Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls braves the cold to discuss the form and prospects of his runners at Sandown on Saturday afternoon, as well as selecting his best chance of the day...
"He was put up 14lbs after Ascot and this is a much better race but he is improving, he is at the foot of the weights and has only 10st 1lb to carry so I can see him going very well in this."
Prefers better ground but spring campaign the target
13:15 - Le Prezien
Enjoyed his day in the sun in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival and will be heading back to Cheltenham for one of the handicaps in March.
Life hasn't been easy for him this season as he is on a very steep mark of 154 and was in trouble some way out when well beaten behind Sceau Royal at Cheltenham in November. Le Prezien would also prefer better ground than he is likely to find at Sandown but he needs another run as he hasn't been out for 11 weeks.
We haven't rushed him and he always seems to come alive in the spring.
Fit and well but high enough in the weights
13:15 - Dolos
Has run well at Sandown before, finishing second beaten only half a length by Gino Trail in this race a year ago. I don't think he has been quite at his best this season and he didn't last home over further at Ascot last time but on a mark of 149 he is another of mine who is as high as he wants to be in the handicap.
Dolos is fit and well and should be competitive back in trip at a course where his sound jumping is an asset.
Hoping step back in trip can spark a revival
13:15 - Copain De Classe
Has missed engagements at Wincanton and Musselburgh this week because of the weather and comes here with something to prove after a disappointing run last time at Wincanton when everything seemed to be in his favour.
He didn't get home over two and a half miles that day after being in contention three out so we are hoping that dropping him back to the minimum trip can spark a revival with the help of cheek pieces to sharpen him up. But it might be that Copain De Classe is a bit soft as he does have questions to answer now.
I'm planning to get stuck into him from this point and run him a bit more because I've been minding him so far and it's time to take the gloves off.
Will come on for the run after lengthy absence
15:00 - Brio Conti
Has been off for almost 450 days after suffering a tendon injury early last season shortly after a pleasing chasing debut at Carlisle. While I've done plenty with him in the build up to this he still looks on the burly side to my eyes so I'd say he is sure to need the run after such a lengthy absence.
It's good to have Brio Conti back as he has some high-class form in the past and I imagine he will be back chasing after this.
Improving and I can see him going very well
15:00 - Casko D'Airy
Has been nothing but heartbreak for his owners Sir Alex Ferguson and my yard sponsor Ged Mason until finally rewarding their patience with a fluent success at Ascot last time with the help of an ice cool ride from Harry Cobden.
While that wasn't a total surprise Casko d'Airy is such a fragile horse we couldn't be sure that he would bounce back so impressively after missing two years. He needed his first run back and then choked on his second start at Ffos Las which encouraged us to try him in a tongue tie.
He was put up 14lbs after Ascot and this is a much better race but he is improving, he is at the foot of the weights and has only 10st 1lb to carry so I can see him going very well in this.
High class prospect but will need the run
15:35 - Give Me a Copper
Is yet another of mine looking to make up for lost time as he hasn't run since winning impressively over fences at Kempton in November, 2017.
Give Me A Copper jumped brilliantly that day and I'm hopeful he can become a high-class staying chaser so I've given him a tentative entry in the Gold Cup. He is also in the Grand National.
Although I'd say he is a little bit fitter and lighter than Brio Conti I am not expecting too many fireworks because he is bound to need the run and will improve for it.
Jumping needs to improve
15:35 - El Bandit
Has needed match practise after a very long lay off and has under-performed on his two comeback runs this season. His jumping let him down in the Badger Ales Chase at Wincanton and he then struggled in a hot race at Cheltenham.
We haven't given up by any means on El Bandit who needs to sharpen up his jumping and could do with a helping hand from the handicapper. I am hoping he might come good on better ground in the spring.
*Best chance: Casko d'Airy 15.00 Sandown. Repaid our patience at Ascot and looks have a decent chance of following up off a light weight.