David Ord returns with a horse-by-horse guide to Saturday's Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown - with Nigel Twiston-Davies fancied to land the prize.
BLAKLION: Season geared around the Randox Health Grand National so galling for connections to see him brought down at the first. Clearly none the worst for the incident and a player here despite top weight.
REGAL ENCORE: A late defector from the Aintree showpiece, he was an impressive winner at Ascot on his last start. However his overall record is very patchy and it’s rare he strings back-to-back performances together. A danger to all if he does.
THEATRE GUIDE: Third here last season and now 3lb lower so makes plenty of appeal from a handicapping perspective. The negatives are his record this season, pulling up in the Betdaq Handicap Chase at Kempton and falling at the first in veterans’ chase at Ascot on his two latest starts.
ROCK THE KASBAH: Yard endured a lean season but ending it in fine form. This eight-year-iold won well at Chepstow on his reappearance before pulling up in the Haydock mud on only subsequent start. Sixth in this last year when rattling home up the hill but seven pounds higher this time around.
PRESENT MAN: Disappointed over hurdles at Musselburgh when last seen but useful chaser who has won two of his last three in that discipline, including the Badger Beers Chase at Wincanton. Handicapper has had his say though and a career best needed her.
MISSED APPROACH: Landed Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at Cheltenham and aimed at this ever since. No surprise to see him towards the head of the market from an 8lb higher mark but there’s plenty of competition for the lead here.
ROYAL VACATION: Been campaigned over hurdles for his last two starts and little sign of him returning to the form of last season which saw him land the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase and a valuable novice handicap at Cheltenham. Bit to prove now.
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX: Fancied by some shrewd judges for the National but fell at Becher’s. Not the ideal prep for this race and needs the ground to be deep to be at his very best.
DOMESDAY BOOK: Sprang a 40/1 surprise in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at Cheltenham last season but not seen since. Hard to know what to expect but likely to start a similar price to his big day at Prestbury Park last term.
BENBENS: Pulled up in both the Midlands and Scottish Nationals – readily passed over.
CAROLE’S DESTRIER: Handicap mark tumbling but that’s on the back of a string of below-par efforts including pulling up at Haydock and Doncaster the last twice. Hard to fancy as a result.
BIGBADJOHN: Unseated at the Chair in the Topham only second start for Nigel Twiston-Davies having won at Kempton on his first. Another that shapes as though this trip should suit and he’s dangerously well treated on last season’s novice form including a win in the Grade Two Reynoldstown Chase.
MINELLA DADDY: Yard won this last year and the eight-year-old is interesting on the pick of his efforts – but not his latest 12th in the Ultima at Cheltenham.
SUGAR BARON: Has the ability to win a race like this but his tendency to make mistakes at crucial times remains the Achilles’ Heel. Never a factor behind Missed Approach at Cheltenham last time but seventh in this last year and would have been closer but for a mistake at the last. 11lb higher now though.
RELENTLESS DREAMER: Good run to be sixth in the Betdaq at Kempton but that said little there to sugest he was about to win a race as valuable as this.
STEP BACK: Completely unexposed over fences having won on only his third start over the bigger obstacles at Fakenham last time. Will continue to improve but this is a stern test at such a fledgling stage of his chasing career and the inexperience is a worry.
RATHLIN ROSE: Was typically going well when falling four out in the Topham. Another making a quick turnaround but the handicapper may already have had his say.
DAWSON CITY: Ran really well to be second to Thomas Patrick at Newbury last time and this dour stayer will appreciate every yard of the trip – and drop of rain that falls between now and race time.
THE YOUNG MASTER: Won this in 2016, his last victory, and now 13lb lower than that mark after seemingly losing his way. Definitely signs of a potential revival two starts ago when sixth behind Missed Approach at Cheltenham and very interesting here despite unseating at the first in the Scottish National last week.
BAND OF BLOOD: Struck at Exeter and Doncaster in February but below form the last twice including when soundly beaten by Rathlin Rose at Ascot. Hard to fancy.
HENLLAN HARRI: Last year's winner but not much encouragement since and while a revival is entirely ruled out, it can't be confidently predicted either.
VERDICT: A wide-open season finale. BIGBADJOHN gets a narrow vote ahead of The Young Master with both potentially well handicapped. Rock The Kasbah can cap a fine week for Philip Hobbs with a bold show while Missed Approach must go well too.
- 1st Bigbadjohn
- 2nd The Young Master
- 3rd Rock The Kasbah
- 4th Missed Approach