oliver Sherwood’s four-year-old can defy top weight.
The patchwork all-weather track at Wolverhampton has taken a slating from racing professionals but there is still a good turnout for the Ladbrokes Lincoln Trial. FASHION LINE (2.55) was joined on the line by Sky Khan on her last visit to the Midlands track, travelling like the clear-cut winner for most of the trip. This looks a tougher test but Michael Bell’s filly has scope for improvement and apprentice Louis Steward is good value for his 5lb claim.
CHOOKIE ROYALE (2.20) blotted his copybook with a below-par effort at Lingfield when stepped up to 10 furlongs. Keith Dalgleish’s Scottish raider lost five lengths at the gate, a serious gaffe from a horse that likes to race up with the pace. Chookie Royale bolted up on his last visit to Wolverhampton, his fourth course success, and Tom Eaves will probably make plenty of use of him over this sharp seven furlongs. Alben Star, Bertiewhistle and Intransigent all boast major form claims, so Chookie Royale should go off at rewarding odds.
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