Saturday’s Sandown card is normally a decent warm up for the biggest four days of the jumps season at the Cheltenham Festival.
Trainers & jockeys love to have winners to ensure there confidence is sky high going into the Festival.
Nicky Henderson’s Gaitway beat Gold Cup challenger Tea for Two in a bumper a few years back, before injury halted his career for a couple of seasons. He returned to finish sixth at Cheltenham last December before winning a maiden hurdle at Musselburgh last month.
I am slightly concerned about the ground for him in the 2m 4f Novices Handicap Hurdle Final (1.50pm) but I’ll take a chance off his mark of 126. The consistent Mighty Don is the interesting challenger with the headgear now fitted for Nick Gifford.
The 3m Handicap Chase (2.25pm) has lots of familiar names in it but I like Jonjo O’Neill’s Upswing. A good run last time at Kempton can be followed up by a win here. He’s had his problems so it’s easy to forget how good his form was before last season. However, he’s well handicapped on the best of his form.
The day’s feature race the Imperial Cup (3pm) has a relatively poor turnout. It’s a valuable contest and there’s a £50k bonus for whatever wins it and goes on to win any race at the Festival.
The connections of Kayf Blanco won’t mind because this horse has mixed it with the best 2m handicap hurdlers around and with none of those in this race he can capitalise.
He wears a tongue tie for the first time and was a good third at the track behind Brain Power & Consul De Thaix in December. Both are well fancied for Festival honours next week and he can reward us at a lovely each-way price too.
Cap Soleil heads the market for the mares’ bumper (3.35pm) after she beat Daphne de Clos at Cheltenham. However, Irish challenger Redhotfillypepper cost connections £200k at the sales and won very nicely over 2m 2f at Punchestown. Could be value to upset the favourite.
Wolverhampton’s all weather card has a couple of TV races and My Target has been really well placed by Michael Wigham and can continue his winning spree in the 7f Stakes race at 3.15pm.
The Lincoln Trial Handicap (2.05pm) is a chance for Supersta to get compensation for getting chinned in this contest last year,. He is the only course and distance winner in here and Silvestre de Sousa is going to ride a lot for Mick Appleby this season.
Best of luck and I’ll be here every day for Cheltenham next week.