Somers day at Sandown
Simon Holt previews Saturday's action at Aintree and Sandown and fancies Somersby in the Tingle Creek.
- Related Content
In the regrettable absence of Sprinter Sacre, Saturday's BetVictor Tingle Creek Chase has a more open look and SOMERSBY could be the one to take advantage at the expense of market rivals Captain Conan and Sire De Grugy.
Now handled by Mick Channon, but also supervised by his former trainer Henrietta Knight, the nine-year-old made a splendid return to action when landing last month's Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter where he stayed on too strongly for the progressive Module with subsequent Betfair Chase hero Cue Card six lengths back in third.
Over the years, Somersby has always been on the cusp of chasing stardom; perhaps his best performance came when beating Finian's Rainbow in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot in 2012 and he won the Henry VIII Novices' Chase on this card back in 2009.
Possibly best over a strongly-run two miles, he is very effective over further and, while three miles is probably too far, a thoroughly respectable fourth behind Kauto Star in the King George two seasons ago confirmed he has the ability to live with the very best.
Like the selection, both Captain Conan and Sire De Grugy are also past Sandown winners.
Captain Conan looks a smart replacement for his stable companion Sprinter Sacre here but, although a winner at two miles over both hurdles and chases, he was impressive over two and a half when successful at Aintree in April.
Trainer Nicky Henderson thinks the minimum distance may be his optimum so it was surprising to see Captain Conan given an entry over three miles and a furlong in a listed race back at Aintree tomorrow.
Sire De Grugy is admirably consistent and posted a career-best display when accounting for Finian's Rainbow and Wishfull Thinking in the Celebration Chase over course and distance in April.
Gary Moore's chestnut again looked good at Chepstow under a big weight on his reappearance but was then beaten at odds-on by Kid Cassidy at Cheltenham's Open Meeting.
That was just a little disappointing, though he may well bounce back to form on this course. The official handicapper has him rated 8lb superior to Somersby and fully 10lb ahead of Captain Conan despite being beaten by the latter at Cheltenham early last term.
Paul Nicholls will be represented by Hinterland, also beaten by Captain Conan here last season, and Kauto Stone who is fitted with blinkers for the first time after a lacklustre effort at Down Royal last month.
The big race at Aintree is the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase run over the Grand National fences.
Given the unsettled weather forecast, ground conditions could well soften but, providing it doesn't become too testing, then ROBERTO GOLDBACK should have a big chance for the Henderson team.
Well behind when unseating his rider at the final fence in the Grand National here in April, he will be much better suited by this shorter distance and comes here after a fine comeback fourth at Ascot behind Houblon des Obeaux, Merry King and Triolo D'Alene with the latter boosting the form when turning the tables on the front two in last week's Hennessy.
By no means badly handicapped on his best form, Roberto Goldback looks sure to go well if reproducing that effort though Aintree specialists Join Together, Big Fella Thanks and Swing Bill - who filled the placings in that order behind Hello Bud in this race 12 months ago (Gullible Gordon unplaced) - must command respect on this unique course which probably brings out the best in them.
Hello Bud's team are represented by 2011 Aintree Foxhunters winner Baby Run but, now 13 and returning from a long lay-off, it would be a remarkable achievement if he were able to score.