Take your Pleasure any which way
Ian Ogg runs through the runners and the stats for Saturday's William Hill Imperial Cup at Sandown.
The key stats
- Winners have been aged four (2), five (5), six (3), seven, eight & nine.
- Winners have carried between 9-12 and 10-13.
- Winners have been rated between 114 and 135 with six between 124 and 130 (only one higher).
- Winners have been priced between 11/4 and 20/1 with seven 12/1 or shorter.
- Four favourites have won with three trained by either David or Martin Pipe. A further two favourites (including joints) were placed.
- Eight winners had raced four times or fewer in the current season.
- Six winners had won a race during the current season.
- Nine winners had raced in the current calendar year.
- Six winners finished in the first two on their preceding start.
- Seven novices have won with two other winners in their second season over hurdles.
Daughter of the smart Lady Cricket who has been entered for most of the big handicap hurdles this season but didn't reappear until last month's Betfair Hurdle. A fair fifth there confirmed the view that she has more to offer and her top stable's record in this race ensures that she can't be ignored.
A 20/1 winner of last year's renewal and will attempt to follow up from a 7lb higher mark. Recent form is hardly compelling but that could also be said, up to a point, about him coming into this race last year and another big run isn't inconceivable. Lightning doesn't strike twice though does it?
Wouldn't be the first runner from the yard to confound expectations in a big handicap (see Splash Of Ginge) but he was surely flattered by his proximity to Triumph Hurdle favourite Calipto. That said, it was still a career best and he could outrun his odds on his handicap bow with conditions to suit.
Paul Nicholls' elected representative has been well backed all week and his C&D defeat by Vaniteux looks better now in the light of that one's prominence in the betting for the Sky Bet Supreme. Didn't appear to go through with his effort at Kempton which remains a nagging doubt despite this progressive novice's win at Exeter but plenty will give him the benefit of the doubt and it's easy to see why.
Great things were expected this season after his second in the Cheltenham bumper last March. It hasn't really happened yet but the form of both defeats looks better than it did at the time and he's undeniably well handicapped. Looks the right fit for the race and he could dot up but the stable has struggled for form of late and that's a major concern.
New Year's Eve
Like the favourite, he also finished second in the Cheltenham bumper but it's taken a good while for him to translate that form to hurdling. Has worn a hood the last twice and that appears to have made all the difference so it would be no surprise to see him continue on his upward curve but this is a far stiffer test of his mettle.
Chesil Beach Boy
Likeable sort but if he wins, the only sound you'll hear at Sandown is that of the bookmakers laughing.
Knight Of Pleasure
One of the more interesting outsiders with Gary Moore's runners in handicaps at this track always worth a second look. A fair eighth in last year's Fred Winter, he's at his best when fresh and it's possible the trip may have stretched him in competitive events the last twice. A decent pace at the minimum may prove to be ideal and no surprise to see him involved.
Is said to be maturing and progressing by connections which is just as well as he'll have to improve on the form that he's shown to date. That's perfectly conceivable but his connections and decent bumper form are arguably the most interesting things about him. Far from being dismissed but looks short enough for what he's achieved.
Fragile but talented sort who has been well placed by his leading yard to win four of his six starts. Sufficiently lightly raced to believe that he may be able to progress and you couldn't confidently put a line through him but that's just what I'll be doing.
Has taken a while to find his form this season but he's found it now and made Caesar Milan (runs in the second) pull out all the stops at Taunton and could, conceivably, have more to offer while his yard is enjoying a great season. That's the devil's advocate bit out of the way, now I can scratch him from the list.
Juveniles have won this race in the past so don't let his age put you off while his October defeat of the now 141 rated Abracadabra Sivola suggests that he could still be on a decent mark. I'm struggling to take some of that collateral form literally and will look elsewhere but I'm not prepared to dismiss him out of hand.
This respected yard's horses have been running well and this fellow has attracted support during the week. He's yet to win over hurdles but was not disgraced when highly tried last term and has come down a long way in the weights despite a couple of fair performances so you can see where his fans are coming from but I can't see him being good enough to win.
A winner on this card in 2011 for Nicky Henderson when taking the EBF Final. That remains the highlight of his career and it's hard to see that being any different after this race despite his up-and-coming trainer trying him in blinkers.
Only two horses, including last year's winner, have had more than nine runs over hurdles and this race has been the preserve of lightly raced hurdlers with three winners having had just three starts over hurdles and another two just four.
Regal Encore hasn't raced since December which is a negative on the stats but plenty of good gambles have been landed in this race and he could be another.
He looks worth opposing though with concerns about his yard's form but finding reasons to oppose Vibrato Valtat are a little harder as the handicapper may have let him off lightly for his Exeter win and all his form stacks up well.
He's been well tipped up elsewhere on the site though so we'll take an each-way chance with Knight Of Pleasure who is widely available at 25s at the time of writing.
Gary Moore has saddled two seconds and two thirds in the last 10 years and had a good few more runners just in behind the places.
It's slightly off-putting that Jamie rides Gassin Golf but brother Josh has been aboard for five of Knight Of Pleasure's eight starts, including both career wins.
Moore isn't one for wishing his geese were swans and he's always held a high opinion of this five-year-old who could shake-up his better fancied rivals.