Saturday Racing Tips: Gold Present one to unwrap at Sandown

Gold Present horse racing
Gold Present is one of Tony's picks at Sandown

It's the Jumps Finale day at Sandown. Who better to go through the card, and more, than resident tipster Tony Calvin.

"Altior, going for just his 19th win in a row and four from four at this track (including the last two renewals of this race), has never raced on anything quicker than good - officially at least - and he plainly wasn't at his awesome best when winning the Champion Chase last time, for all that his customary late charge was there for all to see."

No bets for Celebration

It looks like the possibility of fast ground at Sandown on Saturday scuppered my Bet365 Gold Cup ante-post selection Crievehill - so apologies if, like me, you did your money on the 25/1 chance in cold blood - and it has also put paid to Altior v Cyrname in the Celebration Chase at 15:00.

It is entirely understandable that Paul Nicholls doesn't want to risk his star chaser (sorry, Frodon and Clan Des Obeaux) on ground that will probably ride on the quick side, especially over a sub 2m-trip, if no significant rain arrives, and, if truth be told, I am touch surprised they are letting Altior take his chance.

Whether he will stand his ground if there is no appreciable rain from hereon in, though they are watering (more of that later), is another matter.

And I suspect we could see a fair few non-runners if it stays dry, and maybe including some of my selections. But let's crack on.

Altior, going for just his 19th win in a row and four from four at this track (including the last two renewals of this race), has never raced on anything quicker than good - officially at least - and he plainly wasn't at his awesome best when winning the Champion Chase last time, for all that his customary late charge was there for all to see.

Whisper it quietly, but I just wonder whether he could be vulnerable here, and he certainly wasn't in peak nick when winning this race last year. And, of course, he did jump markedly left when winning going right-handed at Ascot in January.

If there is to be an upset then of course Sceau Royal is the one to cause it, and I am sure many will be willing to back him each-way at 7/2 and take a small loss on the chin if he follows Altior home (of course, you lose the lot if he is third or worse).

Altior 1280.jpg

Mind you, there are now just five runners in the race, so the each-way angle could disappear.

Sceau Royal was brilliant when winning the Henry VIII here two seasons ago and he bettered that effort when a 3 ½-length third to Altior at Cheltenham last month, momentarily looking like winning when jumping the last.

He couldn't handle the turbo over-drive of the winner (or Politologue in second) there but it was clearly a huge run and I really can see him causing a mini-upset, especially as this could be a messy race pace-wise (Darebin was the most likely leader but he was a non-runner on Friday morning) and very tactical.

I was sorely tempted to tip Sceau Royal at 4/1+ win-only on the exchange, but I can watch the race without a bet. And this is Altior we are talking about, as well.

Taking on Step Back

Anyway, back to the Bet365 Gold Cup - and people wonder why bookmakers change the name of races to ensure the name check - at 15:35.

I can fully see the case for the "gamble" on Step Back, just 10lb higher than when winning this race by a street last year. But the fact that he apparently returned home lame after being pulled up in the Grand National, and is tried in a first-time tongue-tie here, doesn't strike me as being the ideal prep.

I must admit that not a lot shouts out at me now after Crievehill's no-show, he says, sulking.

I tossed around Flying Angel but I am not sold on his stamina, a staying-on fifth in the Ultima notwithstanding, and the 2017 runner-up Vyta Du Roc in a first-time visor and guaranteed stayer Yala Enki were also seriously flirted with.

But the time came to shit or get off the pot (I'm told this phrase is acceptable as they use it in Line Of Duty).

So Ballydine at 25.024/1 or bigger, it is, for starters.

It appears that connections were toying with the National Hunt Chase for the horse last season after he showed plenty of guts to win over 3m here last February, but presumably the horse had his problems (this is only his ninth start over fences) as he wasn't seen out again until the Eider in December.

He didn't run badly there, but he stepped it up a gear when second to Carole's Destrier over 3m2f at Newbury, shaping very much as if a greater test of stamina would suit, and a Peter Marsh third afterwards (off a 7lb higher mark) was another very solid effort and confirmed that impression. He was really grinding it out after the last.

Uttoxeter's Midlands Grand National over 4m2f in heavy last time was a slog too far - I hope it didn't bottom him as he has clearly been reasonably fragile down the years - but I like the angle of him over this trip on better ground on a track where he has shown his worth.

You can easily argue his best career efforts have come on officially good or good to soft ground - he was a ¾-length second to Barters Hill in the River Don on good, though he hasn't raced on anything quicker - and an adequate round of jumping (he can certainly hit one or two, and nearly took the third-last home with him at Haydock on his penultimate start) could see him on the premises.

It's a small-stakes interest on him for me and I was also sorely tempted to suggest another minor investment in Yala Enki at 38.037/1 or bigger on the exchange.

