With the start of next week’s four-day Cheltenham festival almost upon us, the business of finding winners must go on regardless and the featured event at Sandown on Saturday is the Sunderlands Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle.
Martin Pipe quite literally farmed this race in the past and his son David won it with Gaspara last year. David Pipe is bound to launch another mammoth assault on Saturday’s race and his four-year-old Ashkazar appears quite well treated on 10-12. The David Johnson-owned Ashkazar, who came in for major market support during the week, has won two out of his most recent three starts and he’s likely to prove marginally superior to Mohayer.
Mister Gloss could provide the solution to the European Breeders’ Fund Sunderlands “National Hunt” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final.
A former Irish point-to-pointer, Mister Gloss took a little while to find his feet in Britain, but he did win his most recent start for trainer Philip Hobbs. Now clearly on an upward curve, Mister Gloss is preferred to Gansey.
Master Sebastian, a dual winner this season, can justify the lengthy trek southwards from Lucinda Russell’s Scottish stable by beating Duc de Regniere in the Bet Online@sunderlands.co.uk Handicap Chase whilst Over Sixty and Shali San are a likely pair in the Doncaster Bloodstock Sales/EBF Mares Only Standard Open NH Flat Race Final.
The Channel 4 cameras will additionally be screening live two races live from the all-weather at Wolverhampton. Jack Sullivan looks likely to play a major role in the williamhill.co.uk Lady Wulfruna Stakes whilst a similar remark can be applied to War Artist and Alfresco should possess too many aces for Re Barolo in the williamhill.co.uk Lincoln Trial Stakes.
There’s a relatively quiet domestic programme over the weekend with racing at Gowran Park on Saturday whilst Naas stage a meeting on Sunday.
At Gowran Park, Freds Benefit appeals as the most likely winner of the Bolands Carlow Volvo Handicap Chase. Freds Benefit has won two out of his four starts over fences for Willie Mullins this season and on his most recent start, the Beneficial-sired gelding came home by a distance in a two mile five furlong novice chase at Fairyhouse. Whilst notoriously difficult to settle at times, Freds Benefit possesses speed in abundance and the drop down in trip to two miles shouldn’t pose a problem here and he’s therefore likely to see-off Clew Bay Cove.
Green Wellies looks the part in the coveted Garryrichard Stud Tetretema Perpetual Cup Hunters Chase. This Dot Love-trained gelding made the successful step up to hunter chase company by winning a Downpatrick hunters chase on December 21st. The horse that Green Wellies beat on that occasion, Takeyourpick is unquestionably one of the best point-to-point horses on the cork circuit this term. Using that as a barometer, it will come as a major surprise if Green Wellies fails to account for Where Now.
It could pay to row in behind Bensalem in the closing Millenary at Knockhouse Stud INH Flat Race. This Liam Burke-trained gelding created a hugely favourable impression by winning a Dromahane four-year-old maiden with Derek O’Connor on his career debut in late-December. Not seen since, Bensalem can enhance his burgeoning reputation by shrugging aside the attentions of Cloneen Storm.
Arc Lemanique could make a victorious return to the fray by excelling from Marseillais in the Goresbridge Handicap Hurdle whilst Shady Willow looks set to dispose of Stand The Test in the Great Oak Maiden Hurdle.
At Naas, Kilcrea Castle stands out in the Kilcock Novice Chase. This Pat Doyle-trained gelding has been a model of consistency all season and it can be argued that he posted a definite career best effort by finishing second to the outstanding mare Pomme Tiepy (beaten eight lengths) in the Grade 2 Keatings Oil Ten Up Novice Chase over three miles at Navan on February 17th. Kilcrea Castle should regain the winning thread here and in all probability Drunken Disorderly is the one most likely to chase him home.
Quintana is likely to play a major starring role in the Irish Racing Writers Novice Hurdle. The ‘Dusty’ Sheehy-trained Quintana has been mixing it with decent company of late and on his most recent foray, he finished second to Eoin Griffin’s top-class mare Lounaos in the Tom Hogan Lexus Hurdle at Limerick. Quintana however is unlikely to come up against anything of the calibre of Lounaos here and the Fruits Of Love-sired gelding is taken to get back on the winning trail here at the expense of Powerfulpaddy.
Here Comes Sally can attain due reward for her consistency by upstaging Rock Street in the Johnstown Handicap Hurdle whilst Chiraaz has Front Man to contend with in the Lakelands Maiden Hurdle.