Matchbook Imperial Cup Preview

9 min

Jumps expert Micheál Deasy casts his eye over an intriguing looking Imperial Cup card and lines up some runners who could be a welcome pre-Cheltenham bankroll boost.

The Matchbook Imperial Cup at Sandown is the final highlight in the racing calendar before all eyes turn to Cheltenham, and a great opportunity for both punters and trainers to fill their boots before the Festival. The race is famous for a bonus offered to the winner if they go on to win at the Cheltenham Festival, which last year in our continuing support of British horse racing Matchbook boosted to £100,000.

The bonus has been won 3 times and it has been a family affair with Martin Pipe striking twice, firstly with Olympian in 1993 who bolted up in the Coral Cup and then following up with Blowing Wind in 1998 who won the County Hurdle. His son David Pipe took home the money in 2007 with Gaspara when he won the Fred Winter. Only six horses have attempted to claim the bonus since then, but with £100,00 now on offer there is sure to be a lot more interest and an intriguing looking field for this year’s renewal.


  • 2006 – Victram – Didn’t run
  • 2007 – Gaspara – WON Fred Winter @ 9/2
  • 2008 – Ashkazar – 2nd in Fred Winter @ 15/8
  • 2009 – Dave’s Dream – 6th in County Hurdle @ 7/2
  • 2010 – Qaspal – didn’t run
  • 2011 – Alarazi – 15th in County Hurdle @ 6/1
  • 2012 – Paintball – didn’t run
  • 2013 – First Avenue – Pulled up in the Martin Pipe @ 16/1
  • 2014 – Baltimore Rock – didn’t run
  • 2015 – Ebony Express – 19th in County Hurdle @ 16/1
  • 2016 (no bonus) – Flying Angel – 2nd in Martin pipe @ 8/1
  • 2017 – London Prize – didn’t run
  • 2018 – Mr Antolini – didn’t run

Some Interetsing Runners This Year

Let’s take a look at four horses that should go well on Saturday and possibly follow up at Cheltenham starting with the current favourite Monsieur Lecoq.

Monsieur Lecoq – Current price – 6.0

Monsieur Lecoq heads the betting at 6.6 and was well fancied for the Betfair Hurdle before the equine flu scare. He did not take his place in the rescheduled running at Ascot and will line up here as a warm favourite.

His win over course and distance in January was a demolition job and has duly seen him take prominent positions in the betting for the County Hurdle and the Martin Pipe along with this race.

He is guaranteed to be in the mix on the run in here, and possibly coming up the Cheltenham hill next week. He is still very unexposed in Britain and would be the standout horse in the field when it comes to winning the bonus. His trainer Jane Williams landed a valuable handicap recently with Erik Le Rouge and is showing a profit of £23.67 for a £1 stake with her hurdlers this year.

Call Me Lord – Current price – 8.8*

Call Me Lord was only just touched off last year and is back for a second go. He sits at the top of the weights again and brings established top-level form to the table. He made up for his Imperial Cup disappointment by winning at Sandown on the final day of the jumps season by a whopping 16 lengths to bring up a treble for his owners and jockey. This is an incredibly tough task for him this weekend, giving away more than a stone to the rest of the field, but he is capable of doing so on his day. He bypassed Cheltenham last year after his loss in this race but would be expected to take up his place in the County Hurdle if he wins on Saturday.

Call me Lord will be hoping to go one better this year after his narrow second place finish in 2018.

First Flow – Current price – 10.5*

First Flow looked to be a serious horse last year when thrashing Midnight Shadow by 10L in a Supreme Novices trail at Haydock last January and he was many people’s dark horse for the Supreme at the festival. He ruined his chances by getting into a scrap for the lead with Getabird early on and was eventually pulled up. He is another horse that has been well backed this week, opening at 15.0 and now sitting third in the betting at 10.0.Kim Bailey’s stable is in top form with 6 winners from its last 20 runners and the ground cannot be soft enough for this mudlark.

He could be the stereotypical group horse in a handicap here and should be respected.

He is another horse guaranteed a run in the County Hurdle and will go off a lot shorter than his current price of 40.0 for that if he turns up.

First Flow is making his seasonal reappearance this weekend.

Extra Mag – Current price – 11.0*

David Pipes’ only runner is having his first run in a handicap and has been supported from his opening price of 21.0 into 11.0. A mistake at the last cost him an almost certain victory in his UK debut at Wetherby in November, but he made amends on New Years Day when winning well at Exeter. Despite jumping badly and pulling hard throughout, he travelled extremely well and showed a nice burst of speed to put the race to bed.

His next run saw him beaten by a Nicky Henderson trained horse who was in receipt of 7lbs from Extra Mag, but these things happen in races where a horse’s handicap mark is to be decided and he will be running in the Imperial Cup off a featherweight 10-0. He has four entries at Cheltenham but would need a win here to improve is chances of getting into either the County Hurdle (72nd on the list) or the Martin Pipe (74th on the list).

*Prices correct at time of publishing.

While your regular host Tom Stanley is away, Donn McClean takes the hot seat and is joined by Rory Delargy and Matchbook’s Micheál Deasy to preview the Matchbook Imperial Cup.