Two tips in the 2m Hurdle at 13:10
Sheena West runners has a few ticks in right places
Man At Work nearly a tip in 14:20
I didn't have a punting view on any of the weekend races , hence no Tuesday ante-post column, so I thought I'd take a shufti at Friday's non-ITV card at Sandown.
The Sandown numbers actually held up pretty well on Wednesday morning - none of the races at the five-day stage attracted more than 15 entries - so small-field carnage was avoided, and it is a decent enough offering.
Gary Moore seemingly likes to target certain cards and tracks. Ascot is often a favourite of his, but this two-day Sandown meeting often features on his radar.
More of him throughout this piece but I will take matters in chronological order.
Opening handicap chase a tricky race to call
The six-runner 3m amateur jockeys' handicap chase that opens the card at 12:40 features five horses that like to make the pace or be ridden prominently in an ideal world, so it is tricky to call (the out-of-form I See You Well being the stalker) tactically.
Step Back may be a 12yo now but he returns to the scene of his two best career efforts off a mark of just 126 now, so he immediately caught my eye.
However, the pace scenario and the fact that his reappearance record is none too clever put me off, as did the fact that he has missed two recent engagements with a self-cert.
Let's move on.
West runner and a big outsider chanced in 2m Hurdle
I have a soft spot for Sheena West juvenile hurdlers - I don't know when or why that started, probably with a flukey big-priced winner - so her Sabyinyo, a private buy out of Mick Channon's yard, interested me in the 13:10.
He lost his form after winning over 1m on the Flat at Brighton in May (also showed form over an extended 1m3f, which is a positive as regards stamina), but he was rated 80 after that success on quick ground, so the raw talent to figure here is certainly present.
He is now owned by the same outfit who also have Mr Freedom with West, and that 3yo has already won three races for the stable this season after being switched from Channon's in the summer, and I was surprised to see West has actually had four Sandown winners from just 29 runners.
That's a fair return from a small outfit at a top track.
I had a deeper dig and one of those winners was Captain Cardington, who won this race 10 years ago on his hurdling debut for the yard. And, yes, the horse came from Channon, too.
Of course, it's a bit of a guess-up on his hurdling bow - and Sandown soft is always a worry for any horse, let alone a debutant - but I am going to chuck a few quick on the horse myself, so I am happy to recommend a minimum-stakes bet at 13.012/1 or bigger.
Mr Freedom's exploits presumably give them a good handle on the juvenile form, so hopefully it is a positive that they are rocking up here.
I will also have an even smaller interest in Fontwell fourth Penna Rossa, a half-brother to last year's Fred Winter, sorry Boodles, winner Jeff Kidder, at a bigger price. Back him at 34.033/1 or bigger.
I reckon you will get a fair bit more than 33s for your money on the Betfair Exchange given his lowly profile, but that's my minimum-guide price.
He shaped okay at Fontwell, and maybe this stiffer track will suit him, as he didn't do anything quickly there but stuck on doggedly enough. He was no great shakes on the Flat but he wore cheekpieces for the best of his efforts in that sphere and they are back on here after his headgear-less run at Fontwell.
He could go better than his likely huge price suggests for a very small stable that has had two horses placed at 66/1 and 16/1 on the all-weather at Kempton recently.
The Sportsbook have priced up Sabyinyo at 18/1 and Penna Rossa at 50/1, and the former quote is particularly attractive - I'd take that if it is still available - but I will play fair and settle at Betfair SP.
By the way, Moore has the ex-French Kansas Du Berlais in this race and he has landed this prize before with Goshen, Sussex Ranger and Violent Dancer in recent years - he has also had horses placed in the last four renewals, too - so that one could be smart.
Indeed, he probably already is as he was beaten only a length when fourth in a Listed race at Auteuil in September (when starting favourite) and I imagine he did not come cheap.
He could be a rather big stumbling block and a class above these, as his odds suggest - this does not look a strong race outside of him - but that Auteuil form could have worked out better, even if a couple have run good races in defeat since, and I am happy to take him on at the price.