Yala Enki clearly has a job on in winning this off 155, and a more obvious concern with him is the ground, and in the final analysis that was the deal-breaker, for all the Welsh National third, who ran well in the Gold Cup last time, does look pretty big at 33/1. No dice, though.

A second approach

If you are looking for positives for him regarding the ground, I only noticed on the BHA website on Friday that Sandown have been watering "10mm at 48-hour cycles" on the jumps course, so there could well be they are hosting the mighty Altior, after all - especially if any rain materialises on Friday night and Saturday morning.

But my second stab in the race is West Approach at 24.023/1 or bigger.

Stamina is his main worry but there is little doubt he is well-handicapped off a mark of 141 on raw ability - he is 10lb lower over fences - as we saw when he chased home Paisley Park in the Long Walk in December.

It is easy to label him as a non-stayer but the emphasis is likely to be firmly on speed here and he is a real smooth-traveller on his day. And I went back and had a look at his third on good ground over 3m1f at Cheltenham in October, and he actually stuck on well once headed.

With Jonjo O'Neill Jr taking off 3lb, I am happy to have him as my secondary dart off his light weight.

Benny's the boy

The Sandown card opens up with a very competitive novice handicap hurdle at 13:50, and there more than a few burned fingers when Cause Toujours slipped up at Haydock last Saturday.

He was one of the punts of the weekend and he really was very unfortunate there, as the hurdle was knocked flat when he came to jump it and he appeared to take a miss-step afterwards and come down.

This smooth traveller will have his supporters here again I am sure, but Sandown may not be his track. At a similar (ish) price, I am going to take a chance on Benny's Bridge at 7/1 each way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.

He was impressive at Cheltenham and got back on the winning trail in a novice at Market Rasen last time, and in between he appeared to run moderately in the Imperial Cup here.
But he never got on terms in that race after being detached and stone-last as the tapes went up - he made a move up the inner in the straight but could never land a blow from so far off the pace - and, to be fair, he was 5lb out of the handicap too.

He is another who could probably do with some rain, but he is worth an interest to confirm the promise of that Cheltenham win.

Good as Gold

The absence of Cyrname has thrown the Grade 2 Oaksey Chase wide open at 14:25, and I think Gold Present could be the one to take advantage.

Cyrname 1280.jpg

He carries a 4lb penalty and comes here after a real purler of a fall 2 out at Ayr last time, but he certainly has his ideal conditions and he could make them count.
He was in the process of running a big race when crashing out at the second-last - he may not have beaten the Dan Skelton plot-job Born Survivor but he could well have given him a race - and presumably he is none the worse for the mishap.

Things haven't worked out for him since he beat Frodon so impressively at Ascot in December 2017 but prominent tactics (though he may have to sit off the pace with a couple of front-runners in the race) on a right-handed track on decent ground over this trip are his optimum bag and he rates an each-way bet at 9/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook.

You may know this one...

There are three good races on Racing TV that round off the Sandown card but I was going to leave the jumps there - until I saw Mr Antolini declared for the 2m3f173yd handicap hurdle at 17:15.

Once again, the prospect of quick ground concerns me but he ran perfectly well on good ground at Cheltenham and Haydock on his first two starts of the campaign and I am convinced he has a nice handicap in him off a mark of 139.

He travelled well throughout the race before not finding as much as expected in the Martin Pipe last time but the slightly shorter trip will help and of course he probably had his finest moment at this track when beating Call Me Lord in the Imperial Cup.

One last chance at 21.020/1 or bigger.

The flat ones

There are also a couple of Flat races that have snuck on to the ITV coverage but for all the six-runner Listed race at Leicester at 14:45, is high-class stuff for the grade it doesn't really entice me in as a betting proposition.

The 14-runner 7f handicap at Haydock at 14:05, is much more like it.

I always try and shy away from the obvious and two that half-interested me at prices were old sparring partner Masham Star from a falling handicap mark and Double Up trying this 7f trip for the first time.

Both are well drawn in three and five respectively, but I kept on coming back to Wahash from the inside berth in one. It's just a question whether he represents a worthwhile bet at around 6/1.

If he blows the start and gets shuffled back to near-last then it could well be a long way back for him, and this hold-up performer will need luck in running around here, anyway.
One of his better runs came over this 7f trip, so I don't mind the angle of him stepping down in distance, especially as he looked the winner for a long way when third over 1m at Bath last week.

Now, he gets a mile well but he showed a fair bit of dash when taking it up at the 2f pole there, only getting reined it late.

That was strong handicap form too, as the first and second are progressive types, and the fourth, Zwayyan, was (optimistically) allowed to take his chance in the Group 2 at Sandown on Friday.

I can see the grey pouncing late here and running a big race, but I do think quotes around 6/1 are a touch on the skinny side. A reluctant pass.

Best of luck.

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