Sandown Park on Saturday is the scene of the last significant jumps meeting before the National Hunt extravaganza that is the Cheltenham Festival which finally gets underway at Prestbury Park on Tuesday.
We will provide Horse Racing tips, previews and predictions for three races from the Esher racecourse, those taking place at 1.50pm, the featured Paddy Power Imperial Cup at 2.25pm along with the day’s finale at 4.45pm.
“Tip of the Day” – Balco Coastal – 2.25pm Sandown
A possible runner in Friday’s County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, Nicky Henderson’s unexposed hurdler can earn a crack at the bonus on offer for any horse winning the Paddy Power Imperial Cup and any race at Prestbury Park next week, by taking this valuable handicap on Saturday.
Marble Sands (Longshot) – 1.50pm Sandown
As you would expect with a field of 17 unexposed contenders for this Grade 3 “National Hunt” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final, a wide-open contest for which the standard is set by the Paul Nicholls-trained top weight Knappers Hill who finished a creditable sixth in Newbury’s valuable Betfair Hurdle last month.
Harry Cobden’s mount has a tough task with 11st 12lb to carry however and there is likely to be one or two better treated rivals lurking further down the handicap, including the Dan Skelton trio of Our Jet, Hometown Hero and Jet Plane.
Kingofthewest, from the David Pipe stable, beat fellow rival Marble Sands narrowly at Taunton back in January and recorded another victory when making all of the running to take a novice hurdle at Exeter last month.
Fergus Gillard’s mount is respected off an opening handicap mark of 120. But at a much bigger price, the each-way value may lie with the Fergal O’Brien-trained Marble Sands. In the hands of Paddy Brennan, the six-year-old looked to have the measure of Kingofthewest at Taunton only to idle when hitting the front. On 1lb better terms and in a race that could be run to suit the grey is fancied to make the frame at the very least.
Balco Coastal (NAP) – 2.25pm Sandown
Available at 16/1 with bet365 for next Friday’s County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, odds which could well disappear very quickly should the Nicky Henderson-trained Balco Coastal win this historic handicap hurdle, in the process earning the opportunity of lifting the bonus on offer for any horse who manages to claim Saturday’s feature and any race at Prestbury Park next week.
Given an opening handicap mark of 134 following novice hurdle victories at Huntingdon and Ludlow, prior to finishing second in a Cheltenham Grade 2 contest on his most recent start, the mount of Nico de Boinville does not appear harshly treated for a horse who could easily prove Graded class.
The Coastal Path gelding did not enjoy the best of luck after being hampered behind North Lodge at Prestbury Park on Trials Day in January and should appreciate this drop back to this trip of two miles.
In a field of 22 there are plenty of potential dangers, including the lightly-weighted pair of Lively Citizen and Monviel who could make the frame.
Foxboro (Next Best) – 4.45pm Sandown
Multiple-winning chaser Nocte Volatus has hit a rich vein of form since being sent over fences, winning three of his five starts, along with not having the best of luck in the other two. The gelding’s front-running style may not be best suited to this course however and Stan Shepohard’s mount may be vulnerable towards the business end of this 2m 4f handicap.
Top weight Nickolson has finished second in all three chase starts to date and should open his account before too long. But the horse who appeals most is the Robert Walford-trained bottom weight Foxboro.
The seven-year-old has been running consistently well all season, going down narrowly at Wincanton, Kempton and Fontwell before finishing an eight length second to the Dan Skelton-trained Flagmatik at Kempton last month. That was still a cracking effort from Foxboro who has the services of Harry Cobden in the saddle for the first time and is fancied to gain his first victory over fences off a decent mark of 117.
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