Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with five to follow on Saturday at Sandown and Chepstow. View selections below
Not long to go now until the 2014 Cheltenham Festival but some excellent racing this weekend including a cracking card from Sandown where the feature race is an excellent renewal of the Imperial Cup.
Sponsors William Hill have put up a £100,000 bonus for any horse who wins the contest and then follows up in any race at Cheltenham and, like many others, I have been looking forward to the handicap debut of Regal Encore (3.15) who finished runner up in the Champion Bumper twelve months ago. The selection is currently 5/2 at BetVictor but can’t get any shorter and is likely to go off around the 3/1 or 7/2 mark.
The selection has only won one of his three starts over timber but there was no disgrace in either loss, and the form of his 2L defeat at the hands of Seeyouatmidnight back in December reads well when you consider the subsequent exploits (Grade 2 success) of the winner.
Seeyouatmidnight is now rated 155 and there is every possibility that the selection is very well treated off his current handicap mark but he will have to be as there are any number of, potentially, well-treated horses in opposition.
Paul Nicholls’ Vibrato Valtat and John Ferguson’s New Year’s Eve (finished runner up in the Champion Bumper of 2012) are much respected but the vote goes to Regal Encore in a race where I am sure the form will work out very well between now and the end of the season.
In the opener Carry On Sydney (1.30) needs to win in order to get a penalty which should be enough to get him into the Fred Winter at the Festival for Oliver Sherwood. The selection was an 80-rated horse on the flat and looked to be found out by the heavy ground at Wincanton last time. With the ground drying out all the time he must go close and can confirm Market Rasen form with Astrum on 8lb worse terms.
The EBF Final is another top class handicap and despite the impost of 11st 10lbs David Pipe’s Knight Of Noir (2.05) must go close having impressed when scoring at Wincanton last time. In four of the last six renewals the winner has carried more than 11 stone and he and stablemate Doctor Harper look the class acts in an ultra-competitive event.
Ice N Easy (5.00) was a bitter disappointment at Wetherby last time but is taken to confirm the promise of his Kempton reappearance in the finale for Charlie Longsdon whose Pendra has been well supported for the Novices’ Handicap Chase on the opening day at Cheltenham. Do watch out for the Victor Dartnall runners as the yard have had three winners this week and look to be finally emerging from the doldrums. A check of the market is suggested for Overclear.
At Chepstow in the BetVictor Handicap Hurdle I think Minella On Line (5.05) must go close for local trainer Rebecca Curtis with conditional jockey Paul O’Brien taking off a valuable 7lbs. I’m not convinced the selection was ideally suited to Kempton last time and would have a leading chance off this mark if running to the same level of form as when 20L third to Deputy Dan here over 2m 4f over Xmas.