2-00 NATIONAL HUNT NOVICES’ HANDICAP HURDLE FINAL (GRADE 3) – 2 M 3 F 178 YDS
Divine Spear is a lightly raced five-year-old and he has made the frame in all four of his previous starts. He has recorded wins at Ludlow and Taunton in a short space of time and he is yet again partnered by Nico De Boinville. Nicky Henderson won this race with Close Touch back in 2013 and although Divine Spear has no form on heavy ground, he is related to numerous winners who have all acted well on the surface.
Wade Harper has to be considered a live danger given that he has won his last two races in decent style. He is also used to large fields which will stand him in good stead here. Noel Fehily keeps the ride on the six-year-old son of Westerner and they ought to go well. Paul Nicholls has a decent record in the race and he is represented by Alcala this afternoon. Harry Cobden is a decent amateur and takes a useful seven pounds of his back. The six-year-old returned to form with a morale boosting win at Fontwell last time and he will certainly enjoy the underfoot conditions.
Divine Spear is still open to any amount of improvement and he promises to stay at least this far. Whilst he does have form to reverse with David Pipe’s Chic Theatre, that could not be ruled out on this much more testing surface and he looks to have leading claims this afternoon.
3-10 IMPERIAL CUP HANDICAP HURDLE – 1 M 7 F 216YDS
Clayton looks to have a decent chance in the feature race of the day as he slips in here off bottom-weight. He was a three time winner on the flat for Kevin Ryan at distances up to a mile and a quarter and he seems to have taken the switch of codes in his stride. He showed that heavy ground was not an issue when thumping Generous Jack at Plumpton by no fewer than sixteen lengths in what was only his fourth start over hurdles.
Rayvin Black heads the weights here and that is because he has been in terrific form all season. He won a handicap hurdle over this course and distance back in January and has also subsequently landed the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton just a few weeks ago. Thomas Garner renews his association with the seven-year-old and he is able to claim three pounds off his back. Oliver Sherwood has his team in good shape and a bold effort is expected. Solstice Star is progressing through the handicaps like a hot knife through butter. He has won every race he has contested since November and with the ground in his favour he cannot be readily dismissed.
Clayton looks set to benefit from the weight he receives from all of his rivals this afternoon and with further improvement likely he is the selection. Gary Moore has a healthy strike rate at this track and it wouldn’t be the biggest of surprises if they walked off with another substantial prize this afternoon.
3-45 MARES LISTED FLAT RACE – 1 M 7 F 216 YDS
Copper Kay has won her last two starts with the minimum of fuss and has showed a good deal of improvement so far this season. She was fourth in this race last year and was unfortunate not to finish a good bit closer to the eventual winner as she was hampered at a vital stage. Richard Johnson will be keen to ensure that it doesn’t happen again and they can enhance the excellent strike rate that Phillip Hobbs has with his runners this year.
Avellino makes the short journey across the Irish Sea and it is worth remembering that Babylone Des Motte and Gaillimh A Chroi have taken the prize back to Ireland in recent renewals. She will relish this ground and comes here in peak condition following wins at Down Royal and Fairyhouse. She looks the biggest threat to the selection and may well take advantage if the selection comes up short. The Nipper justified short priced favouritism when winning at Bangor back in November. She came nine lengths clear of the rest of her field suggesting she was a mare to follow. She is bound to give another decent account and can also make the frame.
Copper Kay has experience on her side and she has clearly matured as the season has progressed. She goes well fresh and Richard Johnson prefers her to stable-mate Tearsofclewbay. That decision has to be respected and Copper Kay ought to prove a tough nut to crack.
|SATURDAY 2-00 SANDOWN||DIVINE SPEAR|
|SATURDAY 3-10 SANDOWN||CLAYTON|
|SATURDAY 3-45 SANDOWN||COPPER KAY|