We are all starting to get out of the blur that is Christmas and there is no better way to end the festive period than with another Grade 1 in the shape of the Tolworth at Sandown where Hang In There can continue the good run of the Emma Lavelle team. Elsewhere on the card, Darebin can land back to back renewals of the handicap chase, while Dark Flame can make up for the lost time off the track in the Veterans’ final.
Uniboost Handicap Chase
Top-weight Delire D’Estruval has won twice over fences to date and although he travelled well to a point on his return at Ascot, he faded late on off a career-high mark. The handicapper has dropped him two-pounds for that run which should be enough to bring him into the reckoning.
Darebin took this contest twelve months ago off just a two-pound lower mark and wasn’t beaten far over course and distance last month. That run alone would give him a big chance of a repeat win.
Locker Room Talk won very easily under Jack Savage at Taunton but a seven-pound penalty may be enough to stop him here in better company.
Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle
Fiddlerontheroof was a smart bumper performer in Ireland and has shown a very high level of form over hurdles for the Tizzard’s in three starts. He kicked off with a runner-up finish behind the Grade 1 winning Thyme Hill in the Persian War and opened his account over hurdles earlier last month, which all points to a big run.
The horse with the highest rating and on paper, the best form is Hang In There who’s won all his completed hurdles starts including theSupreme Trial at the Cheltenham November meeting and is the one to beat.
Son Of Camas was highly-touted on debut at Punchestown only to flop badly but has won both starts in the current campaign. Given how well Creachadoir’s off-spring does over jumps he could easily scale the heights.
Selection: Hang In There
Veterans’ Handicap Chase
The Veterans’ Final inevitably sees fan favourites go head to head for this very valuable prize. Jepeck was prolific in point-to-points but a late convert to racing under rules. This accounts for why he’s only got the one victory over fences to his name at the age of eleven. He was beaten off five-pound lower marks last season and I’ll look elsewhere.
I have a soft-spot for Shanroe Santos but speaking with my head rather than heart he was disappointing at Carlisle for me and may need more help from the handicapper before winning again.
Dark Flame is incredibly lightly-raced for his age and is open to far more improvement than his rivals. He’s back to his last winning mark and should improve plenty from his comeback in November.
Selection: Dark Flame
Sandown Handicap Hurdle
The well-bred Gunnery ran away with a handicap hurdle at Doncaster six days ago and bids to follow up quickly under a six-pound penalty. He looks like a well-handicapped individual and will take all the beating.
Totterdown went in at the first time of asking for the red-hot Fergal O’Brien team at Sandown. He got a twelve-pound rise for that easy victory which seems harsh but he’s been competitive off similar marks in the past.
Another in-form horse here is Smarty Wild who won well at Exeter and was far from disgraced in a listed contest at Sandown. This puts him in the mix but he may struggle to contain the favourite.
Download The App Handicap Chase
Colin Tizzard’s Mollineaux has been disappointing of late but tends to need a run or two to hit top form. He’s now four-pounds lower than his last winning mark and could be a surprise package.
Admiral’s Secret can be a bit tricky and has refused to race in the past but when in a going mood he’s got ability as evidenced by his runnner-up finish at Taunton in December. He should be better back in trip and must enter calculations.
Ar Mest is a likeable sort who won twice last season but hasn’t shown anything like that form in two runs this season. if coming back to his bet then he’d be competitive off his current mark.
This Is Betting Handicap Hurdle
Maypole Class has progressed nicely over hurdles particularly when winning well at Lingfield and this former point-to-pointer should be better over the larger obstacles.
The lightly-raced Rootless Tree has only run four times in his lifetime and won nicely at Leicester on seasonal debut. He seems versatile in regards to ground and is an improving sort.
Horse Force One was an exciting bumper horse back in 2017 and showed he retained plenty of ability on his return behind leading Grade 1 fancy Hang I There. That form looks strong in this company and he can make up for the lost time.
Selection: Horse Force One
Wincanton Handicap Chase
LeRocher hasn’t won in over two years but has put in some very good performances in defeat. He’s mar seems fair and should give a good account of himself on seasonal return.
Alan King’s Valdez seldom runs a bad race and was once again on the scoresheet when winning at Hereford in November. He’s won off much higher marks in the past and will undoubtedly once again run his race.
The lightly-raced Gala Ball hardly ever seems to finish out of the frame and was reported to have lost a shoe when trailing in last at Newbury. I think this mark isn’t beyond him and he should be on the premises.
Selection: Gala Ball