This weekend sees Sandown bid farewell to the current National Hunt campaign in traditional style, with the meeting seeing the crowing of the Champion Trainers and Jockeys for the season. The ITV cameras will be there to take in all of the action on what is set to be a cracking card.
It is the five events from the Esher venue that take up the bulk of the TV offering, with the Grade 1 Celebration Chase and hugely competitive bet365 Gold Cup providing the headline acts. Flat fans are also well catered for, courtesy of a couple of intriguing handicap events from Leicester and Haydock, in what is an excellent day to settle down on the sofa. Here we pick out our best bets in each of the seven contests on offer in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:05 bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m
Paul Nicholls has taken two of the four editions of this race to date, and is strongly represented once again, with the four-timer seeking Killaloan, Beau Balco, and topweight Holetown Hero all making the journey from Ditcheat. The market prefers Killaloan from that trio, and he looks set to go well under Harry Cobden. However, in such a competitive heat, we prefer an each-way punt.
Jeremy Scott’s Celtic Art makes the shortlist, having beaten Killaloan earlier in the season, but he seems likely to face stiff competition for the lead here, which could harm his chances. With so many of these liking to make the running, the race could be set up for a closer, and the one taken to mow them down late is Nicky Henderson’s Iberico Lord. This one showed vast improvement on his first start since a wind-op when nailing the reopposing Beau Balko on the line last time out at Stratford, and is actually 4lbs better off with that rival under these conditions. The 8/1 looks like a really cracking price and we fancy him to get us off to a flyer.
1:40 bet365 Celebration Chase
Grade 1, 1m7½f
We have the big Grade 1 event of the day up next, with a select field of five set to line up – four of whom last went to post in the Champion Chase, whilst the odd one out, Jonbon, finished second to the impressive El Fabiolo in the Arkle.
Of those heading here from the Champion Chase, Greaneteen makes obvious appeal, having won the past two editions of this. However, he was disappointing over this course and distance in the Tingle Creek Chase here back in December (another race he had previously won) and hasn’t looked quite the same horse this season.
Captain Guinness has to be respected on his second to Energumene, whilst Editeur Du Gite will be dangerous if allowed his own way in front. Overall, we fancy it may pay to side with Jonbon on his first step outside of novice company. Only two horses have beaten the Nicky Henderson star in his career to date – the aforementioned, El Fabiolo, and Constitution Hill – and there isn’t anything of that calibre amongst the opposition here.
2:15 bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Class 1, 3m4½f
Kitty’s Light heads the betting for the day’s big betting heat following his win in the Scottish Grand National. Third in this race 12 months ago following a second-placed effort in the Ayr showpiece, he boasts obvious claims on form. However, there were 21 days between the Scottish National and this race in 2022, whilst this year he is tasked with backing up that effort following a break of only seven days.
Paul Nicholls Enrilo is well handicapped on his best form, having finished first past the post here in 2021, but needs to show a lot more than he has of late. The Seamus Mullins-trained Moroder appeals as an interesting each-way option, but the one for us is Harry Fry’s Revels Hill.
This one skipped his Scottish National engagement and may put that freshness to good use at a course which appears to suit him well. Fourth of this mark in the London National here, he did well to finish as close as he did that day, having been severely hampered at the eighth fence. Granted a better rub of the green this time around, he is fancied to go close.
2:50 bet365 Oaksey Chase
Grade 2, 2m6½f
Having won each of the last three editions, the yard of Paul Nicholls is the obvious first port of call in this Grade 2 affair. The champion trainer sends Solo and McFabulous into battle this time around, with the former, in particular, greatly respected as a course winner who scored nicely at Kempton last time out.
First Flow would enter calculations should the rain arrive, but for us, the clear class act in this field is the Shark Hanlon runner, Hewick. An impressive 8l winner of the bet365 Gold Cup on this card last year, it is interesting that he heads here rather than attempting to defend that title under a big weight. Last sighted running a mighty race, only to fall two from home in no less a race than the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he looks like the one they all have to beat.
3:05 Madri Excepcional King Richard II Cup Handicap
Class 2, 1m
We head to Leicester for the first of the day’s contests on the flat, with a field of eight set to go post. With Sir Michael Stoute operating at a 50% strike rate over the past fortnight, his Aerion Power is worth a second look, and has pieces of form which would give him decent claims. However, with this being his first run on turf in almost two years, something of a leap of faith is required.
Maysong seems likely to go well from the foot of the weights, having shown a liking for heavy ground last time out, but overall we feel the market has this right in making Al Mubhir the clear favourite. Well fancied for the Lincoln, he was a little underwhelming in fifth, but was still only beaten 4l, and this doesn’t look anything like so hot a race. Lincoln 11th, Jimi Hendrix hacked up in the Spring Cup last weekend, and this unexposed colt is fancied to give the form of the Doncaster handicap another boost here.
3:25 bet365 Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m4f
A wide-open handicap concludes the day’s jumping action, with the compilers struggling to zero in on a favourite at the time of writing. Gloire D’athon and Hudson De Grugy have the benefit of a course and distance win to their names this season, and it is the latter who just gets the nod from us.
A neck too good for the reopposing Quel Destin in a similar event here in March, this Gary Moore runner was value for more than the winning margin that day, having made a complete mess of the final fence. With that in mind, a 3lb rise in the handicap is perfectly fair. The ground seems likely to be quicker on this occasion, but the presence of Harpers Brook in the field should ensure this is run at a good gallop, and he is taken to get on top late once again.
3:45 Join Racing TV Now Handicap
Class 2, 7f
Spycatcher heads the market for the closing handicap from Haydock following an impressive win at Thirsk. That was a solid effort back from a substantial break, but he will face vastly different conditions moving back into handicap company here.
Gweedore also won well on his most recent outing but is now up to a career-high mark on what will be his 33rd start and wouldn’t look to have much room for improvement. Rhoscolyn is interesting on the back of a recent wind-op, but the one who looks overpriced is his stablemate Orbaan.
This one makes his seasonal return here and runs off the same mark as when beaten only 4l into 5th in the Balmoral Handicap. This looks like a weaker affair on paper than that Ascot contest, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him go at least a couple of places better. At a very big price we think he can at least go close and possibly help us end the day with a real bang.