Paul Nicholls has shown real ‘bouncebackability’ to get his head in front in the Trainers’ Championship and I think he’s going to stay there now.
Sandown should be some day and it’s nearly been forgotten that Richard Johnson is finally being crowned champion jockey after chasing AP McCoy around the place for the past 20 years. It’s a fitting end to what has been a great season.
I was looking forward to having a few days off next week but with Special Tiara diverting to Punchestown, I’ll be off to Ireland instead.
Even though the 2015/16 season is ending , we’re almost straight back into the new season. There’s plenty of prize-money on offer next month for the jumpers who’ve been waiting for proper spring ground.
But all the focus for now is on Sandown now …
Sprinter Sacre gave us all a bit of a hiding in the Champion Chase where Un De Sceaux battled back to chin Special Tiara on the line.
I fancy Nicky Henderson’s runner to confirm the form on good ground in the Grade One Celebration Chase (3.35pm). To my mind, Willie Mullins’ Un De Sceaux really needs some dig in the ground to show his best. If he gets it, he’ll push Sprinter Sacre all the way but the forecast is for a couple of drying days.
Paul Nicholls has three runners in it and can hoover up enough money to dent Mullins’ haul, but only Dodging Bullets on his very best form looks to have a winning chance of the trio.
Going for Gold
The Gold Cup Chase is the richest race on the card and for once it mightn’t be Mullins or Nicholls who dominate it – but Neill Mullholland.
He throws three darts at the board in The Druids Nephew, The Young Master and the one I ride, Carole’s Destrier who won the London National over course and distance last December. I’d say we’ve a good each-way shout in a very competitive race.
The Druids Nephew should be a completely different horse on good ground. The rain that fell at Aintree killed his Grand National chances as he couldn’t jump out of the soft ground, hit a few hard, and was pulled up.
He’ll be a different proposition on Saturday while The Young Master was a good third to well handicapped horses Un Temps Pour Tout and Holywell at Cheltenham and comes here relatively fresh.
Nicholls looks to have kept ante-post favourite Southfield Theatre for this race and saddles last year’s winner Just A Par too.
But it could be a bit of an after-thought for the Mullins’ camp. Sir Des Champs took a nasty fall at Aintree, Measureofmydreams tipped up at Ayr last weekend. It’s amazing to think Willie Mullins hasn’t had a handicap chase winner in the UK since Hedgehunter won the National in 2005, some 90 odd runners ago.
This would be some time to nail that stat.
It’s a different story in the Select Hurdle (4.45pm) where Vroum Vroum Mag sets the standard and takes on the boys for the first time.
I can’t see that being a problem as her performance at the Ferstival pointed to her being the next Annie Power.
The New One should appreciate the step up in trip and a return to a right-handed track but there’s no secrets left with him now.
Vroum Vroum Mag hasn’t really had a hard race this season and should definitely be one in the bag for Team Mullins even if Nicholls has three runners.
Nicholls gets a free pass with three entries in the 5.20pm. Course winner As De Mee is his highest-rated runner but Sam Twiston-Davies rides Calipto.
Depending on the afternoon’s results he may need to make it count as Mullins has three declared in the last including the improving Bellow Mome.
Despite Nicholls’ lead it’s still on a knife-edge. One big result will have the Irish trainer right back in the mix. It could go right to the wire.