13:50 Sandown – Bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle
I was against Mont des Avaloirs when he ran at Kempton two starts back, and while this is easier in theory, he is a suspect jumper who probably needs to dominate, and a big field scenario like this spells trouble unless his trainer has turned him around. A facile win in weak company last time does nothing to dispel my doubts, and I’m happy to take him on for a place in a race with many chances.
15:35 Sandown – Bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase
I considered giving this a miss, but Tom Segal has tipped up the raw novice Step Back, which has seen his price contract sharply, and he looks a place lay on the basis of inexperience in this twenty-runner cavalry charge. Mark Bradstock can certainly unearth a decent chaser, despite the seemingly chaotic nature of his Old Manor Stables in Letcombe Bassett, but it’s an absolutely monumental ask for a horse to win a race like the “Whitbread” on just his fourth start over fences and his second in handicaps in this discipline.
True enough, he looks the type to make up into a National horse of some description next season, but he’s another coming straight off the back of a Fakenham romp, and I can’t have the Norfolk gaff as a cradle of greatness all of a sudden. As I said, this could be one to keep on side with another summer on his back, but this test looks too much too soon to these eyes.
16:25 Punchestown – AES Champion 4-y-o Hurdle
The key piece of form here is the Triumph at Cheltenham, and I’d expect the trio who dominated there to do so again (Stormy Ireland set for third when falling), so it’s a surprise to see Saglawy so short after winning a much lesser Grade 2 event at Fairyhouse over Easter. The son of Youmzain rallied after the last to hold Mitchouka, but I thought the third horse was unlucky given how it panned out, and Saglawy was arguably flattered by sprinting off a slow pace.
He has Stormy Ireland as a possible spoiler in front, although the pair are in the same ownership, so it will be interesting to see how he’s utilised. Either way, I think he’s got a fair bit to find with several rivals, and he looks a lay at around 2.5, although I’d be prepared to go higher if necessary.
- 13:50 Sandown – Lay Mont des Avaloirs for a place @ 2.85 or shorter
- 15:35 Sandown – Lay Step Back for a place @ 3.5 or shorter
- 16:25 Punchestown – Lay Saglawy for a place @ 2.8 or shorter