Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Sandown Park and Ayr on Saturday. View selections below.
MELODIC RENDEZVOUS (3.35) looks the best bet on an excellent 32Red-sponsored Sandown card. Connections have swerved a tilt at the tougher Relkeel Hurdle in favour of the two-mile handicap and this strapping sort will relish the deep underfoot conditions.
The ten-year-old twice had a rear view of Irving in November, at Wincanton and Haydock, before a creditable fourth to Old Guard at Cheltenham. Melodic Rendezvous won the Tolworth Hurdle here three seasons ago and the ground was heavy when he beat Zarkandar to lift the 2014 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
Last year’s victor Rayvin Black races off a 18lb higher mark and seventh-placed Leviathan is weighted to finish closer this time round.
It would be entirely fitting if the oldest horse in the race, TULLAMORE DEW (3.00), landed the Veterans’ Handicap Chase Final. Micky Hammond has the 14-year-old in terrific heart and even though the handicapper hasn’t missed Tullamore Dew following his demolition of Golden Chieftain at Carlisle (up 11lb), a couple of his runs last season when second to Grandads Horse at Ascot and Pineau De Re at Exeter, give him a solid each-way shout.
Sol scored over course and distance a couple of seasons ago but races from a 13lb higher perch these days. He again ran well in fourth behind Highland Lodge in the Becher Chase at Aintree and should be involved along with old rival Relax.
Reaping The Reward made an excellent return at Doncaster when the only horse to give Sego Success a race but a stiff three miles on testing ground may well overstretch his stamina.
PEARLS LEGEND (1.50) boasts good course form and is taken to reverse recent placings with his Newbury conqueror Grey Gold. Pearls Legend likes to race up with the pace and his solid jumping helped him to score twice here last season. John Spearing’s nine-year-old showed great battling qualities to beat Going Concern at Cheltenham last month and should remain competitive off a 6lb higher perch.
With the Colin Tizzard team cock-a-hoop following the big-race triumphs of Cue Card and Thistlecrack it may reap dividends to stick with the stable’s representative in the Listed Mares’ hurdle, namely MORELLO ROYALE (12.40). She upset odds-on Polly Peacham at Kempton and may be progressive enough to confirm placings on 7lb worse terms.
Willie Mullins despatches Gitane Du Berlais and Petite Parisienne, with Ruby Walsh preferring the former, and there is little separating the pair on form. Polly Peacham was only just denied by another Mullins mare, Glens Melody, at the Cheltenham Festival but deep ground wouldn’t be her most suitable surface.
The west coast of Scotland has taken a pounding from the rain so the track will be riding very deep at Ayr. This shouldn’t inconvenience KING OF THE WOLDS (2.05) in the 32Red handicap chase. He emptied between the last two fences when fourth over 3m 4f at Haydock, but Ayr was a happy hunting ground in March when King Of The Wolds ran out a comfortable winner (soft) over 3m 1f. The gelding posted another solid effort at Ayr last November when beaten under a length by Presenting Junior, with Harry The Viking six lengths adrift in third.
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