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1.55 - bet365 Novices' Championship Final Handicap Hurdle (2m)
Sandown's opener is a tough novices' handicap with 14 runners and, in truth, it's impossible to discount any of them.
The early season promise from Flic Ou Voyou has subsided at this stage. Bryony Frost rides this afternoon - never a bad thing on one that likes to front run - but they have ground to make up on Pasvolsky from Kempton (2m, good) in February and find themselves worse off on today's terms with Chris Gordon's unexposed winner.
Also in the field that afternoon was the four-year-old ROYAUME UNI, a gelded son of Galileo representing Gary and Jamie Moore. He ran a promising race in fourth against his elders and has since finished second at Ascot in a 4YO race.
He was backed as if defeat was out of the question that afternoon and only narrowly failed having moved strongly through the race. With just 10st 2lb on his back, he's a big player and can take revenge on Ascot conqueror Herbiers, as well as those Kempton rivals.
Alan King's On To Victory, the other Nicholls runner Celestial Force and Rockstar Ronnie for Dan and Harry Skelton are others that need to be considered.
2.30 - bet365 Oaksey Chase (Grade 2, 2m6½f)
FRODON won the King George on Boxing Day under a typically brilliant front-running ride from Bryony Frost. The partnership attempted something similar in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month and finished fifth, not quite seeing the 3m2f trip out amidst exalted company.
There was no shame in that effort and Paul Nicholls' charge has a favourites' chance here in what is a somewhat disappointing turnout as Frost looks to add to her success on Black Corton when this race was last run in 2019.
With Militarian likely to be outclassed, the dangers appear to be Mister Fisher and Born Survivor. The latter scored last time at Stratford and will relish the prevailing conditions but, even allowing for the 6lb he gets from the front pair in the betting, the Skelton horse needs a clear personal best (or that duo to underperform).
Having been pulled up in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and unseated in the Betway Bowl at Aintree, it's hard to be convinced that Mister Fisher will excel himself given that Sandown provides such a thorough examination of jumping.
If he can put in a clear round, and this small field might help, he's got claims of upsetting the favourite but he's failed to complete in three of four starts this season and Frodon is very likely to put his jumping under severe scrutiny.
3.05 - bet365 Celebration Chase (Grade 1, 2m)
Nicky Henderson (four) and Henry De Bromhead have won the last five renewals of this Grade 1 and are holding the aces again with ALTIOR (winner in 2017, 2018 & 2019) and Put The Kettle On - winner of last month's Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The mare maintained her perfect Cheltenham record with that win and, at seven, is still very much on an upward curve. She turned around Christmas form with Chacun Pour Soi and Notebook at Cheltenham and, if there's anything to be knocking her with, it's that she must prove she's just as good away from that favoured Cotswolds circuit.
She may well do it but, at around 3/1, it might be worth backing the old champion Altior to land one more knockout blow.
His Desert Orchid Chase defeat to Nube Negra in December was heralded as a sure sign that the great Altior of yore was no more. The winner that day was convincing but it was a first spin for Altior in almost 11 months and, from a long way out, it was clear Nico de Boinville's mount wasn't anywhere near his best. That he galloped on to take second spot was a testament to his true class.
The 20/1 winner showed at Cheltenham that was no flash in the pan, finishing a half-length second behind Put The Kettle On and looking slightly unlucky at the final obstacle.
That should be enough to reconsider the Kempton Christmas form and suggest Altior is still a massive player over a C&D where he's a perfect 5-5. First-time cheekpieces are added here and this great, great champion might well have another Grade 1 in him.
Greaneteen and Sceau Royal have ground to make up with Put The Kettle On from Cheltenham, the former perhaps now wanting for a longer trip than this one, but they rate principle dangers to the big two in the market.
3.40 - bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 3m5f)
A searching test for the 16-runner field signed up for this near 3m5f spin around Sandown.
After hogging the headlines at Cheltenham and Aintree, the Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore combo are here seeking more success in Britain with Plan Of Attack.
He was in the process of running a big race in last month's Kim Muir at Cheltenham when he came down three out and he should give an excellent account of himself - though it's worth noting no favourite has won this race in the previous decade.
Kim Bailey's El Presente and Enrilo for Paul Nicholls are proving consistent this season and will have their supporters. The Ditcheat inmate lacks some experience outside of novice company and that's a worry for him.
David Bass' mount though has the tools to play a part and his form brings in Potterman, though Alan King's charge hasn't been seen since unseating in the Ladbrokes Trophy in November and a prep run would have increased confidence.
Top-weight Crosspark has a string of placed efforts on his CV this season, though his most recent second behind Singlefarmpayment in a Veterans' contest at Ascot in March does leave him with work to do.
