Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Sandown Park and Wolverhampton on Saturday. View selections below.
NOT ANOTHER MUDDLE (3.00) can make full use of his light weight in the The Matchbook Imperial Cup at Sandown.
Gary Moore has given the five-year-old a tough old assignment for his handicap debut but Not Another Muddle meets some exposed rivals. The last 10 Imperial Cup winners have carried less than 11-stone, which brings in only four horses in this year’s renewal.
Not Another Muddle mopped up a Fontwell novices’ hurdle in January, then chased home Philip Hobbs’ 129-rated Casper King on a return to the same track last month. He seems to handle soft ground well, which will be to his advantage. Moore also saddles Darebin, effective on the all-weather this winter, but preference is for Not Another Muddle.
Bigmartre sluiced through the mud to score at Haydock and it was also soft when he ran third to Ivan Grozny and Automated at Aintree in April. Bigmartre would have a great chance on that run but Harry Whittington’s gelding flopped behind William H Bonney at Cheltenham and will do well to reverse placings with Alan King’s runner, himself a disappointment last time out in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
Max Do Brazil was pulled up behind William H Bonney at Cheltenham but David Pipe’s charge, a £160,000 purchase, is surely capable of much better. Entries at Cheltenham next week suggest the Pipe yard expect a big improvement.
Fixe Le Kap has had a long break since making no show in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at the Festival last March and he looks a vulnerable favourite under top weight.
Gassin Golf ran third in the 2015 Imperial Cup (when a certain Thistlecrack was back in fifth) and fell early in the Betfair Hurdle on his most recent outing. He has a chance under his 7lb claimer and drying ground would be to his advantage.
If all 16 go to post in the Matchbook EBF Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final a confident each-way wager is recommended on FULL IRISH (1.50).
The handicapper has imposed a 10lb rise on his official rating after Full Irish made short work of his rivals at Leicester when coping admirably with the muddy track. Emma Lavelle’s gelding had earlier chased home Cheltenham-bound The Worlds End at Chepstow and boasted some smart bumper form in his earlier days.
Nicky Henderson is sending his customary strong team to Cheltenham and he will be hopeful of a pre-Festival boost from Gaitway, closely matched with Paul Nicholls’ Touch Kick on their Musselburgh run.
Colin Tizzard, harbouring Gold Cup aspirations next week with Cue Card and Native River, saddles a brace in the Matchbook-sponsored three-mile handicap chase.
Top weight Masters Hill ran well to finish third in a veterans’ chase at Exeter but a chance is taken on FOURTH ACT (2.25) recapturing top form.
He has been taking on a slightly higher class of rival, running fourth behind Antony at Ascot and occupying the same position at Cheltenham behind Viconte Du Noyer. His jumping lacked fluency when pulled up behind Regal Encore and Tizzard popped him over hurdles next time at Warwick when a far from discredited sixth behind Tobefair.
Alan King’s decision to stick a visor on Willoughby Hedge worked wonders over course and distance in February and he is up 8lb for that success.
The Lincoln Trial Handicap at Wolverhampton reminds punters that the Flat turf season is looming large on the horizon and PACTOLUS (2.05) represents the in-form Stuart Williams team.
His six-year-old produced a power-packed finish to catch Winterlude and a 3lb rise isn’t harsh by any means. Winterlude won next time out and Pactolus must go close if there is a strong pace to attack in his trademark fashion.
KEYSTROKE (3.15) steps into Listed company after taking some notable handicap scalps. Jeremy Noseda’s gelding, a Kempton scorer on his last start, landed the Lincoln Trial on this card 12 months ago and can turn around Lingfield placings with prolific scorer My Target in November on 6lb better terms. Keystroke was caught wide from a poor draw that day but is better berthed here.
Yuften landed a Ascot handicap in October on only his second start for Roger Charlton, having switched from Johnny Murtagh, and should go well following a gelding operation during his winter break.
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