Following Friday’s quality Flat action, Sandown Park hosts the official finale of the 2017/18 National Hunt season on Saturday with the track looking to take out the jumpers in style.
The highlight on the card is the super competitive bet365 Gold Cup, carrying an £84,000 first prize and featuring stars such as Blaklion and Cheltenham festival winner Missed Approach. Here are the main contenders as we see it:
Won over three miles at Kempton back in February and looks as though he could rediscover his better early chase form – something that at 9 years of age is far from a stretch.
He was very well backed when scoring at Kempton which suggests his new connections (that was his debut for Nigel Twiston-Davies) know they’ve unlocked the talent in him and so he could yet prove well handicapped over this longer distance.
There’s no doubt that he’s a talented stayer and at the risk of joining the know-it-all’s I feel he has been harshly handicapped and this is the reason he isn’t winning the National, rather than a perceived lack of stamina over longer trips.
3m5f is within his compass but I feel he may be a little high in the weights for the win though some minor money could be coming his way with another solid round of jumping.
Two poor runs recently but his impressive win the ‘Badger Beer’ last November showed him to be a decent staying chaser in the making and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Paul Nicholls unearth some improvement.
Bryony Frost remains a potential top class jockey of the future and so I feel the 8yo son of Presenting will be lacking nothing from the saddle which is always a positive note.
Given his French pedigree it’s perhaps no surprise that he prefers cut in the ground and so some overnight rain would be a help, something which seems likely having had a peak at the forecast.
Mark Bradstock’s eight-year-old gelding is starting only his fourth ever chase here right at the bottom of the weights and I reckon that, if anything, his facile win in a Fakenham novice event has been undervalued somewhat. That run can be upgraded which makes him look like a well handicapped sort who can do well over this sort of trip.
So long as he handles the rough and tumble of a large field handicap he seems sure to go well, Jamie Moore being he man tasked with keeping him out of trouble.
Another one low down in the weights for the excellent Nicky Henderson yard, Sugar Baron can be expected to run well yet again on rain softened ground but he can’t be taken for the win given that he doesn’t seem the best handicapped in the race in truth.
The Young Master
Won this race in 2016 (though that was his last victory) and so cannot be discounted off a mark fully 16lbs lower in the handicap, though that drop accurately represents his regression and so we’d be taking a chance that he can suddenly bounce back to form and take advantage.
He certainly has a chance given that there was a chink of light when he was third at Kempton and sixth at Cheltenham this term though he still has something to prove in his current mood.
Although he’s very inexperienced and just sneaks into this at the bottom of the handicap, the young pretender STEP BACK would appear to be a well handicapped sort who is due to go on to better things and so may well take advantage of his lenient mark.
As always in a race of this nature there are plenty in with chances though and so I couldn’t put anyone off having an each-way tickle on the likes of Sugar Baron or Bigbadjohn either.