Simon Holt best bets and tips for Imperial Cup day at Sandown

Victory Bond (left) is backed to defy top weight
Victory Bond (left) is backed to defy top weight

Simon Holt thinks class will out in two of the big handicaps on Saturday - check out his three selections across Sandown and Wolverhampton.

Recommended bets: Saturday March 9

CALL ME LORD, second in last year's Matchbook Imperial Cup, looks the class act in Saturday's renewal at Sandown and is fancied to go one better despite again being burdened with 11-12 top weight.

The Nicky Henderson-trained French import, who has won on his other three visits to Sandown, took a step forward after this race last year when slamming Lil Rockerfeller and Wholestone over two miles and five furlongs.

That victory seemed to encourage connections to head down the staying hurdle route this season, but Call Me Lord appeared not to stay three miles in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot before Christmas even accounting for the fact he had no luck in running.

A testing two miles seems to suit him well enough and, while 8lb higher than when touched off by Mr Antolini last year (pair clear), most of his lightly-weighted rivals are not in his league at this stage of their careers.

It will be interesting to see how Call Me Lord is campaigned in the future, especially if sent over fences. Although declared for next week's Coral Cup at Cheltenham, his trainer has often said he must go right handed even though there is no strong evidence of this on form. If not at Cheltenham, he might be tried left handed at Aintree or go to Punchestown (right handed).

Perhaps the most promising of the opposition is Monsieur Lecoq, a nine length winner over the course and distance last time and now seeking a hat-trick.

The five-year-old has shot up 12lb for that victory but won readily enough and conditions will probably suit him again.

Earlier, RUSSIAN HAWK could be the bet in the European Breeders Fund Matchbook VIP National Hunt Novices' Handicap Hurdle Final.

Colin Tizzard's imposing five-year-old has progressed nicely in three hurdling starts winning at Exeter in November since when he has twice made the frame at Ascot, most recently when narrowly denied by the useful Dashel Drasher.

Russian Hawk's future lies over fences but he looks likely to see this test out well and has considerable potential.

At Wolverhampton, VICTORY BOND can defy top weight in the sunracing.co.uk Lincoln Trial Handicap.

William Haggas's six-year-old is an established all-weather performer and won the Easter Classic (1m2f) on Finals Day at Lingfield last March.

Off the track for six months, he made an encouraging effort in Listed company at Kempton (1m) in November finishing fourth to the talented Flaming Spear, and the runner-up, Hathal, has won twice since at Wolverhampton.

This is Victory Bond's first run in a handicap since taking third behind the smart Here Comes When at York in May, 2017.

It's possible that a mile is sharp enough for him, but that's worth chancing at the odds against lesser opposition, and what really catches the eye is the booking of young Cieren Fallon who looks very good value for his 7lb allowance.


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