Charlie McCann of BetVictor.com with the best of the weekend’s racing bets
The big race from Sandown on the last day of the 2017/18 jumps season is the Bet365 Gold Cup and the ground is likely to be on the soft side of good with rain – perhaps significant – forecast to hit the track on Friday afternoon.
My two against the field are Step Back (12/1 at BetVictor) and Rock The Kasbah (3.35) with marginal preference for the latter (10/1 with BetVictor) who was not beaten far in the corresponding race 12 months ago.
The selection represents the yard of Philip Hobbs – whose stable are in flying form of late after a moderate season by their own high standards – and should be fresher than most after having had just the two starts so far this term.
I am prepared to put a line through Rock The Kasbah’s last run back in January given the yard were clearly out of sorts at the time, but he was impressive at Chepstow on his reappearance and goes very well fresh. Richard Johnson takes the mount and will be crowned Champion jockey for a second time later today – it would be fitting if he finished the season in style.
Top Notch (2.25) was a big disappointment at Ascot last time but he is favoured by the weights in the Grade 2 Oaksey Chase despite giving 2lbs and more to his five rivals. The selection is not the biggest but at his best is a fast slick jumper and he is adaptable with regard to underfoot conditions. The selection is 11/8 with BetVictor.
Altior (3.00) cannot be opposed in the Celebration Chase although I do hope that the Henderson star steps up in trip next term. One thing is for sure the Mullins’ trained Footpad – so impressive at Punchestown again earlier in the week- will give Altior plenty to think about if the latter stays at the minimum trip next season.
Wholestone (4.05) has won over three miles but the suggestion is this afternoon’s intermediate 2m 6f trip should see him in an even better light. The seven-year-old (11/8 at BetVictor) has only won one of seven starts so far this season, but has been placed at both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals this spring and must go close.
The chief threat is likely to be the other horse running in the Simon Munir colours Call Me Lord, but this is the first time the Nicky Henderson gelding has run beyond 2m 2f and his stamina must be taken on trust.
The form of War Sound’s (4.40) second at Uttoxeter to Ballyarthur was franked earlier in the week when the latter scored easily at Perth and I am convinced he is very well handicapped at present despite a 2lbs rise for his latest effort.
The Punchestown Festival concludes and the 3m 6f Handicap Chase has long been the target for Fletchers Flyer (5.00) who won the corresponding race two years ago from an 8lbs higher mark and he can reward each way support despite the fact that he has not been at his best so far this season. The Harry Fry team are in good form – Noel Fehily rides and he will be a double-figure price.
At Doncaster this evening, I feel there may be more to come from Jumira Prince (5.10) for Roger Varian in the opening Mile Handicap. The selection wore a visor for his final start last term but the headgear is dispensed with tonight and this gelded son of Exceed And Excel is open to further improvement.
At Salisbury on Sunday I hope to see First Eleven (3.10) go one better than when second on his last juvenile start in a Newbury maiden. The selection should improve for the step in in trip but this son of Frankel may need to settle better if he is to fulfil his potential. He still holds a Derby entry but that engagement looks fanciful at this stage.
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