The Insider: Same old Sandown
The Insider is keen on one for the season-ending bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday. Check out his ante-post advice.
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Change the name, change the running order, rebrand, modernise, renew. Like a vintage car that has been resprayed more times than anyone can remember, the Sandown meeting that concludes the jumps season remains a thing of beauty.
For the first time this year, the Flat races are all on the Friday and Saturday's card offers only jumps action, making it therefore only 'a mixed meeting' in the broadest sense of the word. But in times of modern turf management practise that's not a huge surprise. Nothing is sacred in this great game any more.
Untainted, Saturday's Bet365 Gold Cup remains a beautiful race. Frequently run at an irrationally quick pace which tests jumps and stamina right from the start, it has been won by some wondrous animals over the years.
Sadly, this year's renewal appears unlikely to produce a winner whose name will ever sit quite right alongisde those of Arkle, Mill House and Desert Orchid on the roll of honour, but it nevertheless offers up a fascinating puzzle to try and unpick.
Even after Monday's forfeit stage whittled the potential line-up down to 38, bookmakers have still been unable to quote anything at single-figures. It's simply that hard.
But a little bit of scratching beneath the surface suggests that although the race is strong on numbers, it might just be short on strong contenders come the day. The likes of Gallant Oscar and And The Man are both set to run in other contests this weeek, while a number of other horses come here lacking form at the end of busy seasons (Court By Surprise, Hadrians Approach, Houblon Des Obeaux).
Godsmejudge ran well at Ayr and plenty of horses have found the quick turnaround between the Scottish National and this race no insurmountable barrier to success, but he clearly isn't the easiest horse to train having been pulled out of Aintree at only a late stage. I'd be reluctant to get involved until he turned up on the day.
Bury Parade and Ardkilly Witness both ran well in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton, a not-entirely dissimilar contest to this, and the former probably should have won had he enjoyed a slightly smoother passage up the home straight. Ardkilly Witness was being pushed along from an early stage there, but the extra test of stamina should suit better now.
Of the two, I just prefer Bury Parade, who is totally unexposed for this sort of test of his stamina. Of course, if you were being negative, you could quite rightly say that totally unexposed could just as easily be expressed as totally unproven and that is a worry, as is his evidently suspect temperament and the fact that he will have a hefty weight burden even if Houblon Des Obeaux stays in.
Burton Port carried some of my cash in the Grand National until the second fence, when he carried it - and a jockey - no more. He jumped to his right at the first fence, even more markedly at the second - at which he collided with Shakalakaboomboom and lost Brian Harding, and became even more wayward without a rider.
He hunted around at the back for another circuit and a half, before eventually deciding he'd had enough and grinding to a halt. As he can't talk (even Jonjo hasn't mastered that one yet) we don't know what he made of the Aintree experience, but my gut feeling is that it probably wasn't the ideal preparation for a big run here.
Roalco De Farges heads the betting with a number of firms, despite being pulled up in the Scottish National. I may be missing something here, but as I suspect he'd prefer some cut in the ground and comes here less than a fortnight after such a poor run, he strikes me as a bit of a baffling favourite.
Chartreux ran a decent race when winning at Sandown on his latest start, but he's another who I suspect might ideally prefer a bit of give, while Poungach and Any Currency find it hard to win races and Emperors Choice, Mountainous and Rigadin De Beuchene will surely need unexpected monsoons to arrive if they are to figure.
Carruthers can probably remember Arkle and Desert Orchid he's been around for so long, but he's far from incapable of a big showing at a sizeable price, but he goes right-handed very rarely these days and it's not as if the handicapper is giving him stacks of help.
Storm Survivor creeps in a nice-looking mark and good ground is definitely in his favour. I could see his price crashing nearer to the race, especially if AP McCoy clims aboard, but he doesn't do anything particularly quickly.
Therefore it is to some extent by process of elimination that Same Difference simply must be the bet at a delicious and widely-available 12/1.
Having been pulled out of Grand National at the five-day stage despite having been guaranteed a run, team Twiston-Davies have clearly had a repeat bid at this race in mind for a while and he really does look primed for a big race off a mark 7lb lower than when just unable to hold off Quentin Collonges 12 months ago (There's No Panic and Hadrian's Approach both held in behind).
He undoubtedly has distance to make up on Spring Heeled on their latest clash in the Kim Muir, but a couple of hefty mistakes saw him get quite a long way behind there and he was doing all of his best work in the final mile.
He's well-handicapped, comes here on the back of a decent effort representing a stable ending the season in fair form (two winners at the weekend), he likes good ground and Sandown and he's dodged the likes of Aintree and Ayr to wait for this. What's not to like? Have a decent each-way bet at 12/1.