The first of two competitive handicaps at Sandown but this race has a stand out contender in Al Shahir who boasts some strong looking form behind Betfair Hurdle winner Kalashnikov and the well touted First Flow. This has been the target for some time and he looks the one to beat @ 11/2. Indian Hawk’s form in contrast does not look overly strong and though he has won two novice hurdles, his only attempt in graded company was disappointing to say the least. The 8/1 looks short enough and that is likely due to connections more than anything he has done on course. Nicky Henderson’s other runner Turtle Wars is open to improvement but whether the trip will stretch him at this stage of his career is open to question while Melrose Boy represents solid handicap form following his third behind Topofthegame and should go well but has to defy a fairly high mark. Two of interest are improving types The Dubai Way @ 11/1 and Run To Milan @ 14/1. The Dubai Way is unbeaten under rules for the two Harry’s, Whittington and Bannister and being a three mile point to point winner will relish this test of stamina. Run To Milan has progressed well, bumping into a decent type in OK Corral last time and this trip in relatively testing conditions is likely to suit. Game On @ 25/1 can go well for Emma Lavelle and has one or two bits of interesting form, again the conditions should suit.
The complexion of this race has changed since the defection of Original Choice as this race usually goes to an improving type. Constantino goes well fresh and after a good victory last week at Lingfield has to come into calculations @ 11/2 though his record suggests he is no certainty to reproduce that level of form. Big Country won first time out at Wolverhampton last year and begins his season here again, is two from two on the all weather and if he handles the drop back in trip, is a player @ 4/1. Swift Emperor and Pactolus have good draws and both should go well, the former though struggles in this class but Pactolus is a consistent type and with form over slightly further it would be no surprise to see Milly Naseb attempt to make all @ 10/1. My Target looks to be coming back to form though he will need a career best from stall eight to take this and the frustrating Examiner and Dargon Mall are more than capable of winning this if putting in their best efforts.
A very open looking handicap in which lightly raced, progressive types often prevail. Nicky Henderson has two leading contenders in Whatswrongwithyou and Call Me Lord. Whatswrongwithyou fits the perfect profile of a winner of this race in that he has had only three runs over hurdles, the latter a taking nine length victory at Newbury and should go well @ 4/1. Now seven years old he is somewhat late coming to the party but is making up for lost time and remains a gelding of some potential. Call Me Lord returns to the scene of both his wins on British soil following a slightly disappointing third in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton in what was a messy race. A line can be drawn through that run and he should be thereabouts @ 8/1. First and second at Ascot three weeks ago were the improving types La Patriote and Friday Night Light. Both have to come into calculations @ 8/1 but it would be no surprise to see the strong travelling Friday Night Light turn the tables on La Patriote as connections switch the cheekpieces for a visor in attempt to squeeze out more improvement. Silver Streak is another who has solid handicap form at this level and if handling the ground, should go well @ 14/1. This race has gone to one at a price three times in the last ten years and anyone of Mr Antolini, Shanroe Saint, Castiafore and Birch Hill at odds of 20/1 and upwards could land a surprise.
Queenohearts defeat of Pineapple Rush at Towcester in December looks the best form on offer here and Stuart Edmunds’ mare should go well @ 5/1. Pineapple Rush was also beaten a similar distance by Posh Trish before she flopped against the boys at Ascot. If returning to her best or better and having won the listed race at Cheltenham, which is a good barometer for this race, Posh Trish should be on the premises @ 9/2. Queens Cave represents the untapped potential after a comfortable victory on debut at Uttoxeter and could be anything @ 11/2 with Urca De Lima falling into a similar category @ 6/1. Richard Johnson and Nick Williams teaming has to be respected so Aimee De Sivola comes into calculations @ 5/1 while Fergal O’Brien is two winners from five runners in bumpers at Sandown and with an intriguing jockey booking of James Bowen could go well at a big 16/1.
Salateen made all to win this race twelve months ago and will no doubt make a bold bid again @ 11/2 but with Make Music drawn in stall one he will have to work hard to dominate form the front. William Haggas has a strong hand again and with Second Thought, a course winner and with improvement to come looks the leading contender @ evens. With form in behind the likes of Harry Angel and Blue Point over six furlongs last summer before his latest victory over a mile shows he is versatile trip wise with the seven furlongs at Wolverhampton likely to suit. Masham Star looks the chief threat to Second Thought for Mark Johnston and P J McDonald, who knows him well. With form ranging from seven to ten furlongs a strong pace should suit and he can give the favourite most to think about @ 6/1. Mutawathea and Early Morning are good handicappers but will need to find more to win this and place claims seem more likely for the pair while it would be no surprise to see Star Quality run a good race @ 25/1.
A field of exposed stayers line up with only Tanit River capable of any improvement. A course and distance winner last time Tanit River has to be favourite @ 11/4 but his profile is patchy and one of a horse who has had his problems. Last year’s winner Shanroe Santos will bid to retain his crown @ 4/1 but is nine pounds higher this time, that said he has been better than ever this season. The interesting contender is Fourth Act, fitted with blinkers and now eleven pounds lower than running well in this race twelve months ago has to be considered @ 11/2. It would be no surprise to see Pete the Feat go well but Topper Thornton does not win very often and Horatio Hornblower seems better going left handed.
Quickened Clear’s Best Bets:
Al Shahir – 1.50 Sandown – 1pt win @ 11/2
Al Shahir has bumped into a few decent sorts in Maria’s Benefit, Kalashnikov and First Flow and this big, chasing type is open to more improvement. He looks on a fair mark and having been kept for this race has to be backed @ 11/2.
Fourth Act – 3.35 Sandown – 1pt win @ 11/2
This race looks messy, Tanit River has an inconsistent profile, Local Show and Pete The Feat have had their best days, Horatio Hornblower prefers going left-handed and though last year’s winner Shanroe Santos deserves respect, he is carrying nine pounds more this time around. Fourth Act on the other hand is eleven pounds lower than when travelling well for most of the race twelve months ago and is very well handicapped now. The 11/2 looks tempting in the hope that the blinkers just sharpen up his jumping.