Adam Norman Column

The Matchbook Imperial Cup is the feature race at Sandown this weekend but a weak field has been assembled for the big pre-Cheltenham handicap.

With almost £40k going to the winner the race normally attracts a big line-up, with a bonus prize traditionally being offered to any horse able to win here and then double-up at next week’s Festival.

Just 13 go to post this time though and with the 138-rated Fixe Le Kap shouldering top weight, many of the normal stats used in trying to find the winner are null and void.

The last 10 runnings have been won by horses carrying less than 11 stone, yet only four of Saturday’s field fit into that category.

That said, two of those are trained by Gary Moore and both have interesting profiles, novice Not Another Muddle running in his first handicap here, and the more experiences Darebin having been kept busy this winter on the all-weather.

Not Another Muddle is preferred of the pair, with the more competitive nature of this race hopefully helping him to settle better in the early part of the race.

Max Du Brazil will be popular with trainer David Pipe having such a fantastic record in the race, but it would take a leap of faith to back a horse that pulled up on its only start for the stable back in January.

The lightly-raced William H Bonney is likely to resume his upward curve after failing to perform in the Betfair Hurdle last month, the form of his previous success at Cheltenham looking solid.

He still has the look of an unexposed horse and is just the type to land this famous prize.


One of my favourite races in the national hunt calendar takes place earlier on the Sandown card, which is the final of the EBF NH Novices Hurdle series.

The event often brings together some of the best chasing prospects for the future and has unearthed some really nice horses down the years.

Emma Lavelle’s Full Irish bounced back to form with an eye-catching win at Leicester in really bad ground at the start of last month, so the heavy going won’t bother him and he looks well handicapped on the form of his bumper win at this track nearly 18 months ago.

In the 2.25 at Sandown, Shanroe Santos appears to have been leniently treated by the handicapper after winning a shade cosily at Warwick last time out.

That form looks pretty strong and the emphasis on stamina here should be right up his street, so Lucy Wadham’s novice is expected to defy a 4lb rise in the weights.

The action is notably low-key elsewhere with the only other jumps action at Ayr and Hereford, but we can still look to boost our coffers for Cheltenham.

Takingrisks remains on a handy-looking mark despite winning at Kelso and is strongly fancied to take the 3.20 at Ayr, while Pearl Legend looked to be returning to form last month and could take some beating down in grade in the 4.00 at Hereford.

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