We’ll preview three races in this week’s column; two from Sandown and one from Aintree.
The Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown has been won by some excellent horses in the past such as Sprinter Sacre, Kauto Star and Flagship Uberalles.
Fox Norton may not have earned the same legendary status yet but he isn’t far off. He’s odds-on favourite after his easy victory in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham.
Gary Moore does well at Sandown and Ar Mad could run better than in the Haldon Gold Cup where he pulled up. That race was won by Politologue who is still progressing and who might throw down a challenge here, but I can’t really see anything toppling Fox Norton who should jump well and emerge victorious.
Earlier on the card is the randoxhealth.com Henry VIII Novices’ Chase. Brain Power and Finian’s Oscar will battle it out for favouritism in the market but any horse in the field could win this.
I think Finian’s Oscar is the one with the most raw talent and we know he likes Sandown having won the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at the track back in January.
I’d take him to win again here, but none of the five contenders are exposed over fences and it’s more a watch and learn exercise for me. Betting wise you can get 14/1 for Finian’s Oscar to win next year’s Arkle and if he were to win at Sandown I’d expect his odds to halve, so that could be the angle.
Over at Aintree there’s also some top racing. It will be a real slog in the Becher Chase on heavy ground. The race is run over the same fences as the Grand National and this will be a marker for next year’s renewal of the most famous race.
At long odds both Portrait King and Vic De Touzaine enjoy the mud and offer a bit of appeal. You couldn’t back them based on their most recent runs though.
The Last Samuri was second in the 2016 Grand National and third in last year’s Becher Chase off this mark, but while he has run well on soft ground, this may be too testing even for him. Vieux Lion Rouge won the race last year, although his mark this time around is not as favourable.
Blaklion was fourth in the Grand National and enjoys heavy ground, so he looks like the one to beat according to the odds makers. He dominates the betting market so it opens it up for a nice price each-way bet, especially as there are sixteen runners.
Goodtoknow, for trainer Kerry Lee, makes bags of appeal. He should love the heavy ground and jumps well. He was second in last season’s Classic Chase at Warwick to One For Arthur, who went on to land the Grand National. I was at Warwick that day and the conditions certainly did not look like the official going of ‘soft’. They looked far, far more testing. I’d prefer if he’d had more of a run at Wincanton rather than dispatching his rider, but with Jamie Moore back on board and off a nice weight, Goodtoknow looks stonkingly good each-way value.