The recent retirement of Sprinter Sacre has left a void at the top of the 2 mile chase division and the search to find his successor begins in earnest today with the Tingle Creek at Sandown.
Sadly, the most likely king in waiting, Douvan, has been re-routed elsewhere and so Willie Mullins relies on Un De Sceaux instead.
The likely favourite here was put in his place a couple of times by Sprinter Sacre last spring and it was no surprise to then see him stepped up in trip. What is perhaps surprising is that he returns to the minimum distance today on ground that will be plenty quick enough for him. As a result, he looks well worth taking on.
Ar Mad could be anything, but he may need the run and may also get into an unhelpful battle for the lead with the Irish raider. Sire De Grugy may prefer it softer and so the bet looks to be our old favourite, GODS OWN. We thought the step up in trip would really suit him at Ascot recently, but the ground went against him and back on a decent surface he can pounce late here to claim this prestigious prize.
|Gods Own (win)||3.00 Sandown||7/2||Bet365|
Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle
The best betting race early on the Sandown card is the Pertemps Qualifier, although the prices have shrunk now that overnight favourite, Blue Rambler, is a non-runner.
On his preferred ground, that makes SOME KINDA LAMA the most likely winner as he looks an improving stayer. PRINCE OF STEAL could also run well at a big price.
|Some Kinda Lama (ew)||1.20 Sandown||5/1||Coral, BetVictor|
|Prince Of Steal (ew)||1.20 Sandown||14/1||Coral|
Betfair London National Handicap Chase
The concluding contest at the Esher track is the Betfair London National and it looks to be between CONAS TAOI and DOING FINE.
Conas Taoi had a great season last year proving his stamina for this trip in the process and a recent spin around Cheltenham should have put him spot on for this.
By contrast, Doing Fine lost his way when Rebecca Curtis’ string struggled through the winter, but a move to Neil Mulholland looks to have perked him up judged on his decent return over hurdles recently.
|Conas Taoi (ew)||3.30 Sandown||6/1||Bet365|
|Doing Fine (ew)||3.30 Sandown||5/1||Betfred|
Betfred Becher Handicap Chase
The real thing, the Grand National itself, will be on plenty of owners’ and trainers’ minds at Aintree today as we get our first look at the fearsome National fences in the Becher Chase.
The ground will be very different to last year when Highland Lodge prevailed in the mud, and that will suit course specialist SAINT ARE, who really deserves to win a race around here. He doesn’t quite stay the National trip, so this looks his best chance of doing so.
With a massive field set to line-up it makes sense to have a couple of other horses on your side and the other two we like are SILVERGROVE and ZIGA BOY. Both have lightweights and both go on the ground.
Silvergrove is a front running sort and it always pays to be handy in these races as coming from too far back over these fences is almost impossible these days.
Ziga Boy has been targeted at this race for some time and his run just over 3 weeks ago will have blown away the cobwebs.
Vieux Lion Rouge and Ucello Conti look the main dangers.
|Saint Are (ew)||1.35 Aintree||18/1||Bet365|
|Silvergrove (ew)||1.35 Aintree||14/1||Bet365|
|Ziga Boy (ew)||1.35 Aintree||20/1||Bet365|
Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase
The Grand Sefton Chase is also run over the National course and another front runner, TROIKA STEPPES, can give a bold display here. He stays further than this trip, which you have to do, and could be hard to peg back if getting into a nice rhythm.
The least exposed horse in the race may prove to be VINTAGE VINNIE, now that he has his ground again. He was improving fast earlier in the season and ran respectably when upped in class in an intermediate chase two starts ago.
Finally, the other one we like is ASTRACAD, who also has his preferred ground here. He seems to have been around for ever, but is still only 10 and showed he is no back number when winning at Cheltenham recently.
|Troika Steppes (ew)||3.15 Aintree||9/1||Bet365|
|Vintage Vinnie (ew)||3.15 Aintree||12/1||Bet365|
|Astracad (ew)||3.15 Aintree||14/1||Bet365|
Cheltenham Gold Cup
With the season now in full swing, some of the ante post markets for the big races to come in the spring are well formed and betting for the biggest race of them all, the Gold Cup, is dominated by Colin Tizzard horses thanks to the form shown so far by Thistlecrack, Cue Card and Native River.
However, one horse who might develop into a contender for causing a shock come March is running at Aintree today and in the hope of a good run (albeit over an inadequate trip) this afternoon, we would suggest backing MINELLA ROCCO for big race glory and taking some of the 33/1 currently available.
Jonjo O’Neill is just about the best trainer of staying chasers about and this horse has great stamina reserves, which is often a forgotten requirement of any Gold Cup winner. He looks to have a similar profile to Synchronised, but with a touch more class.
|Minella Rocco (ew)||Cheltenham Gold Cup||33/1||Bet365|