Not a great weekend's racing but winners to find all the same and Sandown have abandoned their hurdle races in favour of an all-chase card and there is no finer sight in jump racing than seeing top class horses take on those seven fences down the back straight at the Esher track.
The feature event is the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase and Captain Conan would have been a confident selection over the minimum trip but his stamina has to be taken on trust and he may go off a very short price because of connections. He has the stamp to make an outstanding chaser but if he were not in the same yard that housed Simonsig would they be really considering stepping him up to 2m 4f?
It is possible he will improve again for the step up in trip but his breeding suggests he is not certain to do so and preference is for Venetia Williams's Houblon Des Obeaux (2.25) who finished runner up in a Grade 2 Chase at Lingfield last time. The selection is no star but is tough and consistent and will make sure the Lambourn runner stays all of this extended two-and-a-half mile trip. Although there are only four runners, Changing Times will ensure the race won't be run at a crawl and that might play into the hands of the selection.
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Keppols Hill (3.35) looks fairly handicapped in the 3m Handicap Chase for Paul Nicholls; this is generally a quiet period for the champion trainer but the selection is, arguably, unlucky not to be unbeaten in three starts so far this season over the larger obstacles. He looks a thorough stayer and is currently 14/1 (NRFB) with BetVictor for the NH Chase at the Festival next month. Mister Hyde has been raised 13lbs for winning at Kempton over Xmas and that wasn't a good race by the track's standards and Viking Blonde might be the one to follow the selection home from the foot of the weights.
Shangani (4.40) is surely better than he showed at Chepstow last time when backed as if defeat was out of the question.
That form might be quite decent, however, with the runner up winning at Wincanton on Thursday and he is surely going to leave his current handicap mark of 118 well behind in time.
The veterans' chases (races for horses aged 10 or older) are becoming increasingly popular and today's is an absolute cracker.
Dashing George ran very well against a David Pipe hotpot at Leicester in midweek giving every indication that a drop back in trip would suit; Plein Pouvoir is a terrific jumper of fences and is respected but Gwanako (3.00) goes well at Sandown, has been given a chance by the handicapper and his jockey, who knows him well, takes off a valuable 7lbs.
Ffos Las plays host to their feature jumps meeting of the year and I am giving one last chance to Alfie Spinner (2.40) in the West Wales National.
He was well backed (not just me) at Sandown last time when he was hassled for the lead although, in hindsight, he stood no chance against the progressive Katenko who followed up at Cheltenham last weekend.
Daryl Jacob knows the horse well and is back in the saddle for what looks a terrific innovation to the calendar.
I like the idea of the Welsh Champion Hurdle reverting back to a Limited handicap although I'm not convinced about the step up to 2m 4f.
Miss Milborne (2.05) is an admirable mare who always gives her running and she can go close dropping back in trip on what is sure to be very testing ground.
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My two against the field at this stage would be Cappa Bleu (28/1) and On His Own (16/1) in our enhanced win only market.
The nap of the weekend is Nutin Fancy (4.20) in the 3m Hurdle for Philip Hobbs and Tom O'Brien.
The selection looks a proper stayer and looked a shade unlucky not to win first time out at Chepstow last month.
For all your weekend odds check out betvictor.com