Emma Lavelle's runner IRISH PROPHECY can play a leading role and is generously priced. He's shown plenty good-ground form since a winning start over fences at Newton Abbot (2m5f) last July. He's closely matched with El Presente on Exeter form in October and won well around Taunton in November on his previous chase start.
He had a satisfactory hurdles run at Ascot last month to sharped him for this assignment and has all the hallmarks of one that might do well at this trip on good ground.
Hold up tactics didn't work out for Golan Fortune in the Midlands National five weeks ago, but Phil Middleton's charge might fare better if racing closer to the pace now.
Former winner The Young Master has gone well fresh before and cannot be completely ignored on this ground while this Neil Mulholland-trained stablemate (and teenager) Doing Fine is a C&D winner this season already and could outrun a massive price to give the place terms a scare.
4.15 - bet365 Select Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m5½f)
YOUNEVERCALL (2019) and Call Me Lord (2018) are former winners of this race and considered contenders again. Kim Bailey's charge went very close at Kempton in November when bidding to defy a 506-day absence.
He's twice shaped with promise in Grade 1s over three-miles in three runs since, either side of a lacklustre showing when he was pulled up in the Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton (2m5f, soft) in January.
Perhaps that third run in relatively quick succession caught up on him. He was a 100/1 chance in the Stayers' Hurdle last month and went well until late on. This drop in trip is ideal and his record on quicker ground demands lots of respect.
On The Blind Side has enjoyed a positive season since reverting back to hurdling but ideally he'd want three-miles now. Captain Zebo racked up a five-race winning sequence in minor company for this yard after arriving from Ireland, four of them at Carlisle. He stays further, but that sequence has been punctuated by absences and this is by far his toughest test on first outing since December.
Pic D'Orhy was just denied at Taunton in February back over hurdles and has the ability to get involved, while the mare Indefatigable is closely matched with a few of these on recent Aintree form over further.
The other mare is Clondaw Caitlin and she could outrun her status as the outsider of the party. Ruth Jefferson's charge did well at Newcastle last time considering she was lumping plenty weight to the market rival that beat her.
That was the end of her unbeaten record over timber after three wins previously but she's worth a crack in this grade on good ground in an end-of-term contest where an upset is possible.
4.50 - bet365 Josh Gifford Novices' Handicap Chase (2m4f)
Farinet had to be game for last month's Listed C&D win (soft) but he ultimately came clear after the last and Venetia Williams' charge has to be considered a player again. The handicapper has pushed him up 9lb however and these underfoot conditions are going to be much faster than anything he has faced before.
Not That Fuisse went close eight days ago at Ayr in a similar event. The quick turnaround isn't a major worry for him, more so a record of one win in ten chase starts and the fact that came in a weak Perth race back in September. He's starting to look like a hard horse to win with for the Skelton brothers.
Ashutor hasn't built on a promising comeback at Fontwell in late February, well beaten in runs at the Cheltenham Festival and Chepstow since so KILLER CLOWN and Falco Blitz are the pair to focus on.
They were first and second in a decent Kempton novices' handicap over Christmas, Emma Lavelle's charge more than seven lengths to the good at the line. Nicky Henderson's runner has a 6lb pull on those terms having won since at Southwell before being well held last month back at Kempton.
Killer Clown meanwhile found only Umbrigado too strong in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury last month (front pair fortunate that The Big Bite wandered late on). That was another step forward and this seven-year-old can sign off a pleasing season by landing this prize.
5.25 - bet365 Handicap Hurdle (2m4f)
It's been a long old season for SOLO and anyone that's been supporting last year's impressive Adonis Hurdle winner. He looked a star in the making that day ay Kempton, his first start for Paul Nicholls after arriving from France but he was well beaten in the Triumph at Cheltenham afterwards and has largely toiled this term.
Granted, he was handicapped above and beyond what he'd actually achieved on the track and that has perhaps been holding him back. He's also contested hot races - the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle on comeback and Listed handicaps here (2m, heavy) and at Kempton (2m5f, soft) before finishing fourth at Kelso last month in the Morebattle Hurdle landed by The Shunter ahead of his Cheltenham Festival win.
A tongue-tie is tried here and Solo will be partnered for the first time by Harry Skelton on the day he's crowned champion jockey. He's been mostly held up in his races this season but, with this rider on, a more aggressive ride might be forthcoming and that might just prove key. Solo is given one more chance to get himself back on track.
Stablemate Scaramanga could be amongst the biggest dangers, with Bryan Carver taking of 3lb on the last-time-out Newbury winner. He was a strong stayer on the Flat and should be able to handle this increased trip now.
Haafapiece should harbour place claims but Cascova put it together when landing an Ascot maiden over a similar trip in facile fashion late last month and Nicky Henderson's charge could be ready to make progress now - with that form positively advertised since.