Saturday Preview – All Eyes On Altior - (2021)
It’s day two of the Sandown festival and it’s all about jump racing and in particular all about Altior who bids to extend his winning record. The fan favourite Black Corton also bids to regain the winning thread at Sandown. There is also some good fat action to look forward to at Haydock and Leicester.
Novices’ Championship Handicap Hurdle
This is quite a valuable handicap hurdle and has been duly well supported by trainers. Getaway Trump looks likely to jump off as favourite for the Paul Nicholls team. He finished runner-up behind Champ in the Challow Hurdle earlier in the season and finished fourth in his first handicap which was in the Betfair Hurdle behind Al Dancer. He was a decent winner at Ayr most recently and is the one to beat.
Benny’s Bridge ran well in the Imperial Cup off 134 and even so got dropped five pounds for that run. He has since won a novice hurdle and remains on the same mark here so is of definite interest.
Lord Yeats is a decent flat horse and has taken well to hurdles. He finished fourth in a good handicap at the Aintree festival when last seen and if his run doesn’t come too quickly then he could be hard to keep out of the places.
Other lightly-raced horses to note include Petit Palais, Humble Hero and Heatstroke.
Selection: Benny’s Bridge
Black Corton will never emulate what he did two seasons ago when he played a huge part in the rise of Bryony Frost but that being said, he’s still a very decent yardstick. He’s finished runner-up on five of his six starts this season and will need to put a very disappointing run behind him if he’s to feature.
Another horse of interest here is Definitly Red who Brian Ellison hasn’t stopped talking about since he entered the yard. He won a brace of Grade Two’s in the winter and was fancied by many for the Gold Cup but a 1/6 defeat in a two-runner race in his prep race dampened enthusiasm and he ultimately unseated in the Blue Riband event. This is a retrieval mission and it will be interesting to see how he fares.
Charbel is generally very consistent and was a good winner of the Peterborough Chase earlier in the season. He comes here on the back of two disappointing runs but back in calmer waters, I expect a bold showing from Kim Bailey’s charge.
Of the others Cobra De Mai represents the in-form Dan Skelton yard and has to be respected.
Selection: Black Corton
It’s great to see the Champion Chaser Altior out again but in truth, this Grade 1 looks like a penalty kick to add to his record-breaking winning streak. Nicky’s stable star always seems to give supporters a small scare when he inevitably hits a flat spot as he did at Cheltenham but more often than need he finds that extra gear and powers away from his rivals.
Only five horses are brave enough to take him on here and the only one that could conceivably beat Altior barring an accident is Sceau Royal. He’s always been a very smart horse and for a moment it looked like he might actually beat Altior at Cheltenham but ultimately Altior’s class shone through. I think a similar fate awaits him.
Sandown Gold Cup
Step Back won this contest twelve months ago and has been the subject of an ante-post gamble for the race in recent days. The Bradstock trained gelding was well fancied for the Grand National but picked up a slight injury in the race and pulled up at the Canal Turn second time around. I can understand why he’s fancied here but off a ten-pound higher mark life won’t be easy for him.
Alan King has had his string in decent form of late and Talkischeap should go close here. I wouldn’t say he is thrown in off his current mark but he holds more potential than most in the field and I’ll side with the improver.
The Young Master has been around for a while and actually won this off six-pounds higher back in 2016. He proved his current well-being with a fine third in the Kim Muir at the festival and a reproduction of that run should see him be very competitive here.
Of the lower weights in the race, I like the chances of Just A Sting who won a brace of novice events in the Autumn but has ground to make up on his rivals on his running in the Kim Muir. That being said he’s far from exposed and is an interesting contender.
Old Boston Handicap
Lord Oberon was a credit to connections last season starting on a mark of 81 and finishing the season winning off 90. Karl Burke’s inmate is very lightly raced and is open to plenty of improvement. He could be quite hard to contain if fit enough to do himself justice on seasonal debut.
I’ll put my hands up and say I followed Shady McCoy off a cliff last season and I paid the price for it as he always had the hard-luck story. He’s got undoubted talent but needs to be held up and get the breaks when it matters. He’s won twice on seasonal debut but in general, he needs the run and I’ll pass on him this time.
A horse with fitness on his side is Wahash for Richard Hannon. He was headed late on over the mile last week and with a drop in trip and class, he could just be the answer here.
Others to note include the lightly-raced Safe Voyage, the classy So Beloved and Golden Apollo.
King Richard III Stakes
A smart-looking field of six horses go to post for this seven-furlong listed contest. The Group 1 winning Eqtidaar tops the market and justifiably so on his Commonwealth Cup victory at Royal Ascot. There were excuses for his two subsequent flops and with the drop down in grade and step up in trip, he’s the horse to beat.
The highest rated in the field is actually Hey Gaman, who ‘s got plenty fo top quality form including when placed at Group 1 level over a mile but to his detriment, he always seems to find one or two horses too good. I think a similar plot may transpire here.
The final live contender in the race is Laugh a Minute for the Roger Varian yard. He was Group 3 placed last season and should appreciate the step up in trip now. He’ll need to improve to feature but it’s not inconceivable.
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