The National Hunt season draws to a close today with Sandown staging the final meeting of the season. Here we take a look at the live Channel 4 Races, including the bet365 Gold Cup Chase and the Group 3 Gordon Richard Stakes on the flat, and provide some best bets for the day.
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2.05 – Bet365 Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m3f110y
Minella Forfitness has been in great form and looks a worthy favourite in his bid to complete a four-timer. He won on handicap debut last time out and now must deal with a 9lb rise, but in current form his chances are obvious. Seventh Sky has also been in good form albeit at a lower level than this, and his form ties in with the favourite on their respective runs against claret Cloak. The fitting of cheek-pieces is a little concerning but he should run his race off a nice weight. Recent winner Mubrook ran well in valuable handicap at Haydock last month off a 6lb lower mark and he is another who ought to go well off a light weight, if this race doesn’t come too soon for him.
The Paul Nicholls pair of Black Thunder and Ranjaan aren’t without chances if putting their best foot forward but both have questions to answer. Black Thunder had a heavy fall last time out and needs to show he can recover from that, whilst Ranjaan ha disappointed when well fancied in races of this nature and blinkers are now tried to spark him into life. In a wide open contest there are endless contenders with the likes of Barbatos looking capable of a big run if he can put it all together and similar comments apply to QUADDICK LAKE (16/1 with Ladbrokes). He has done plenty of racing this season and whether he has enough left in the tank is the question hanging over him, but his form has been solid all season. He has a nice swing in the weights with Mubrook on their Haydock running and shaped better than his last result indicates; he still held every chance before being badly hampered and losing all momentum. A strong gallop will suit and with more luck in running he could get involved at a fair price
E/W Selection: QUADDICK LAKE @ 16/1 with Ladbrokes
2.40 – bet365.com Celebration Chase (Grade 2) 2m
It was this race last season when Sanctuaire announced himself as a high class two-mile chaser with a runaway success. He boasts a good record at this course and without Sprinter Sacre in his way he is likely to prove tough to peg back. After last year’s race his rivals will surely be wiser to his front-running and won’t let him get too far clear if they plan on winning the race. He is a quirky performer and that is a common theme with several of today’s rivals, not least the talented Wishfull Thinking. He has suffered with wind issues and when his breathing troubles him he tends to run no sort of race. At his best he looks to be the form pick on this season’s evidence but he does come with risks and his record at Sandown does little to allay them. Firmly under the ‘risks attached’ category is FINIAN’S RAINBOW (5/1 with William Hill) who has struggled on the whole this season. He has to carry a 4lb penalty but even with that a return to his best would see him win this. He hated the soft ground earlier in the season but did show some promise in the Melling Chase at Aintree against two of the best chasers in the country. If he is able to build on that performance this better ground could see him run his best race of the season.
Selection: FINIAN’S RAINBOW @ 5/1 with William Hill
3.15 – bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes (Group 3) 1m2f7y
Al Kazeem has 5lb in hand on his nearest rival and would prove tough to beat if he is at his best. He won the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes on his last racecourse appearance but missed the remainder of the season with a fractured pelvis and with the yard having a slow start to the season, his well-being and fitness are potential stumbling blocks for this reappearance. Ektihaam has been gelded over the winter and connections are hoping that will bring about more improvement from him this year. Blinkers are left off and a return to his form when 2nd in the Dante behind Bonfire give him claims here. Thomas Chippendale was found wanting for stamina in the St Leger last season but has proven form over shorter, with a Group 2 win at Ascot the highlight last year. Another step forward is needed if his rivals run to their level but he has perhaps less questions to answer than most and ought to run his race for in form yard.
Eagles Peak is the unknown quantity of the race, with just the three starts in his career. A handicap winner when last seen he remains unexposed and an entry in the Yorkshire Cup suggest he may appreciate further than this, but a reasonable starting point could easily run to a mark better than his official 99. Going through the race it is hard to be supremely confident about any selection but with the dead 8 runners declared to run, a small each-way stake on the filly SEMAYYEL (16/1 with Coral) at the odds may be worthwhile. She was a shock winner of a Listed contest last year when winning at odds of 125/1, but she then followed that up with a good 5th in a Group 2 against her own sex and that on ground that wouldn’t have been ideal. Receives 3lb and does need to prove she can sustain that form but with question marks over most, her odds are more appealing than some of her more fancied rivals in an open race
E/W Selection: SEMAYYEL @ 16/1 with Coral
3.50 – bet365 Gold Cup Chase (Grade 3 Handicap) 3m5f110y
A competitive handicap chase will round off the season and there is likely to be a well fancied favourite with Away We Go impressing when 2nd in the Irish National last time out. This race comes fairly quickly after that but if he is over those exertions then a repeat performance puts him right in the mix off a lowly weight. There is little value in his price however. Same Difference was a game winner of the Kim Muir at Cheltenham and a thorough stayer, he should go well. Hadrian’s Approach has struggled with his jumping on occasions this season but he has some smart form to his name and seems to enjoy racing right handed. Has a lot of weight to carry but he can get involved if overcoming the novicey mistakes he is prone too make.
Mr Moss and Well Refreshed are two who can also make errors and chances will hinge on keeping them to a minimum. With many in the field having a recent hard race however Mr Moss will arrive fresher than most and Well Refreshed similarly; although drying ground isn’t necessarily in his favour.
For a selection I am going to plump for BALTHAZAR KING (16/1 with Bet Victor) who finished 15th in the Grand National 3 weeks ago. He bowled along enthusiastically for a long way before weakening out of contention and if over those exertions his style of racing could be suited to this test. Drying ground brings out the best of him and with the yard in better form of late he can go well
E/W Selection: BALTHAZAR KING @ 16/1 with Bet Victor
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