Great Britain/Ireland Preview: Thunder Rock, Onemorefortheroad fancied at Sandown
Britain’s most eagerly-awaited week of jumps racing begins at Cheltenham in just four days, so weekend highlights are a little lighter than usual.
However, there are packed fields in two important handicap hurdle races at Sandown, while across the Irish Sea there’s a useful field in the two-mile Webster Cup Chase (G2).
Sandown, Race 2
Paddy Power National Hunt Novices Handicap Hurdle Final (G3), 2 1/2 miles, novice hurdlers
The proximity of Cheltenham hasn’t stopped a handy field of 17 being assembled for this handicap, and as is usual in these events it has an extremely open look about it.
Topweight #1 Knappers Hill and the exciting #4 Thunder Rock may contest favoritism. Knappers Hill has been racing in top company, finishing third to Britain’s leading Cheltenham novice hurdle fancy Jonbon two starts back, but he is unproven at 2 1/2 miles, whereas Thunder Rock’s victories have all been at this trip.
One that might be worth a look is #7 Dubrovnik Harry. He won well two starts back and might have won at his last outing at Leicester Feb. 2 but for a mistake at the last flight.
- $10 win/$20 show: #4 Thunder Rock
- $5 win/$20 show: #7 Dubrovnik Harry
- $5 box exacta: 1, 4, 7
Sandown, Race 3
Paddy Power Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (G3), 2 miles, open hurdlers
A full field of 22 contest this race, for which the market is headed by Nicky Henderson’s #6 Balco Coastal, a fine second in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham Jan. 29. That was over 2 1/2 miles; he had won his previous two starts at two miles but his form level was arguably higher at the longer trip.
However, another improving hurdler in #3 Onemorefortheroad might be the one to back. He was beaten only by Cheltenham candidate Tritonic at Grade 1 level at his last start, and prior to that he had won three in a row at around two miles.
Also worth considering at odds is #13 Current Mood, an impressive winner at Chepstow Feb. 4. He had been racing at 2 1/2 to three miles prior to the two-mile Chepstow win and this may be his best distance.
- $10 win/$30 show: #3 Onemorefortheroad
- $10 win/show: #13 Current Mood
BONUS PLAY – IRELAND
Navan, Race 5
Webster Cup Chase (G2), 2 miles, open steeplechasers
Six horses that didn’t fancy taking on two-mile hotshots Shiskin, Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi at Cheltenham stayed in Ireland for this contest.
Topweight #1 Master McShee has won at Grade 1 level before and is in good form, but two miles may be short of his best. The one to beat is probably #3 Notebook, who was beaten by Ryanair Chase (G1) favorite Allaho at his last start and by Energumene at the start prior to that. Without them present, he should be hard to topple.
- $20 win: #3 Notebook