Sandown Gold Cup 2018: Timeform's runner-by-runner guide

Blaklion is one of the leasing fancies in the Sandown Gold Cup on Saturday
Blaklion is one of the leasing fancies in the Sandown Gold Cup on Saturday

Timeform bring you their comprehensive runner-by-runner guide to Saturday's Sandown Gold Cup, and pick out their 1-2-3...

"...who already looks an assured jumper and is sure to go on improving after his impressive win at Fakenham earlier this month..."

Timeform on Step Back

1. BLAKLION (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies)
High-class chaser who finished fourth to One For Arthur in the 2017 Grand National. Better than ever in first two outings this season, winning the Becher Chase at Aintree (by nine lengths from The Last Samuri) in December and second to Bristol de Mai in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on return. Brought down at the first fence in latest renewal of the Grand National won by Tiger Roll last time, and arrives fresher than most. Big player.

2. REGAL ENCORE (Anthony Honeyball/Richie McLernon)
Smart handicap chaser who put up a career-best effort when winning a six-runner listed event at Ascot last time by one and a half lengths from Minella Daddy. Finished eighth in the 2017 Grand National, but withdrawn from this year's renewal due to bad bloods. Not the most consistent, but respected.

3. THEATRE GUIDE (Colin Tizzard/Paddy Brennan)
Smart handicap chaser who won a Grade 3 at Cheltenham (by a nose from Perfect Candidate) in 2016/17. Fell at the first in a veterans race won by Rathlin Rose at Ascot last time, but is now back down to his last winning mark and can go well if putting everything together.

4. ROCK THE KASBAH (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson)
Won a handicap at Chepstow (by two lengths from Petrou) in October, but pulled up in the Peter Marsh Chase won by The Dutchman at Haydock last time after three months off. Yard in better form now, though, and beaten less than two lengths in this race last year.

5. PRESENT MAN (Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost (3))
Has a good strike rate over fences, winning five of his eleven starts, including the Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase at Wincanton (by head from Final Nudge) in November. Has been well beaten both starts since, including in a spin over hurdles last time.

6. MISSED APPROACH (Warren Greatrex/Mr N. McParlan (5))
Had shown up well in similar events this season prior to winning the 20-runner Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase at Cheltenham last time by half a length from Mall Dini, under a finely-judged ride from this jockey. He took a keen hold, jumped well in the main, and found plenty to see off the persistent threat of the runner-up on the run-in. Up 8 lb now but not to be underestimated.

7. ROYAL VACATION (Colin Tizzard/Harry Cobden)
Smart chaser who won a handicap at Lingfield, Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton and Timeform Novices' Handicap at Cheltenham (by eight lengths from Potters Legend) in 2016/17. Has lost his way this season, finishing well beaten the last twice over hurdles, but not badly treated if bouncing back returned to fences.

8. HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (Venetia Williams/Charlie Deutsch)
On a fair mark now - just 1 lb higher than his last winning mark - and was backed at long odds in the Grand National last time, with testing ground in his favour. However, he was let down by his jumping, falling at Becher's. He did win a veterans' chase over three miles here in November, though.

9. DOMESDAY BOOK (Stuart Edmunds/Miss Gina Andrews (3)
Produced a career-best effort when winning the 24-runner Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase at Cheltenham in 2017 by three quarters of a length from Pendra, suited by the increase in trip. Hasn't been seen since, but is with a good yard, and interesting if the market speaks in his favour.

10. BENBENS (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Aidan Coleman)
Useful handicap chaser who won the Betfair London National at here (by a neck from Sugar Baron) in December, but has been pulled up last two starts, in the Midlands and Scottish Grand Nationals. He is now a thirteen-year-old, and the stable seemingly have stronger chances elsewhere.

11. CAROLE'S DESTRIER (Neil Mulholland/Robert Dunne)
Smart handicap chaser at best, his best recent effort when a good half-length second of 19 to Native River in Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in 2016/17. However, he has shown little this season despite a falling mark.

12. BIGBADJOHN (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Jamie Bargary)
Had been given a chance by the handicapper and duly made a winning start for this yard at Kempton in February by a length from Brandon Hill. He unseated his rider at the third fence in the Topham at Aintree last time, but is the type to excel over extreme distances, and could yet have more to offer from what remains a lenient mark judged on the pick of his form. High on the shortlist.

13. MINELLA DADDY (Peter Bowen/James Bowen (3))
Remains relatively lightly raced for an eight-year-old, winning twice over fences last season, and his best effort this term came when finishing second to Regal Encore in a listed event at Ascot in February. Disappointed when well beaten in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last time, but type to bounce back, and yard going well.

14. SUGAR BARON (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville)
Close second in handicaps at Cheltenham (amateur) and Sandown first two this season, but a well-beaten fourteenth of 20 to Missed Approach in Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase at Cheltenham last time, never travelling well. He is a sketchy jumper of fences, and not one for maximum trust.

15. RELENTLESS DREAMER (Rebecca Curtis/Adam Wedge)
Useful handicap chaser who won at Ludlow (by a neck from Marcilhac) in December and finished a respectable sixth of 15 to Master Dee in the Betdaq Chase at Kempton last time. Yard in better form now, but doesn't have much in hand from this mark.

16. STEP BACK (Mark Bradstock/Jamie Moore)
Useful form over fences, and progressed well when winning a five-runner novice at Fakenham last time impressively by 16 lengths from Sam Red, making all. He's the type to go on improving over fences and, judged on his runner-up effort to the highly progressive Thomas Patrick in February, a mark of 135 isn't beyond him returned to a handicap. Very much one to consider.

17. RATHLIN ROSE (David Pipe/David Noonan)
Useful handicap chaser who won the Royal Artillery Gold Cup (Amateur Riders) at here in February and veterans event at Ascot (by two and a quarter lengths from No Duffer) in March. In touch when falling four out in the Topham Chase won by Ultragold at Aintree last time, too far out to suggest outcome, and commands respect here despite being 2 lb out of the handicap.

18. DAWSON CITY (Polly Gundy/Tom O'Brien)
Useful handicap chaser who won at Exeter (by two lengths from Shotgun Paddy) in February and finished a good eight lengths second to Thomas Patrick at Newbury last time, passing beaten rivals in straight. An out-and-out stayer who will appreciate this trip. 2 lb out of the handicap.

19. THE YOUNG MASTER (Neil Mulholland/Conor Shoemark)
Won this race in 2016 from a 13 lb higher mark, but has failed to trouble the judge since, more miss than his. Hinted at a revival when sixth in the Kim Muir won by Missed Approach at Cheltenham last month, but jumped awkwardly and unseated his rider at the first in the Scottish National last time. He arrives here fresh, but has to race from 3 lb out of the handicap.

20. BAND OF BLOOD (Dr Richard Newland/Brian Hughes)
Useful handicap chaser who won veterans events at Exeter and Doncaster (by three and a half lengths from Halo Moon) in February. Below form when sixth to Rathlin Rose in a similar event at Ascot last time, and needs to bounce back now. 3 lb out of the handicap.

21. HENLLAN HARRI (Peter Bowen/Richard Patrick (5))
Fairly useful handicap chaser who won at Ffos Las and this race last year (by a head from Vyta du Roc) in 2016/17. Shaped better than the result when sixth to Daklondike at Newbury last time, disputing lead until after three out. Has seemingly been saved for this, but tough ask having to race 7 lb out of the handicap.

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