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Sandown Preview

Hi all,

It’s the last Saturday before Cheltenham we have racing from two courses on ITV today. There are four races from Sandown and three from Wolverhampton.

Fingers crossed we’ll see racing at Sandown this afternoon. The course must pass a precautionary morning inspection due to the threat of overnight frost. Provided temperatures haven’t dropped below the forecast -2C the track should be raceable. Anything below that and I suspect we’re going to lose the days feature meeting.

Inside today’s main piece I look at the best of the action at Sandown.

The field sizes for Sandown’s two valuable handicap hurdles have stood up well. Seventeen have been declared for the European Breeders' Fund Betfair ‘National Hunt' Novices' Handicap Hurdle Final (1:50). Meanwhile a field of 18 are to meet the starter in the Betfair Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (2:25).

The new flat season at Doncaster is just three weeks away and Wolverhampton hosts a Lincoln Trial. The Spreadex Sports Lincoln Trial Handicap (2:05) has £25,770 on offer to the winner and its attracted maximum field of 13.  The most valuable race on the Wolverhampton card is the Listed Spreadex Sports Lady Wulfruna Stakes (2:40) where eight horses compete for the winner prize of £32,608.  

I don’t have the time to look at the Wolverhampton races here. However, if you want my selections for that meeting you can get them and all my Cheltenham previews and selections here for just £5.


What a difference five days can make to the going. On Monday evening it was good ground at Sandown. The recent rain/snow has seen the going switch quickly to soft, heavy in places on the chase course and heavy, soft in places on the hurdle course.  

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When I wrote my preview on the Imperial Cup on Tuesday, I wasn’t anticipating the amount of precipitation on water ground that the track has seen. The last six renewals of the Imperial Cup have been run on soft ground and a seventh seems likely.

1:50 – European Breeders' Fund Betfair ‘National Hunt' Novices' Handicap Hurdle Final – 2m 4f

A race which normally throws up plenty of future winners and this year’s race will be no exception.

Five of the last fifteen were trained by Paul Nicholls and Fergal O’Brien. Nicholls is 4 winners from 15 runners 27% +14.5 7 placed and O’Brien is 1 winner from 6 runners 17% +9 4 placed (+19) since 2008.

Nicholls saddles – Henri The Second, Hugos New Horse & Twin Power and O’Brien saddles Crambo.  All three of the Nicholls runners are previous course winners with Henri The Second and Twin Power both having won over C&D.

All the Nicholls runners need respecting. Hugos New Horse is going the right way and looks a nice prospect for chasing next season. No easy task off a mark 130 against some unexposed types but Angus Cheleda takes off a handy 5lb which is helpful.  I just prefer the claims of Twin Power of the three. He’s now run well twice over C&D and looks to be progressive. The ground will be different to last time but if handling it can get into the money.

Crambo won on hurdle debut at Ascot before looking outclassed in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle. He bounced back to winning ways when dropped in class at Bangor last month. Looks on fair mark for his handicap debut and is respected.

As expected, Cuthbert Dibble relished the step up to 2m 4f when comfortably winning a Leicester novice hurdle last month. He now goes handicapping off a workable mark and will enjoy the easing ground.

Churchills Boy bids for the hat trick after novice hurdle wins at Plumpton & Fontwell. Both those successes came on soft ground and the 6-year-old looks capable of more progression.


Cuthbert Dibble is one I like, and the trainer won this in 2021. The ground has come in his favour but at 9/2 he’s a bit shorter than I want to see. Crambo should go well for trainer whose runners have gone well in the race in the past. Twin Power looks overpriced in my eyes but that could be on account of the significantly eased ground. The other horse who looks a shade of value is Churchills Boy.

2:25 – Betfair Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap) – 2m

I looked at the race in detail in Wednesday’s preview. Playful Saint has been backed this into favouritism in the last few days and given his liking for testing ground you can see why. 

The early ante post market leader Zoffany Bay is another who will be suited by ease in the ground and should go well provided he doesn’t bounce. Fellow Irish challenger Man O Work has also won on testing ground in Ireland and needs respecting.

There shouldn’t be much between Hardy Du Seuil and Iceo who were first and second in a C&D handicap last time.

