1:50 EBF Betfair ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final 2m 3f 173y
Nigel Twiston-Davies has given five horses their handicap debuts over hurdles at Sandown in the past five years, with three of those coming in this race. Of the five, a remarkable four have been adjudged first past the post, including Beauport and One For Rosie (who was first past the wrong post, it transpired) in this race, while Ballymoy and Guard Your Dreams have also won at other fixtures. The SP’s of those runners – winners first – were 3/1, 13/2, 28/1, 12/1 and 20/1.
The above stats are not what led me to Cuthbert Dibble in the EBF Final, but they certainly add a degree of confidence in the recent Leicester winner. Out of a half-sister to that smashing racemare Banjaxed Girl, who raced for Twiston-Davies before returning to Rahinston Farm, and is herself dam of Coral Gold Cup winner Le Milos, Cuthbert Dibble is bred to improve with time and distance, and stepped up markedly on previous efforts when winning with something to spare on testing ground at Leicester last month, where he beat the consistent Georges Saint by 19 lengths.
The selection is the type who will be better as a chaser in time, and is likely to stay three miles, but that is almost certainly a positive in a race like this, where bottomless stamina will trump slick jumping, and Cuthbert Dibble is a confident shout assuming the frost doesn’t intervene.
2:25 Betfair Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle 1m 7f 216y
The ability to handle heavy ground is essential in the Imperial Cup and conditions will push many of the contenders to the limit. That won’t be a concern for Metier, who needs heavy ground to show his form, and is a Grade 1 winner over course and distance in the mud.
He has to carry top weight of 12st here, which is a concern of sorts, but he’s only 4lb higher than when spreadeagling his rivals at Lingfield last January under a similar burden, and he’s only raced on his favoured surface once since, when winning the November Handicap at Doncaster on the final day of the turf flat season.
Zoffany Bay may be the main threat, and he attracted support despite a lengthy absence when second at Ascot last month on debut for Peter Fahey, who won this race last season.
The nine-year-old stays further and has won on ground described as heavy in France, but times would suggest he’s done his winning on soft or better going, which just sways me back to Metier.
3:00 British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ National Hunt Flat Race (Listed) 1m 7f 216y
The ground clues aren’t as obvious in the mares’ bumper, and we need some guidance from pedigree analysis to narrow the field. Favourite at the time of writing is Casa No Mento, but she raced on very different ground when winning at Hereford on debut, and sire Casamento has a very poor record with his National Hunt runners in the mud. The next two in the betting both raced keenly on quicker ground last time, and could be vulnerable with the emphasis on stamina here.
The one I like in terms of her likelihood of being suited by a test in these conditions is Mercian Omen, whose dam Mariah Rollins was a Grade 1 winner on heavy ground for Pat Fahy back in the day. Mercian Omen was runner-up at Wetherby on her debut despite running green, and she is sure to improve for what will be a significantly stiffer test here.
3:35 - Betfair Daily Multiples Offer At Cheltenham Novices’ Handicap Chase 2m 4f 10y
It might not be as easy as all that for Easyasthat, but the Venetia Williams-trained eight-year-old looks the pick in a race which was moved from the Cheltenham Festival just a few years ago.
A case can be made for most on individual form lines, but Quel Destin has been rather disappointing over fences, winning a weak race at Lingfield, but only beating one opponent in three runs either side of that unconvincing success. No Risk Des Flos has a good strike rate, but saves his very best form for Wetherby, where his form figures read: 11161 as opposed to 7P4 in handicaps elsewhere.
Baron De Middleton is better on good to soft or quicker ground and Hudson De Grugy has shown regressive form in this sphere until arresting the slide in a visor last time. He has claims if building on that with headgear retained, but Easyasthat looks the safest bet.
1:30 Huge Daily Boosts Only BetUK Handicap 6f 20y
Cuban Breeze can go well fresh, as she showed when winning on her reappearance in 2022 at Chelmsford, and this dual course winner looks fairly handicapped having been beaten just two and a quarter lengths in the Listed Boadicea Stakes at Newmarket on her penultimate start.
She is a really consistent mare who returns with her stable in terrific form (five winners from 15 runners for Dave Evans in March), and the booking of Oisin Murphy bolsters confidence in one who looks a tad overpriced.
2:05 Spreadex Sports Lincoln Trial Handicap 1m 142y
The 2022 season took a bad turn for Dark Moon Rising but he was a winner of a hot conditions race on his return to action before finishing fourth in the Dante Stakes.
He resumes on a mark which would make him of interest if back to his best, and there is a strong chance that he will get back on track after a lengthy break.
His trainer has an excellent record with his break returners in the spring (8-33 in March for a profit at Betfair SP of £185.50 for a tenner), and an even more lucrative record with his runners over course and distance, with a profit to the same stake of £1,182.30 over the years).
2:40 Spreadex Sports Lady
Wulfruna Stakes (Listed) 7f 36y
Angel Bleu and Berkshire Shadow are clear on official ratings, but neither of the top pair have form on this surface, and I prefer to look elsewhere. Tinker Toy would be no match for Angel Bleu on turf, but he won this race last year, and there is little doubt that it is a significant target for him again this season.
Defeats since have come at different trips, and the return to seven furlongs on Tapeta is a big positive for Roger Varian’s War Front gelding.
I’ll be gutted if he can’t repay each-way support, and am hopeful that he can win at rewarding odds.
Cuthbert Dibble 1:50 Sandown – 2pts win @ 5/1 (Bet365, 9/2 general)
Metier 2:25 Sandown – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 (Coral, 5 places, or 8/1 SkyBet 7 places)
Mercian Omen 3:00 Sandown – 1pt e/w @ 11/1 (Bet365, 10/1 Hills, Unibet)
Cuban Breeze 1:30 Wolverhampton – 1pt e/w @ 16/1 (Ladbrokes, BetVictor)
Dark Moon Rising 2:05 Wolverhampton – 1pt win @ 16/1 (Paddy Power, Bet365)
Tinker Toy 2:40 Wolverhampton – 1pt e/w @ 13/2 (Hills, 6/1 general)