Today’s racing is going to be highly emotional as the Champion AP McCoy bows out. The fact that he has been the only Champion Jockey in my lifetime sums up his dominance and class horsemanship.
McCoy only has two rides on the final day of the National Hunt season at Sandown (Mr Mole 3:15 & Box Office 4:25) where he’ll be crowned Champion Jockey for the 20th time. If he won on both rides it’d take him to 4,350 but Mr Mole is his best chance.
Words can’t describe his career! Thanks AP!
Lil Rockerfeller (11/2) is the first selection. As a legend retires, a rising star of the saddle, who will one day be Champion Jockey, takes the ride aiming to secure the Conditional Jockeys crown. Sean Bowen is a talented 17-year-old, who is still able to claim 3lb for his ride on this Neil King gelding meaning he races off a mark of 130. A last time out winner at Ascot, where he beat four of today’s rivals, on good to soft ground, the overnight night is very much welcomed and he is now a major figure for this race. In that race victory he beat Sternrubin by 6l and this Hobbs gelding has been consistently second, in three of his four runs.
Lil Rockerfeller has twice been beaten by Devilment, who was 4th in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and 2nd in the Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree. That is the strongest form in the book. He was also 2nd to Pain Au Chocolat, who is a progressive horse now rated 143, here at Sandown in January.
Alzammaar looks the most dangerous after his win at Newbury on good ground last time out. Despite only winning by 1¾l he has been raised 8lb by the handicapper to 125. That day he beat Dexcite, who travelled strongly but wandered off a straight line in the final stages allowing Alzammaar to overtake and take victory. However he hasn’t won over the shortest 2m trip suggesting he needs further, especially after his success at Newbury was over 2m3f. Baron Alco won over course and distance for the first time over hurdles back in November and he looks reasonably well treated by the handicapper. He could be the one at a price to run into a place. Old Guard for Paul Nicholls is probably the best of the rest. He drops down in class from graded company and should run a good race. However the only downside to him running here is he gives weight away all-round.
I’m still quite wary of playing the flat so early on in its season, so why I’m choosing a 17 runner Handicap race I’m not quite sure! As it settles down and the form becomes more understandable I will have more confidence. This is a tentative selection and one to play with small stakes.
Looking at the race Searchlight (18/1 each-way) caught my eye. He has performed well on the all-weather surfaces over winter and goes back to turf racing off a career high mark of 90. He has only won five from starts (three on all-weather and two on turf) and they have all been over 5f. In November at Wolverhampton he was 2nd to Realize over this 6f trip and shaped like he could win one at this distance. Kevin Ryan’s horses are flying at the start of the season; he had two winners from two runners yesterday at Doncaster, so it is worth chancing with this four-year-old. Another positive is that his two wins on turf came on firm ground at Bath, today he gets good to firm ground (currently stated) therefore should be suited by the quickness.
Richard Fahey is another trainer that has his horses primed and ready at the start of the season, so the main danger looks to be Tatlisu. A winner last time out at Doncaster 27 days ago he comes into this having race fitness and sharpness, however that was on good to soft ground but he did perform well on quicker ground at the backend of last season. Jack Garrity gets the ride again and is able to claim 5lb; his last winner came at this track for Fahey, suggesting he knows his way around the track already. Pipers Note won over course and distance last August and after his win ten days ago he’ll be well tuned to go well again.
3:50 Sandown: Gold Cup Chase
When I checked the betting on Thursday Le Reve was the well-fancied and clear favourite. At the time of piecing this race together Grand Jesture (10/1) wasn’t that short. Henry de Bromhead is a shrewd operator and is one man who knows where to place his horses to find their best. His lightly-raced seven-year-old has only had three runs this season, including his 2nd to The Druids Nephew in the Ulitma Business Solutions Handicap Chase (Grade 3) at Cheltenham. In effect for that 2nd he has only gone up 1lb in the handicap as jockey Jonathan Burke is able to claim 3lb; he is a useful jockey and has rode some big races, including Sizing Granite’s win at Aintree and he was on board Goonyella to win the Midlands Grand National and partnered him to 2nd in the Scottish Grand National last Saturday. The overnight ground won’t have inconvenienced his chances as he has form on soft, good to soft and good/yielding ground. For a lot of racing fans including myself the Irish have the top class chasers and it could prove the case here again.
Paint The Clouds has been running in Hunter Chases with success winning four of his five starts and the other was a 3rd at Cheltenham. Top amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen continues his partnership with this Warren Greatrex runner and under rules he can claim 3lb, so he is hardly carrying much weight. He is the main danger to the selection as he has won over 3m4f, so should be able to stay for an extra furlong in today’s trip. At a price Royale Knight would be the each-way play. He was 6th in the Grand National and travelled strongly before being unable to pick up in the final stages. His trainer Dr Richard Newland said he came out of the race well and for me he has proven stamina. The question is how much did the Grand National take out of him? At a best price of 25/1 I couldn’t put you off him as he has won over 3m6f and jumps well.
Unioniste fell at the fifth fence in the Grand National however he has good course form and has the ability to produce a good run here. As a seven-year-old, as is my selection, we should see him progress nicely over the next few season. He definitely has solid claims here. The Package however is an inconsistent type and he did win at Cheltenham but he is 10lb higher for that success and for me is one to avoid.
Good Luck & again Thanks AP!