Step up in trip will suit but we need the rain to stay away
13:50 - Knappers Hill
He's classy, was unbeaten in bumpers, won his first two starts over hurdles and ran with plenty of promise in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury a month ago. His jumping was really good that day and the way he kept on in the closing stages suggests he will be well suited by this step up in trip to two and a half miles.
There is not a lot between my duo in this. I'd say Knappers Hill is fairly handicapped on a mark of 135 but he wouldn't want too much rain and I'd consider pulling him him out if it turned soft at Sandown. He is also in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham but is far from certain to get a run there.
Has been kept fresh with this race in mind
13:50 - Complete Unknown
He is a lovely horse who had good bumper form in Ireland and has been unlucky not to win over hurdles since joining us. When he stayed on strongly at Ascot last time in soft ground I thought straight away that he was an ideal type for this EBF Final and have kept him fresh with this race in mind. Any rain that falls at Sandown will be in his favour.
Fifth last year in this but has a high enough mark
14:25 - Miranda
I run three in the Imperial Cup including Miranda who was fifth in the race a year ago and after another fruitful season returns on the same handicap mark of 146 which is high enough considering she was beaten 15 lengths in a Grade 2 Mares' Hurdle at Doncaster last time. Miranda will run her usual honest race with the talented young amateur Ben Bromley claiming a handy 7lbs.
Back to form last time
14:25 - Hacker Des Places
He bounced back to form last time at Chepstow with a pleasing victory from the front. I did consider turning him out again a week later at Musselburgh but that race came a bit too soon for him and the Imperial Cup is a tempting alternative. Hacker Des Places will again be ridden by our good claimer Angus Cheleda who takes off a valuable 5lbs.
Had this race in mind for a while
14:25 - Samarrive
He won a Listed handicap at this track in style in December, staying on strongly to go clear after the final hurdle. He then ran flat a fortnight later in the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot just before Christmas. I blame myself for running him too soon after Sandown and ever since I've had the Imperial Cup in mind for him. He is nice and fresh again now and looks to have solid claims in a competitive handicap.
Getting better and good ground would suit
15:35 - Flic Ou Voyou
He has been running consistently without setting the world on fire and for a big, scopey type he hasn't been the most natural jumper of a fence. But he is getting better with practise and the key to him is the good ground he is likely to get at Sandown.
Is progressing and has an attractive mark
15:35 - Danny Kirwan
He was always going to be a chaser and came good in style at Wincanton last time where he jumped well before stretching clear to win by 10 lengths. He's progressive, has an attractive mark of 132, is best going right-handed and is ready for this step up in class in a Listed Novice Handicap Chase. I've always felt fences would being out the best in him and he prefers good ground.
Will relish the extra half mile
16:10 - Switch Hitter
An English point-to-point winner he jumps very well and has made a solid start to his chasing career, winning at Hereford in November and then finishing a close second behind Orrisdale at the same track at the end of January over two and a half miles. He will relish stepping up another half mile at Sandown and will appreciate drier ground.
Out and out stayer should go well
14:31 - Milan Bridge
He is a useful prospect who won on his debut over hurdles for us at Lingfield and then was far from disgraced when fourth behind Ree Okka at Kempton last time. Milan Bridge is an out and out stayer who will relish this trip of almost three and a quarter miles on his first start in handicap company. With Tom Buckley claiming 5lbs he should go well. But whatever he achieves over hurdles this spring I'm sure he will improve when he goes over fences next season.
Best Chance: Samarrive EW - 14:25 Sandown. He was impressive on his last visit to Sandown and seems in great shape at home.