Sandown plays host to some excellent racing on Friday but it is a treacherous Placepot card. Unfazed, however, Timeform's Matt Gardner recommends a 48 line permutation...
"The Taj was progressive as a juvenile and ought to come on for his reappearance at Newmarket, where he travelled well for a long way before fading out of contention..."
13:40 - Sprints at Sandown are renowned for their difficulty as, on some occasions, there appears to be a "golden highway" against the far rail whereas on others it doesn't seem to make a great deal of difference. We're going to need to fire three at the opening leg in the hope of making it through unscathed, starting with The Taj who was progressive as a juvenile and ought to come on for his reappearance at Newmarket, where he travelled well for a long way before fading out of contention. Normal Equilibrium looked all speed last year and fresh might be the time to catch him as he starts life for a new yard whilst Barracuda Boy, trained by Tom Dascombe, was unlucky not to finish closer in a decent race at York last term and he could well have but more to offer this year.
14:10 - Fehaydi is potentially on a very good mark but the drop in trip doesn't look ideal and he can realistically be taken on with a couple of progressive sorts, namely Red Avenger and Market Town. The former improved markedly when winning at Newmarket on his final start of last season, form which looks solid, and he is likely to step up again this term whilst Market Town, who boasts some strong maiden form, got off the mark comfortably at Lingfield on his return and holds an entry in the Dante, which demonstrates the esteem in which he is still held.
14:45 - Whether or not it is coincidence that Farraaj's two best efforts have come on polytrack is yet to be determined but we are going to swerve the Winter Derby winner and instead side with Trumpet Major and Chil The Kite. Forget Trumpet Major's final two outings of last year, where something clearly wasn't right, and he holds leading claims here, particularly when remembering his triumphs in the Craven and at Goodwood last year. Chil The Kite has a bit to find with some of his rivals but he isn't completely out of place in this grade and he could capitalise were a to perform below expectations.
15:15 - Sugar Boy sets a decent standard in the Classic Trial and the other six are all open to improvement, so it is a difficult race to call, but we should be safe by selecting Al Waab and Eye Of The Storm. Al Waab boasts some decent form from last year, arguably doing well to achieve as much as he did when considering that he was always likely to give his best when tried over middle distances this term. Similar sentiments apply to Eye Of The Storm, who finished third in the Autumn Stakes but, being related to several middle distances winners, should appreciate this additional test of stamina.
15:50 - It would come as no surprise were there to be a non-runner here, which would leave us needing the winner, so we can't risk sticking in a banker. The two to side with are Jalaa, who cost 200,000 gns as a yearling, is a half-brother to Intense Focus and seems sure to do better this year, and Queensberry Rules, who created a good impression when making a winning debut at Kempton earlier this month and is almost certain to improve.
16:25 - We need a banker somewhere and, although a fillies' maiden isn't the ideal scenario, we can be fairly confident that Auld Alliance will put up a good performance. A half-sister to both Golan and Tartan Bearer, the three-year-old is bred in the purple and showed plenty of ability when finishing second at Kempton in November, beating subsequent winner Absolutely Right by a head.
13:40 - 1, 8, 11
14:10 - 3, 7
14:45 - 2, 7
15:15 - 3, 4
15:50 - 1, 3
16:25 - 1
= 48 lines