Buveur D’air continues the fine tuning for the defence of his Champion Hurdle crown and should win this with the minimum of fuss. If the ground was firmer John Constable may have given him a bit of a race but on soft this looks a foregone conclusion. Cap’N turns up for third place prize money.
Sir Chauvelin won the Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle on New Year’s Day comfortably form Silver Concorde and can rate higher yet on a par with his flat form. Jim Goldie’s six year old goes well at Mussleburgh and is the one to beat @ 13/8. Amour De Nuit may prove the biggest threat to Sir Chauvelin @ 15/8, fitted with a hood, he goes well at sharper tracks like this but would not want too much rain to fall. Dear Sire had been in good form before falling in the Hogmaneigh after being headed and may find it difficult to turn the tables on Sir Chauvelin. The blinkers worked last time with Crackdeloust, improved with the headgear and after winning over further, may well make the running and could attempt to steal this @ 7/1.
Cyrname was impressive last time at Kempton when defeating Shantou Rock by seven lengths, the form of which looks good as Shantou Rock ran close behind Sceau Royal at Doncaster last week. If Paul Nicholls’ French import gets into a rhythm out front he could well be hard to catch @ 3/1. Nicky Henderson, who has a good record in this race also enters a French import, Terrefort, who put a novice handicap field to the sword at Huntingdon on his British debut and rates the potential @ 11/8. Kalondra is improving and cannot be ruled out @ 7/2 with the form of his latest win given some strength with Coo Star Sivola’s fourth at Cheltenham last weekend. West Approach is not just there to make up the numbers and with a little improvement can be competitive @ 12/1 while No Comment is an intriguing runner on chase debut for Phillip Hobbs.
As a hurdler Ballyoptic did hit many an obstacle and apart from his chase debut seems to have carried that trait over to chasing. That said he is talented and given a clear round should be thereabouts @ 3/1. Pearl Royale was very impressive at Wincanton on her chase debut defeating a couple of decent types by a wide margin. If building on that effort or repeating it she can go close @ 7/1. Vintage Clouds is the most experienced in this field but like Ballyoptic is prone to mistakes at his fences and again, given a clear round should be in the mix @ 7/2. Course and distance winner Captain Chaos has not looked back since the fitting of blinkers and should go well for the Skeltons @ 5/1 while Shades Of Midnight looks out of his depth here.
Lightly raced improving types often take this race and Topofthegame for Paul Nicholls and Sam Twiston-Davies has to be respected @ 11/2. He stayed on nicely in the Lanzarote shaping as though three miles will suit, indeed he defeated the smart No Hassle Hoff when pointing over this distance but possibly lacks the gears to win a race of this nature and will be surely seen in a better light when chasing next season. Melrose Boy heads the market and is another horse of potential though may lack the experience for a competitive handicap such as this with form on a testing right handed track also lacking. That said his third to Mr Whipped looks good in the form book and Harry Fry is a shrewd trainer so he is one for the shortlist @ 13/2. Improving course winner Golan Fortune steps up in trip here, on breeding should stay the trip and with Sandown favouring the more prominently raced types should be on the premises @ 11/1 if handling the step up in class. At a similar price Dashing Perk, a twenty two length winner of a novice hurdle last time, is worthy of consideration though similarly to Melrose Boy, lacks the experience of running in one of these competitive handicaps. Flemcara travelled well at Chepstow last time cutting through the pack despite a slow pace, he is improving and should go well @ 12/1 while Prime Venture @ 16/1 has to come into calculations as he goes well at Sandown and will be primed for this after a good effort at Warwick.
A very difficult marathon handicap to decipher as the main contenders have questions to answer. Missed Approach is the obvious one to start with after another step in the right direction last time when third to Milansbar in the Classic Chase. It is interesting that connections opt for blinkers this time, proving him somewhat of a character as they attempt to keep him guessing. If taking to the sharp, right handed turns of Musselburgh, he has the ability to win this @ 6/1. Another tricky customer is Southfield Theatre who is very talented and well handicapped but inconsistent. If it is a going day he will be thereabouts @ 9/1. Ballymalin has struggled on heavy ground the last twice and maybe the return to better conditions will suit, he remains capable of improvement and if the visor aids concentration, will be suited by a stamina test @ 10/1. Bells N Banjos has not been seen since October when shaping at Cheltenham like this trip would suit. He has finally got the combination of decent ground and a staying handicap and should go well @ 8/1 if taking to the track. Relentless Dreamer, last year’s winner Dancing Shadow and Delusionofgrandeur will have to produce serious efforts at the weights to win this while Azure Fly and Mister Don can place at good prices. Full Jack is interesting now with Sandy Thomson @ 12/1. Fourth in this race last year and is now four pounds lower and with Rachel MacDonald’s claim, can go well @ 12/1.
A very competitive handicap chase with Welsh Grand National third Final Nudge heading the market @ 5/1. David Dennis’ nine year old just keeps improving and this race looks an easier task than both of his previous assignments this season. Sametegal is similar to Final Nudge in that he will find this race an easier opportunity than his previous three starts and should go well @ 8/1 presuming he takes to the testing nature of Sandown. Charlie Longsdon’s Ballydine is well handicapped and if this fragile sort is at his best should be on the premises @ 7/1 with improvement possible and the step up in trip likely to suit. Second to Barters Hill over hurdles, his seasonal debut at Haydock was a fair effort before disappointing behind the talented Acting Lass at Leicester. A repeat of the Haydock run should see him in the mix. Nigel Twiston-Davies is double handed with Cogry and Wicked Willy. Cogry seems better than ever after a good second in the Classic Chase at Warwick and a repeat of that form would see him go close but whether he is as good going right handed is open to debate. The well related Wicked Willy looks progressive and the testing nature of Sandown on soft ground ground should suit this son of Arcadio and he could run a big race @ 14/1. Venetia Williams has won this race twice in recent years and saddles Yala Enki who looks to have come back to his best and is another who can go well @ 9/1. Holly Bush Henry deserves a mention though he has struggled above class three level while the consistent Shanroe Santos should not be ruled out given a clear round of jumping and Bishops Road is no forlorn hope @ 12/1.
Quickened Clear's Best Bets:
Pearl Royale – 2.40 Wetherby – 1pt win @ 7/1
Flemcara – 3.00 Sandwon – 1pt win @ 12/1