Simon Holt has three Sandown smashers as he previews the action from the Esher venue on Saturday afternoon.
Recommended bets: Saturday February 2
Assuming Sandown gets the go ahead on Saturday, BELAMI DES PICTONS is fancied to prove too classy for his rivals in the 888Sport Masters Handicap Chase despite returning from a long absence.
The lay-off may not be too much of a disadvantage as the ex-French gelding's trainer Venetia Williams has done extremely well in similar situations this season, and Charlie Deutsch's mount looked a smart prospect when last seen at Carlisle in November 2017.
On that occasion, Belami Des Pictons ran the now 170-rated Waiting Patiently to less than three lengths suggesting that a mark of just 146 could be well within his compass.
The eight-year-old had won his previous three starts over fences (two of them by wide margins) and, if able to pick up where he left off, must have a strong chance of defying top weight.
Williams also fields stable stalwart Houblon Des Obeaux who bounced back to form in the Veterans Final here last time for which he has gone up 9lb. The old boy remains well handicapped on his best form, but he lacks a bit of consistency these days and a repeat of last month's sparkle is not guaranteed. Moreover, I would be very surprised if connections regarded him as being within just 2lb of the selection at home.
Give Me A Copper returns after a similar break for Paul Nicholls and this formerly useful novice hurdler also looks potentially better than some mainly well-exposed rivals. However, his two chase runs do not really measure up to the form of Belami Des Pictons.
Nicholls took the 888Sport Heroes Handicap Hurdle last year with the promising Topofthegame and could repeat the feat with the lowly weighted CASKO D'AIRY.
Very lightly-raced, this seven-year-old showed little in his first two starts over hurdles for the former champion trainer but the fitting of a tongue strap and waiting tactics produced a dramatic turnaround at Ascot before Christmas when he cruised into the ad at the final flight and drew readily clear.
The handicapper has had his say for that win but a good run from the second Big Man Clarence since and victories for Annie Mc (fourth) and Potters Hedger (fifth) suggests there was no fluke about the performance and, in the likely testing conditions on the hurdles course, Casko D'Airy should see it out well given how strong he was at the finish that day
Earlier, the bold-jumping GINO TRAIL can make a winning reappearance in the 888Sport Bet £10 Get £30 Handicap Chase, a race he won 12 months ago.
Kerry Lee's sprightly veteran ran some terrific races last season including when beaten just over four lengths by the re-opposing Le Prezien, who he now meets on 5lb better terms, in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham.
But it is Gino Trail's liking for Sandown, a course which often rewards fluent fencing, which could make the difference here. In this race, he gave 6lb and a beating to Dolos (now 4lb worse off) and also ran well here previously when finishing second to Speredek who is now almost 20lb higher in the ratings.
It was heartening to see Lee enjoy a welcome win with Happy Diva at Huntingdon last week and the yard may now be emerging from a quiet spell.