The likely progressive Monviel should be seen to better effect than he was in the Betfair Hurdle last time and is high on my shortlist.

It will be no easy task for top weight Metier under12-00. However, he’s 3-3 over hurdles on heavy ground and also won the November Handicap on heavy.

Imperial Cup Verdict:

There’s seven on my shortlist. Those who backed Playful Saint this week could easily collect but he looks under-priced to me now at 13/2. There’s more juice in the price of Monviel who could easily go off favourite. If the ground is heavy, you must have Metier on side. Both Hardy Du Seuil and Iceo have claims with the first named a solid enough each way contender at 14/1.

3:00 – British Stallion Studs EBF Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed Race) – 2m

Harry Fry won this in 2019 and he saddles Goodtimecrew in this year’s race. The 5-year-old made a winning debut for the trainer when winning a Wincanton bumper last month. Soft or heavy ground are a bit of an unknown, but she looked a nice prospect at Wincanton and Sandown’s stiffer track should suit her.

Point winner Casa No Mento made a winning debut for Nigel Twiston-Davies at Hereford and is another good future prospect but could be good enough here.

Mercian Omen was green on her racecourse debut when 2nd of 9 at Wetherby in November. It was very soft that day, so underfoot conditions shouldn’t phase her. She’s open to improvement and not dismissed.

March Wind is rare Sandown runner for Scottish trainer Sandy Thomson. The 6-year-old is bred to appreciate 2m 4f+. However, she was encouraging 3 length 2nd of 10 at Wetherby on her racecourse debut and needs considering.

Trainer Kim Bailey has gone 58-days and 35 runners without a winner otherwise I would be very interested in his runner Saint Bibiana. The mare got off the mark at the fourth attempt when winning at Uttoxeter in December. It was heavy that day and she showed a good attitude to prevail. Bailey saddled the winner of this in 2021 and 2013 so he knows what’s required and his mare is high on the shortlist despite the yard’s form.


Goodtimecrew seems likely to off favourite just ahead of Casa No Mento and if you fancy either I won’t put you off. If I have a bet in the race its likely to be on the Kim Bailey mare Saint Bibiana despite the yards form.

3:35 – Betfair Daily Multiples Offer At Cheltenham Novices' Handicap Chase – 2m 4f

A disappointing turn out for this Premier Handicap with just six set to meet the starter.

Easy As That bids for the hat trick after wins at Wetherby and latterly Newcastle two weeks ago. He jumped well when running out a 10 length winner last time. Up 9lb for that success but is a worthy favourite and he hasn’t reached his class ceiling yet.

Baron De Midleton is more exposed than his five rivals, but he showed the benefit of wind surgery when posting a career best on RPR’s when successful at Newcastle 14-days ago. Now 6lb higher, in a deeper race but not discounted.

Gary Moore who won this in 2017 runs Hudson De Grugy.  A four time winner over hurdles, all on soft or heavy ground, he’s yet to win on four starts over fences and there are seemingly stronger candidates.

No Risk Des Flos made it 2-4 since going chasing when beating four rivals at Wetherby 44-days ago. He’s up 5lb but has the potential to rate higher over fences once his jumping improves. Testing ground suits and he looks the biggest rival to the favourite.


Given the prize money on offer its disappointing that the race has only attracted six runners. Easy As That is the right favourite and most likely winner. Albeit the Venetia Williams yard haven’t had many winners in the past two weeks. Indeed, the only winner she’s had is Easy As That. No Risk Des Flos needs to jump better around here than he did when winning at Wetherby last time but if he does he looks the main rival to the favourite.

Saturday Selection:

Easy As That can take the 3:35 but No Risk Des Flos would be value at around 9/2. I will be having a couple in each of the two big handicap hurdles and could easily go with three in the Imperial Cup but I’m trying to keep it down to two. Thus, I won’t put one up from those two races. That leaves the Mares Bumper for today’s selection. If this race hadn’t have been on ITV this afternoon I probably wouldn’t have looked at it. Despite the form of the Kim Bailey yard, I’m going with SAINT BIBIANA as the value pick ahead of Goodtimecrew & Casa No Mento.


3:00 – Saint Bibiana – 9/1 @ Bet365.

Good luck with your Saturday bets.


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