Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with five to follow on Saturday at Sandown Park and Hereford. View selections below
The weekend racing has a lull before the storm feel with Cheltenham galloping towards us at a rate of knots and the waiting is almost over for the biggest week of the racing year. The big betting race today, however, is the Imperial Cup and top-weight Fixe Le Cap is likely to have his supporters having looked a juvenile who could go to the very top when winning his first couple of starts last season for Nicky Henderson.
The gelding has not been seen on the track since finishing in midfield in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham last March but has been dropped 4lbs for that effort and he holds a couple of engagements at the Festival next week. You have to go back to 2010 for the last winning favourite and to 2003 for a winner of the race who carried more than 11st and at just 4/1 with BetVictor he is reluctantly overlooked.
London Prize is interesting but is likely to be seen in a better light on good or faster ground but on today’s surface (described as soft at the time of writing) I will give another chance to Max Do Brazil (3.00) who is fitted with a tongue tie for the first time having disappointed on his British debut for David Pipe at Cheltenham back in January.
The weight of money for the French import on the day suggested connections thought the horse was well handicapped from his current handicap mark and the yard were not firing on all cylinders at the time of that disappointing effort. The selection dis, however, cost 160k when bought at the Tattersalls’ Sales in December and is obviously highly regarded. The selection is 8/1 at BetVictor and can reward each way support in a race where the Pipe yard have had considerable success in the past.
The recent course and distance winners Pete The Feat and Willoughby Hedge will have their supporters in the 3m Chase but Shanroe Santos (2.25) is clearly going the right way and a 4lb rise may not prevent him following up his recent Warwick success. His jumping has room for improvement but I feel going right-handed will help and he receives weight from his seven rivals.
Vicenzo Mio (4.10) stopped as if shot at Kelso last time over 2m 6f but the hope is that his stamina just gave way – he had jumped very well on his chase debut at the Borders track and this drop in trip should suit.
I hope it’s a good day for Paul Nicholls as his Alcala (4.45) is forgiven a tired fall at Hereford last time on ground that was barely raceable. He jumped and travelled like much the best horse in the race, however, and today’s conditions will not be as testing as they were last time.
At Hereford I think Freddies Portrait (2.50) will appreciate returning to today’s 2m 4f trip having stayed on strongly having looked beaten back at the minimum trip at Carlisle last time. An 8lbs rise is by no means lenient but he is open to further improvement and his sound jumping on this right-handed track will be an asset.