The Grade 1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle sponsored by Unibet is today’s feature race from Sandown Park where the ground was described as heavy on New Year’s Day.
There is likely to be plenty of pace in the race and it looks sure to make up into a war of attrition up the Sandown hill. Metier is the market leader having won both starts over timber for Harry Fry including when making all at Ascot last time. He was rated 90 on the flat in his native Ireland and won over an extended 2m 2f on his hurdles debut at Newton Abbot.
He looks a worthy favourite, but this looks a good renewal with Harry Redknapp’s Shakem Up’Arry sure to appreciate the return to the minimum trip having travelled well at Haydock last time before failing to get home over 2m 3f.
Do Your Job (2.25) got racing from a long way out at Haydock last time and that allowed the winner – Llandinabo Lad – to pinch his pocket. The winner has subsequently finished runner up in a Grade 2 at Ascot and at 7/1 with Boylesports he gets the each way vote although I would not want him to get embroiled in a battle for the lead with the favourite.
Dusky Lark is entitled to come on for his recent Exeter run and he is certainly on an attractive mark in relation to the best of his form. He can run a big race, but Destinee Royale (1.15) is taken to defy a 300+ day absence and make a winning reappearance for Venetia Williams. The mare – 6/4 with William Hill – was one of only two finishers when coming home clear at Market Rasen on her chase debut and a 9lbs rise looks harsh at first glance although she certainly has the scope to make up into a decent chaser.
The valuable Veterans’ Chase Final is a cracker and is worth twice as much as the Tolworth Hurdle. I am convinced Strong Pursuit is the best handicapped horse in the race, but unconvinced that a slog in the mud over three miles are his optimum conditions. He is reluctantly overlooked.
Valtour will appreciate the return to a right-hand track but represents the yard of Nicky Henderson whose stable have not exactly been firing on all cylinders in recent days. The each way vote goes to Seeyouatmidnight (3.00) who did not jump as well as he can when pulled up at Haydock – well backed – on his reappearance behind Late Romantic. The selection – 14 with 10bet who are offering 5 places – became a teenager yesterday, but he remains lightly raced for one of his years and at 20/1 he can reward each way support.
Evander (2.05) is doubly declared – also Sandown – but the assumption is that he will run at Ayr in the 2m 4f handicap chase. It was not much of a race that Oliver Greenall’s 6-y-o won at Doncaster last time and a 9lbs rise could find him out, but he jumped very well in south Yorkshire and looks as if he will make a much better chaser than hurdler. The selection is 2s with 10bet.
Strong Economy (3.15) improved for the step up to 3m when scoring over C&D last time and he might still be ahead of the handicapper despite being 9lbs higher – 3lbs wrong at the weights – this afternoon. Late Romantic – like stablemate Evander – is also declared at Sandown but would be a huge danger if taking up his engagement north of the border. The selections is 3s with BetVictor.