The threat of significant rain at Sandown Park this afternoon for the final meeting of the 2018/19 jumps season has rescinded, and the ground is likely to be no worse than good although one or two light showers were forecast overnight.
In the opening Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Getaway Trump (4/1 favourite at BetVictor) has only been raised 4lbs for running away with a decent Novice Hurdle on fast ground at Ayr earlier in the month and must go close for Champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
My two against the field, however are Humble Hero (11/1 at BetVictor) and Harambe (1.50) who is another 11/1 shot at BetVictor and is an each way selection for Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson. The selection has won his last couple of novice hurdles – both going right-handed on decent ground – in the manner of a progressive sort and he receives 14lbs from the market leader. BetVictor are paying 4 places (1/5th odds) and I would be disappointed if he were out of the frame although, make no mistake, this is an ultra-competitive heat.
I thought Charbel was going to have a good season after he won the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon in December, but his form has tailed off dramatically in subsequent starts – he is best watched at present.
Definitly Red has never raced right-handed over fences – won his sole hurdle race going clockwise – but there is no reason why he won’t run his race today and he must go close for Brian Ellison in the Grade 2 Oaksey Chase.
Marginal preference, however, is for Black Corton (2.25) with Bryony Frost back in the saddle having missed four weeks with a broken collar bone. The selection made a shocking error when beaten by Definitly Red in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby earlier in the season and Frosty is reported to be “as fit as a flea” by trainer Paul Nicholls ahead of her comeback rides this afternoon. Black Corton is 10/3 with BetVictor and it would be fitting if Frost – who has again been one of the shining lights of the jumps season – rides a winner on the final day.
It may appear foolish, but I am going to oppose the great Altior in the Celebration Chase with Sceau Royal (3.00) who was only beaten 3L by Nicky Henderson’s unbeaten chaser in the Champion Chase last time on soft ground which would have suited Altior more than Alan King’s runner.
Altior thrashed the selection over today’s C&D in the Tingle Creek earlier in the season but that, too, was on unsuitable ground and Sceau Royal travelled like a class act in the Champion Chase and may have eyeballed the champion too soon.
I feel Altior is vulnerable at the minimum trip these days and I hope Daryl Jacob leaves his challenge to half way up the run in as he cannot get involved in a scrap with Altior – if he does he will lose. The selection is 7/2 with BetVictor and I would be disappointed if he didn’t finish in the first two – he is the each way recommendation.
Step Back won the feature Bet365 Handicap Chase 12 months ago from a 10lbs lower mark and he has been poorly campaigned this season with three starts all going left-handed when he is so much better going right-handed. He ran an extraordinary race in the Grand National last time when he led over Bechers’ for the second time despite jumping violently out to the right at each obstacle. He has been the subject of a gamble this week back on a more suitable track and is 8/1 joint favourite at BetVictor (each way 5 places). He is a must for any shortlist although he has only had three weeks to recover from his Aintree exertions.
Le Reve (20/1 at BetVictor) would have been the selection on soft ground from the foot of the weights but vote goes to Rolling Dylan (3.35) who has been consistent without getting his head in front so far this term but who, I feel, has got a big win in him. Trained by Philip Hobbs, James Best takes over in the saddle for the first time and at 16/1 with BetVictor he can reward each way support.
Today’s 2m 5f trip is about as far as Black Op wants to go having failed to get home in his last two starts over 3m at Cheltenham. Marginal preference, however, is for On The Blind Side (4.10) who reverts to hurdles having disappointed in the RSA Chase last time. He won a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle here over 2m 4f last season when he looked as if he would make up into a top-class animal, but things have gone downhill since despite landing a Kempton novice chase on his penultimate start. It may be a coincidence, but he is 2 from 2 going right-handed.
Good Man Pat (4.40) jumped and travelled like a dream for the first mile of the Close Brothers’ Novices Chase at Cheltenham last time, but then everything that could go wrong did go wrong as he made a number of errors when he was caught down the inside of the big field and had little or no room to view his obstacles.
I hope that experience hasn’t soured this promising novice and his best form is in small fields but, granted a bit of luck in running, I feel he is well handicapped at present.
At Leicester Chattanooga Boy (2.15) shaped with considerable promise when third at Newbury on debut when he was sent off at just 3/1 which suggested he had been showing plenty on the home gallops. Today’s faster ground should suit.
At Doncaster this evening Finniston Farm has to give 9lbs to Fujaira Prince (6.45) and that might be beyond him. The selection – who is well drawn in stall three – has won two of three career starts and Andrea Atzeni travels north from Leicester for the ride on board the inform Roger Varian’s 5-year-old.