Horse Racing Tips

Betfair Imperial Cup: Timeform's expert verdict

Racehorse trainer Paul Nicholls
Paul Nicholls won the Imperial Cup last year

Timeform bring you their runner-by-runner guide and 1-2-3 verdict for the Betfair Imperial Cup at Sandown on Saturday.

Betfair Imperial Cup
14:25 Sandown, Saturday
Live on ITV4

1. Spirit d'Aunou (Gary Moore/ Mr Freddie Mitchell (5))

Very progressive sort who made it five wins from his last six starts when seeing off nine rivals over C&D in December. Hiked up 10 lb but failed to fire in Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month so needs to bounce back.

2. Metier (Harry Fry/ Jonathan Burke)

Useful hurdler who bagged Chester Cup last May. Had optimum conditions but never got competitive in Grade 1 Prix Royal-Oak six months later at Longchamp when last seen in October and is back over hurdles for the first time since being pulled up in this last year.

3. Faivoir (Dan Skelton/ Harry Skelton)

Talented hurdler/chaser who capitalised on much-reduced mark when landing the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last March. Ran well for the second time in his last three starts when fifth in Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month and certainly not out of things.

4. Knickerbockerglory (Dan Skelton/ Tristan Durell (3))

Impressive when making a winning reappearance at Ascot in November. Possibly found the race coming too soon at Cheltenham 15 days later but shaped better given more of a break when sixth in Betfair Hurdle last time.

5. Minx Tiara (David O'Brien, Ire/ Sean Flanagan)

Mixed bag over fences during the autumn but got back on track over hurdles of late, running up to her best under an enterprising ride that caught out all bar the highly-progressive winner in listed handicap at Leopardstown last month. Warrants respect.

6. Sans Bruit (Paul Nicholls/ Harry Cobden)

Useful over both hurdles and fences in France (usually hooded) and shaped as if better for the run on his first outing since leaving David Cottin after eight months off (had breathing op) when seventh in handicap hurdle at Doncaster six weeks ago. Interesting with a hood back on.

7. Making Headway (Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero/ Henry Brooke)

Winning Irish pointer who ran out a comfortable winner of a Carlisle novice on hurdling debut in October. Improved when making the frame at graded level on next two starts and doubled his tally down in class at Newbury four weeks ago. Fascinating contender now sent handicapping.

8. Go Dante (Olly Murphy/ Sean Bowen)

Lightly raced eight-year-old who built on reappearance promise when taking 12-runner handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in December by 1¼ lengths from Doddiethegreat. Improved further when third in Betfair Hurdle last month and can feature from an unchanged mark.

9. Bashers Reflection (Ben Case/ Jack Quinlan)

Improved performer this season, building on his reappearance to score at Wetherby in November. Ran poorly at Aintree over Christmas but back on song when runner-up at former course five weeks ago, collared late on (traded 1.01 in-running). Others look stronger.

10. Bad (Ben Pauling/ Ben Jones)

Winner in France who has placed in four handicap hurdles this season, going with far more zest in first-time cheekpieces following a breathing operation when finishing runner-up at Ascot three weeks ago, albeit rather worried out of it. Up 4 lb for that near miss and one to consider.

11. Georgi Girl (Philip Hobbs & Johnson White/ Elizabeth Gale (7))

On a 2m hat-trick after wins over C&D and Kempton in recent months. Another 5 lb higher now but further progress can't be discounted.

12. Shared (Harry Derham/ Paul O'Brien)

Took well to hurdling for this yard last season and improved again to win 2m Chepstow handicap on reappearance in October. Ran creditably after five months off when third in handicap at Newbury a week ago but more required if he's to notch a fourth success over hurdles.

13. Jipcot (Ben Pauling/ Kielan Woods)

Won a pair of juveniles at Pau for Patrice Quinton. Below that level over hurdles and fences for current connections in 2023 but proved a different proposition back fresh (also refitted with hood/tongue tie) when scoring at Huntingdon on Sunday. Stacks to like under a penalty.

14. Junkanoo (Gary Moore/ Niall Houlihan)

Fairly useful handicapper on Flat (stays 11.5f) and has taken well to hurdling, finishing runner-up first three starts before going one better at Plumpton just under six weeks ago. Will need to take a step forward now handicapping.

15. Goonhilly (Dan Skelton/ Charlie Todd)

Fairly useful form in two bumpers and has shown similar form in this sphere, conceding first run when runner-up in novice hurdle at Wincanton 10 days ago. Makes handicap debut and yard seemingly has a couple of better chances.

16. Lively Citizen (D. J. Jeffreys/ Harry Atkins (7))

Multiple hurdles winner who would have likely doubled his tally over fences but for stumbling and falling soon after two out at Musselburgh in January. Returned to hurdles to finish a good second to a next-time-out winner at Musselburgh five weeks ago. Another to consider.

Timeform's Analyst Verdict:

Another typically competitive renewal on paper and it's SANS BRUIT who gets the tentative nod having shaped as if better for the run on return/yard debut at Doncaster six weeks ago. His usual hood is reapplied, and he can give Paul Nicholls a second successive victory in this at the expense of Making Headway, who doubled his tally at Newbury four weeks ago and looks a fascinating contender now handicapping. Go Dante, Jipcot and Bad are just another handful of others worth considering, also.

Timeform's 1-2-3:

1. Sans Bruit
2. Making Headway
3. Go Dante

Back Sans Bruit @6/1 on Betfair Sportsbook

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