A decent six race card at Sandown – highlighted by the Grand Military Gold Cup at 3.40pm – on Friday kicks off with a two mile Novices’ Hurdle at 2.00pm, which has attracted a field of four for the two mile, Class 4 event. Heading the racecard is the Gary Moore trained Ar Mest, a last time out winner and 121 rated horse representing a stable with a very good record at the Esher track. This 5yo has a sound enough chance, but Warren Greatrex will be responsible for the hot favourite and most likely winner in the shape of his very promising Brianstorm, who really looked the part when running his rivals ragged at Taunton back in January. The 6yo Brian Boru gelding has had a little break, and he could have a very bright future.
The 2.30pm Handicap Hurdle for Amateur riders is an open affair, but Lambourn maestro Nicky Henderson also does very well at Sandown Park and his No Hiding Place should go well here having taken a step in the right direction last time out at Kempton. The handicapper nudged him up 3lb on the back of that effort, but he’s lightly-raced, with a pedigree suggesting he’ll improve with racing.
Philip Hobbs hasn’t been the most prolific this season, by usual standards, and his January winner Westend Story returns to action 55 days after that Wetherby success, in the 3.05pm Class 3 Handicap Hurdle over just shy of 2m4f. This 7yo has been something of a talking horse in the past, but his speed figures are only average and he’s been unconvincing on several occasions, so could be vulnerable after a break off top weight. For that reason, I prefer the claims of the Venetia Williams trained Lady Karina, who was unfortunate to topple over when going nicely in a warm Cheltenham handicap last time out. She was very well supported that day and has been given plenty time to recover since. She appears to be a very straightforward mare, possessing more than a pinch of quality, so hopefully Lady Karina has her confidence and can provide Venetia & connections with a welcome winner and a decent pot of prize money.
More Bucks has a fair chance in the Grand Military Gold Cup at 3.40pm for trainer Paul Nicholls, certainly in terms of form and as a course winner, but he might well prefer better ground. Nicky Henderson’s Baden has been knocking on the door and probably won’t be far away again, but there was so much to like about the way Rathlin Rose once again powered up the Sandown Hill last time out under Captain Guy Disney, who afforded David Pipe’s 10yo with a quality ride on the day. The formidable pair now attempt the Royal Artillery and Grand Military double and will take a good deal of beating with another clean round of jumping, at a track the horse is now three wins from as many runs at — which is quite impressive!
Disappointingly enough, only two horses bid to have a crack at the in-form Tara Bridge in the 4.10pm Handicap Chase, where Chris Gordon’s charge will be odds-on to complete a hat-trick. He should have too much firepower for his two rivals.
In the last at 4.40pm, I’ll throw an outsider into the mix of an open contest, in the shape of Seamus Mullins’ Fenlons Court. The yard pops up with the odd Sandown winner and has sent out two winners from eleven runners in the past fortnight. This 6yo hasn’t fired on his last two starts, but has shown glimpses of sufficient promise in the past to suggest he can be very competitive in handicaps. The handicapper is relenting now so his mark of 107 is workable, the 2m4f distance looks OK for him and at likely odds, he might be worth a couple of quid each-way under a decent 7lb conditional in Daniel Samson.
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