The 2013/14 Jumps season finishes with a bang at Sandown today with the Bet365 Handicap Chase the feature of a terrific card.
At the time of writing there is heavy rain forecast and the ground might ride considerably slower than the current description of Good on the chase course and good to soft on the hurdles track.
The mare Dolores Delightful (2.05) ran a very strange race last time at Newbury travelling strongly but falling in a hole at the top of the straight before, surprisingly, running on into second behind the impressive Aldopicgros.
She has been raised 4lbs for the run but gets in at the foot of the weights and is entitled to improve again.
There is plenty of pace in the race which should help her settle and Richard Johnson again takes the ride. Both Baradari and Keltus are big dangers in a cracking opener but it is the bottom-weight for me.
Menorah has not been at his best so far this season but has an excellent chance in the Oaksey Chase but I think we might get a shock and take Gullinbursti (2.40) to take the prize for Emma Lavelle despite the fact that he would be receiving more weight from those at the head of the market if this were a handicap.
The selection started his season winning over this 2m 6f trip at Market Rasen and has since run well in defeat. Rolling Aces looks the biggest danger but the Emma Lavelle trained 8-y-old gets the vote.
BetVictor Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy (3.15) has been, arguably, the horse of the year and he cannot be opposed in the Celebration Chase which has been upgraded to a Grade 1 for the first time.
It looks a Grade 1 in name only, however, and let’s hope we get Sprinter Sacre back fit and well as this 2m division lacks strength in depth.
In the feature Burton Port (3.50) only got as far as the second in the National last time but if Champion jockey AP McCoy can get him into a nice rhythm he looks very well handicapped on his best form.
Many of the field would prefer quicker ground although that cannot be said of the Venetia Williams trained quartet with Houblon Des Obeaux and Rigadin Des Beauchene of particular interest.
At Haydock the step up to a mile will suit Ski Lift (4.00) who ran a race full of promise at Newbury over an inadequate 7f earlier in the month.
She gave the impression she will get further in time being a half-sister to a 12f winner but, given she is by Pivotal, this mile might be a sufficient test for the moment. Oaks entry Elshaadin is a fascinating debutante but I am not convinced significant rain would suit this daughter of Dalakhani.
The weekend nap is Cape Caster (4.50) who chased home Hymenaios at Doncaster last month with a subsequent winner behind and he is taken to go one better in what promises to be a most informative contest.
At Ripon Battalion (4.05) will appreciate any further rain and looked a potential Group horse on soft ground when scoring at Yarmouth back in September although that was from a mark 21lbs below what he will run from today.
He is entered up in a number of Group races later in the season which suggests connections feel he has improved again.
He broke his maiden over today’s C&D back in August and, although he doesn’t have the best of the draw, he can make a winning reappearance.
At Kempton tomorrow no surprise to see Arctic Moon (3.45) drop back from a mile having shown plenty of pace when runner up here at the beginning of the month. She could have been drawn better than stall nine but there is bound to be some dead wood in this maiden and she should take plenty of catching over 7f.
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