Kevin Blake

Kevin Blake's Big Races Verdicts: Goshen and Edwardstone can challenge in Betfair Grade 1s at Sandown

Horse racing expert Kevin Blake
Kevin thinks Goshen and Edwardstone can challenge the favourites in Betfair Grade 1s on Saturday

Kevin Blake gives his big race verdicts on the Betfair Fighting Fifth and Betfair Tingle Creek which are two of three Grade 1 contests on a star-studded Betfair card at Sandown on Saturday...

Newcastle's loss will be Sandown's gain. The Betfair Fighting Fight Hurdle failed to survive the weather last weekend, but thanks to a welcome piece of scrambling, the race has been given a second chance and will take place at Sandown on Saturday.

That means that what are often two of the pre-Christmas highlights in the UK will now take place on the same card, with the Betfair Fighting Fifth joining the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase.

It's hard not to get nostalgic when talking about either race. The Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle has produced some mighty contests and many top-class winners over the years, but I have a particular fondness for the two victories of Harchibald in the race back in 2004.

He beat top-class rivals on both occasions which came on his way to his peak and when he was somewhat on the downgrade. But it was the fact that both came in a style that has seldom been replicated since with Paul Carberry executing the most daring of confident rides that made them so memorable. The audacity of it, just incredible!

As for the Betfair Tingle Creek, how long do you have? There are so many races that can be recalled with great fondness. The most obvious one is the 2004 renewal, which saw Moscow Flyer see off Azertyuiop and Well Chief, and it seems to rank right up there with the best races of the modern era for many.

Another that springs to mind is the truly remarkable Kauto Star making the subsequent Champion Chase winner Voy Por Ustedes look ordinary when molly-wopping him by seven lengths in the 2006 renewal. I really could go on, but I best return to the present day.

Betfair Fighting Fifth - Don't dismiss Goshen

The Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle (13:15) isn't the most appealing betting race on paper just yet. The hope is that Constitution Hill will run and put on a show, but he isn't a certain runner at this stage, so it might be best to adapt a wait and see approach.

Once the make up of the field is confirmed, the Gary Moore-trained Goshen might well be of interest in the each-way or place only markets. This is the first time for a long time that he'll get to go right-handed at the minimum trip on soft ground.

The return to that combination of variables might well see him bounce to something like his better form which would put him in the mix of the rest at a big price.

Betfair Tingle Creek - Edwardstone can push fav

The Betfair Tingle Creek Chase (15:00) also has a short-priced favourite in the Nicky Henderson-trained Jonbon. The seven-year-old certainly looks to be the leading two-mile chaser trained in Britain and thus looks entitled to be the short-priced favourite for this contest. Mind, whether he should be quite as short as he is could potentially be questioned.

Jonbon's winning return in the Shloer Chase received rave reviews from many. On the face of it, such praise could be considered warranted with him having beaten Edwardstone by just shy of 10 lengths. However, that rival doesn't appeal as being likely to have run near his official rating of 167 under what was a very considerate ride on his return to action.

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Analysis of the overall time and comparative sectionals also suggest that it wasn't a high level performance from Jonbon and that literal interpretation of it might be ill-advised.

Also, while it might seem a strange thing to say about a horse that is unbeaten when racing right-handed, most of the evidence of his career suggests that he prefers going left-handed. He has a tendency to adjust to his left and that could have a negative impact on him if things get tight on Saturday.

If there is one to push Jonbon to that extent, the Alan King-trained Edwardstone is the most obvious candidate. He produced arguably the two most impressive performances of his career over this course and distance and he is surely much better than his return run behind Jonbon at Cheltenham.

While his trainer hasn't exactly been whacking in winners in recent weeks, his squad seem to be ticking along reasonably well. It might be a bit strong to take the view that Edwardstone will beat Jonbon, but I expect the gap between them to close and he might just be able to give him a fright.

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