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It's a major weekend of racing action in Britain and Ireland with the Dublin Racing Festival and a plethora of top meetings in the UK taking place. Saturday's card at Sandown Park includes the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase (2.20pm) as the centrepiece. They race at Sandown from 12.40pm-4.05pm and the Racing Post previews what should be a thrilling day of racing from Sandown.


12.40 - Virgin Bet Novices' Hurdle (2m)

Nicky Henderson has already debuted Constitution Hill to tremendous effect at this venue this season, so any money arriving for his French import Balkeo on stable bow would of major interest.

He was second in a pair of hurdles races over at Auteuil last spring and has undergone a wind op since. He also sports a tongue-tue on this debut for the Seven Barrows supremo in the Donnelly silks and is certainly one to note.

SHALLWEHAVEONEMORE represents Gary and Jamie Moore and could be the answer in this opener. He was a well-held fourth in the Grade 1 Tolworth here last month, won by the aforementioned Constitution Hill, having pulled too hard early on. His Ascot second on hurdles bow in October was promising and that form is solid. Eased in class now, he sets a fair standard.

Arthur's Seat was second to Minella Plus (won his next two) at Musselburgh in October on his lone start over timber thus far and is open to improvement having left Keith Dalgleish since.

Selection: Shallwehaveonemore

Next Best: Balkeo

1.15 - Virgin Bet Handicap Chase (1m7½f)

Paul Nicholls fires two here, with Dolos and Tamaroc Du Mathan both in the colours of Johnny De La Hey. They've not shown much in their runs this season, though the former has figures of 2112 in this very race and a return to form here cannot therefore be ruled out. He gets the nod from stable jockey Harry Cobden.

Gunsight Ridge held off Bun Doran (with Moonlighter behind in third) over C&D last month despite getting fairly lonely in front under Aidan Coleman. He's gone up 5lb, will handle this better ground and has the ability to be a big player again, particularly if he can be produced a bit later to hit the front.

Similarly, it's likely that Charlie Deutsch will be aiming to deliver FRERO BANBOU on the scene late. The Venetia Williams team remains in excellent form and this former Sandown C&D winner seemed to benefit from hold-up tactics at Lingfield (2m, heavy) a fortnight ago when coming fast and late to score. He is 6lb higher in the ratings now and should have no concerns on this ground. He can kick on.

Selection: Frero Banbou

Next Best: Gunsight Ridge

1.50 - Virgin Bet Contenders Hurdle (Listed, 2m)

Guard Your Dreams won the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, fending off today's rival Song For Someone in doing so. The pair are solid players at this level.

Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge was third behind Stormy Ireland in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year's Day upped in trip since. Song For Someone meanwhile has now finished second in his last three completed starts.

One of those came in this month last year when beaten some 22-lengths by GOSHEN in the Grade 2 Kingwell at Wincanton.

The frustrating Goshen came up well short afterwards in the Champion Hurdle and the Punchestown version of same - both won by Honeysuckle - and is 0-3 this season so far.

His recent Lingfield effort when third behind Brewin'upastorm over 2m3½f was a solid step back in the right direction however and if he can build on that, the Gary Moore runner certainly has the talent to be bagging another win over this course and distance. There are risks with Goshen, but he appeals at the early prices.

Selection: Goshen

Next Best: Guard Your Dreams

2.20 - Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices' Chase (Grade 1, 2m4f)

This looks a really opportunity for L'HOMME PRESSE to make his initial mark at Grade 1 level for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch.

The French import looked solid in two hurdles runs last spring for this yard - winning at Chepstow on good ground in April - but has really kicked on since going chasing this season.

He's won all three starts, with a combined winning margin of 29-lengths in hand, and the most recent of those saw him dominating from the front in the Grade 2 Dipper at Cheltenham over this trip on New Year's Day.

His jumping was assured and accurate there, with his backers never having a moments concern, and third home Fantastikas won at the Lingfield Winter Million Festival since to give the form a boost. He is holding entries for two of the Grade 1 novice races at Cheltenham next month and won't look out of place wherever he goes. He can go to the spring festivals unbeaten as a chaser.

Pic D'orhy is also a Grade 2-winning novice already, Paul Nicholls' charge taking the Noel Novices' Chase at Ascot (2m3f, good to soft)) in December by nine-lengths from Faivoir. The runner-up was second again at Lingfield recently.

