There has never been anything to compare to the staying handicap chase finale, the Gold Cup, at Sandown Park on the final day of the jumps season.
Formerly known as the Whitbread Gold Cup, who can forget the rousing finish of Special Cargo in the 1984 renewal, or Desert Orchid’s brilliant dismissal of the classy Kildimo in 1988. If you are too young to remember these two races, then get over to Youtube straight away and enjoy! (And then come straight back for my tips).
This year’s field looks a fair renewal, and I have been waiting a year to see Rock the Kasbah in this race again.
Held up off a stop-start pace in 2017, this lightly raced eight-year-old came up the hill firing on all cylinders to finish a never-nearer sixth.
He is admittedly 7lbs higher this time around, but crucially comes here a fit and fresh horse having only had two starts to date this term.
He also has a magnificent record when fresh, and should make the most of the 12lbs he receives from the top weight Blaklion. He’s getting 5lbs from the enigmatic Regal Encore, who had to be withdrawn on the morning of the Grand National at Aintree because his blood wasn’t right.
If you are looking for a relatively unexposed charge at a double-figure price, then I couldn’t put you off the claims of the lightly weighted Step Back, trained by the Bradstocks.
Jamie Moore looks a really interesting booking off a mere 10 stone, and this eight-year-old has been absolutely crying out for the test of stamina he will get here. He won’t mind any further forecast rain to boot.
It will be a pleasure to see the mighty Altior back in action in the Celebration Chase at 15.00. Of course, he won’t be any price at all, but, if you are looking for a forecast play, God’s Own could well be the one.
I am especially sweet on the chance of Call Me Lord in the Select Hurdle at 16.05. It’s still a mystery as to why the stewards didn’t award him the Imperial Cup here earlier in the season. That, and several other decisions this season, have left me frustrated that we don’t have professional stewards all over the world.
This strong galloper seems to adore the stiff uphill finish of the Esher track. Though this is a rise in class, he can out-battle the hardy Wholestone and the evergreen Old Guard.
With James Bowen taking a hugely valuable three pounds off his back, Burrows Edge has leading claims of landing the valuable opening Novices Championship Handicap Hurdle Final at the top of the card. The 14/1 available with Paddy Power looks well worth taking at each-way terms of 1/5 for the first five places.
Double Shuffle takes a drop in grade for the Oaksey Chase over the intermediate trip at 14.25, but he looks too short in the betting to my eyes, as does likely favourite Top Notch. The value call surely has to be Alcala at 8/1.
The pick of the finale, a ultra-tough handicap hurdle over two-and-a-half miles at 17.15, could be the Nicky Henderson pair of Lough Derg Spirit and Stowaway Magic. Both are likely to trade at double-figure odds.
* All prices correct at time of posting