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Noel Fehily: Harley should give me a great spin at Sandown but it’s all eyes on Cheltenham now

The Festival is so close we can almost touch it - but I've business to take care of at Sandown first

I’ve worn the battery out on my phone with all the calls back and forward as the Festival looms into view. Who’s working well, who schooled badly, what races will they run in?

It’s all on a knife-edge and I’ve been busy riding work and schooling horses for the likes of Nicky Henderson, Neill Mullholland, Harry Fry and Charlie Longsdon.

The yards are buzzing and everyone just wishes Cheltenham would start as you’ve everything to lose and nothing to win if anything goes wrong in the final few days.

Months and months of grafting and planning can be gone in an instant and everyone’s wondering who are England’s best chances, Ireland’s best hopes and who the handicapper has missed.

But there’s still a couple of big races to be won at Sandown’s card on Saturday ..

Juvenile Handicap Hurdle,  2m, 1.25pm

There’s only four runners in the opener and I ride Harley Rebel for Neil Mulholland who is now top-rated in the race. He’s a good solid performer and runs his race every time. He was a neck winner over Ayalor at Chepstow the last time and in heavy ground so should handle the conditions fine.

H’cap Hurdle, 2m 3f, 2pm

I rode Dark Flame to finish third at Kempton on his debut and I really liked him. He’s an Irish point-to-point winner so will have no problem with the trip, ground or the stiff Sandown finish.

It’s a competitive handicap but he looks to be improving and could be better than his handicap mark suggests.

 

Imperial Cup, 2m Handicap Hurdle, 3.10pm

I’ve no mount in the feature race but the horse that stands out is Harry Whittington;s Affaire D’Honneur. He dwelt in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and was last turning into the straight before flying to finish fourth to Agrapart.

If he jumps off normally he has a massive chance. His A big run here would also back up the form of Yorkhill at Cheltenham next week who beat Agrapart handily in the Tolworth Hurdle at this track.

Rayvin Black won the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle last month but saddles top weight and gives nearly a stone or more to his rivals. Philip Hobbs’ For Good Measure has won his last two on the bounce and connections have been winning big prizes in Ireland with their handicap hurdlers.

Market support will be a good indicator here while Solstice Star has won five on the trot and has been winning on soft ground all year.

Mares NH Flat race, 2m, 3.45pm

I rode Kalanti in the mares NH race but Philip Hobbs’ Copper Kay has been very impressive all season. I read a while ago that this was the plan for her and then maybe head to Aintree. She sets the standard.

What do you think?