There isn't long to go in the 2021/22 National Hunt season, but there is still some great racing to come before it concludes and the action at Sandown this Saturday is an obvious focus point.
Back Kid to Whizz around Sandown
The card kicks off with the competitive Bet365 Novices' Championship Final Handicap Hurdle (13:50) and the Dr Richard Newland-trained Whizz Kid appeals as being the one to side with.
The six-year-old was a useful horse on the Flat and has made a good transition to hurdling, winning two moderate races in impressive style prior to being thrown into much deeper water in a valuable handicap at Aintree last time.
His lack of competitive experience seemed to cost him on that occasion, as his jumping lacked fluency. Considering that, he did well to stay in the race for as long as he did and was only beaten 2¾ lengths in fourth.
It was a performance that suggested his mark is one that he can defy when his jumping sharpens up and the hope is that the experience he acquired at Aintree will bring him on in that regard. He looks to have a solid chance.
Rapidly improving Wings can Win again
The feature race of the day is the Bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase (15:32).
It is extremely rare for me to side with a horse three runs in a row, especially when the first two have seen them raised a total of 22lbs, but I'm going to go in again with the Christian Williams-trained Win My Wings.
The nine-year-old has been a revelation in recent starts, winning the Eider Chase and the Scottish Grand National in the style of a mare that is well ahead of her mark.
Her win at Ayr last time was particularly impressive and while one might have thought that it was the longer trips that have brought about her improvement, it seems more likely that she is just a rapidly-improving mare at the age of nine.
The main feature of her last two wins has been that the strength with which she has travelled and the fluency of her jumping has led to her powering her way to the front much earlier than her rider would have liked. While she got lonely in front in the Eider, she simply powered through the line at Ayr in the style of one that is in the form of her life.
The handicapper has very much had his say and there won't have been many British-trained handicap chasers that went up more for a win than the 14lb that she did for her Scottish Grand National victory, but there is reason to believe that she could do even better still.
Given the strength with which she has travelled through her recent races, this shorter trip promises to help her cause and make Rob James' life a bit easier in terms of holding onto her for longer.
James is one of the best 7lb claimers in the game and will no doubt have learned from what was his first sit on her at Ayr.
Carrying top weight in a race such as this is no easy task, but Win My Wings might well be up to it.