Classy Man can Work hard to beat talented rivals
Gloire D'athon, ridden by Tom Scudamore once again, won really well under Aidan Coleman at Worcester last time, and you had to love the way he jumped the last with plenty of verve and pulled clear on the run-in.
However, the handicapper hit him pretty hard for that - a 7lb rise was probably the maximum he could have given him - and the runner-up did nothing for the form when a well-beaten fourth as a 5/2 favourite at Hereford next time, so I can just about pass him up in the 13:45 as a result.
Scudamore's next ride, Man At Work, in the Grade 2 Novices' Hurdle at 14:20, got me deliberating as to whether to put him up. The first firm up on Wednesday afternoon made him a 3/1 chance, and that was highly acceptable.
You had to be really impressed by the way this inexperienced horse (he fell in his only point back in March) went about his business at Aintree last time, seeing off an unbeaten, well-regarded odds-on rival in Grey Dawning, with Henry's Friend, who re-opposes here, 5 lengths away in third.
As well as his, tenacity, touch of class and overall willingness, the time was good, too, and it is always good to see the visuals backed up by the clock.
However, he faces five decent, similarly unexposed rivals here - Maximilian could be a tough opponent, in particular, and he headed up the early betting - and it was just a question as to whether his price tempted me in.
I would have happily tipped him at 3/1 or bigger, but that price was snapped up and he looks like being nearer 2s now, with the Betfair Sportsbook opening up at 15/8 on Thursday morning.
David Pipe is having a great season and I reckon he could have a good one on his hands here. The Aintree form was given a boost when the 15-length fifth came out and won well at Bangor, though for balance the fourth got stuffed at Haydock.
You will get a further clue as to the value of that form when the runner-up goes in the 2pm at Exeter on Friday, 20 minutes before this race but, as for now, I have to let Man At Work go untipped and unbacked at his reduced odds.
Darebin has big chance in Handicap Chase
I counted that six of the eight in the 1m7f119yd handicap chase at 14:55 like to go forward, so the pace set-up could suit Miss Amelia and Casa Tall.
However, Moore's Darebin (the trainer also has High Up In The Air in here), who won this race in 2020, is on very good mark now, despite being 3lb out of the weights, would be the way I would lean if forced.
He has won four times around here, and he ran okay, off this mark, to a point when third at Plumpton last time (the winner followed up at Ludlow on Wednesday), and you have to think this has been his early-season target, especially as he always needs a run or two to get him straight.
If he can win the battle for the lead without overdoing the revs, then I fancy to see this lot off - this place can all be about rhythm and jumping over the minimum trip - but I wanted a better price than he is currently (6/1 was his opening show on Wednesday) given the pace concerns.
Tusk looks well-handicapped but this could be tougher than I thought
In the final 2m hurdle at 15:30, I don't think I have seen many horses whose Flat and Hurdles' ratings were as close as the classy 1m4f-2m performer Raymond Tusk, not at 0-120 handicap level anyway.
In fact, funnily enough, last year's winner of this race, Naturally High (trained by Moore), was probably one that I readily recall that fitted the same bill.
Rated 101 on the level (he has been as high as 113), Raymond Tusk is rated only 114 in this sphere after three hurdles starts, so he is surely a winner waiting to happen over obstacles. The bare form of his hurdling starts - most obviously his Newbury second to I Am Maximus - give him strong enough claims without factoring that Group 2-winning Flat form.
The last time we saw him was in a Group 2 over 1m3f at Longchamp in October - and Alan King had the option of a recent Listed race on the all-weather at Kempton for him - so you have to think that if he jumps adequately, he should chewing this lot and spitting them out.
I thought he was never going to be missed in the market, but the first firm up on Wednesday actually made him the 7/2 second favourite behind Hugos New Horse, which surprised me somewhat.
That was soon clipped into 3s, and then 11/4, and it shortened throughout day into as low as 11/8, so I can easily leave him alone, especially this race may just be more competitive than I initially gave it credit for.
It's a small-stakes day, but good luck.