Pic D'orhy could well be 3-3 over fences this season himself bar falling when in total control at Newbury in November. He's had two falls in six starts over fences and has been prone to mistakes. Jumping may win the day for L'homme Presse.

On ratings the remaining trio have lots to find. Mister Coffey has shaped well enough in two starts over fences thus far and may be the main beneficiary if the market leading duo falter.

Selection: L'homme Presse

Next Best: Pic D'orhy

2.55 - Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, 2m7½f)

Interesting to see the name of Easysland on the card here, now in the hands of Jonjo O'Neill for JP McManus. We haven't seen him since Tiger Roll reclaimed his Cross Country crown at Cheltenham last March in emphatic style and this surely is a stepping stone towards going back there next month.

Ree Okka has won novice contests at Chepstow (2m3½f) and Kempton (3m½f) of late and did so last time without being extended. Harry Fry's charge is clearly going the right way, but this is a tougher test of his credentials on handicap bow.

Dr Richard Newland's Jesuitique is another last-time-out winner with more to give, the same category into which Orbys Legend slots for Philip Hobbs - while it would be dangerous to dismiss the experienced and talented duo of Call Me Lord (Nicky Henderson) and If The Cap Fits (Harry Fry) in the Suede/Munir colours.

GREEN BOOK was a major fancy for last month's Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton only to see his race ended at the second flight when taken out by a falling rival. That would have been galling for connections but compensation may await Venetia Williams' charge today.

For an each-way play, The Brimming Water is of interest. Sam Drinkwater's charge was third at Haydock a fortnight ago on first crack at three-miles, giving away weight to the pair the beat him. His previous Wincanton form reads nicely and, with just 10st 6lb to carry today, he is one that can go well at a price.

Selection: Green Book

Next Best: The Brimming Water

3.30 - Virgin Bet Masters Handicap Chase (3m)

Yet again Venetia Williams has a strong contender in Farinet, victorious over 2m4f at this venue a month ago and seemingly with every chance of relishing this longer trip based on the way he finished out that race. The handicapper adds 6lb and he's right in the mix.

Kapcorse won at Newbury in December for Paul Nicholls but is rated 10lb higher now in what looks a stronger race on paper, so it may pay to focus on those towards the foot of the weights.

There's not much between FIVE STAR GETAWAY and Linelee King on paper. Olly Murphy's charge won at Aintree on chasing bow in November (2m4f, good to soft) and likely would have followed up at Ayr before Christmas bar a costly mistake four out. He rallied strongly to be a close third and won't have any problems at this increased distance based on hurdles form.

Five Star Getaway made rapid progress last spring, winning at Wincanton, here and Haydock in really fine style before coming up shy on first attempt at this distance at Ayr in the CPMS Novices' Champion Handicap Chase.

His return at Chepstow in October was seemingly needed as he faded late on but he was back on the winning trail at Kempton's Christmas Meeting, getting up late for overhaul Fortescue on his second crack at three-miles.

The pair were clear and the runner-up has since posted an excellent third in Haydock's Peter March Chase off a mark of 140. A 4lb rise for Christian Williams' charge looks to be on the manageable side and there should be more to come from him at this trip.

Selection: Five Star Getaway

Next Best: Linelee King

4.05 - Virgin Bet Novices' Handicap Hurdle (2m4f)

Whydah Gally had plenty in hand in last month's Wincanton win for trainer Colin Tizzard and should mount another solid challenge despite an 8lb rise as he remains unexposed in this sphere.

He is one of four last-time-out scorers in this Sandown finale, with Whistleinthedark, Straight Swap and Love Actually all looking to continue their good form as well.

Keiran Burke's mare Love Actually improved at Taunton a fortnight ago and, under bottom-weight, could be capable of better.

Straight Swap meanwhile just prevailed in testing conditions at Chepstow 30 days ago, rallying up the long home straight from an improbable position to foil GARINCHA in the shadows of the post.

The runner-up appeared the most likely scorer for much of the journey up that long home straight and was rather unfortunate that Straight Swap blindsided him in the dying embers. That was Garincha's third good run in a month and, with a short break under his belt, he may avenge that defeat for Neil Mulholland and Aidan Coleman now.

Selection: Garincha

Next Best: Straight Swap




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