With just under £500,000 in total prize money and over £280,000 on offer in winners’ purses, Saturday’s racecard at Sandown was always going to be lucrative.
However, the close margins between Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins in the race to win the Trainers’ Championship adds even more spice to the card.
Vicente’s victory in the Scottish Grand National saw Nicholls regain his advantage, but Mullins saddling a one-two at Perth with his first ever runners at the course has cut the deficit back to just shy of £37,000 ahead of Thursday’s racing.
No Irish handler has been crowned Britain’s Champion Trainer for 62 years and the rare decision to send runners to Scotland gives the impression that Mullins is taking the opportunity seriously.
So does the decision to send Un De Sceaux to Sandown for the Bet365 Celebration Chase, which is worth £72,000 to the winner. This probably means that the same horse will have to miss the Irish Champion Chase at the Punchestown Festival just three days later. Even though the latter race is worth nearer £93,000 to the winner.
But the decision to withdraw Douvan from the same Sandown contest is stranger. Granted, Douvan would have been a novice taking on the seniors, but almost £27,000 is available to the runner up.
What this decision has also done is reduce the Celebration Chase field down to just six runners, meaning all finishers will be rewarded with prize money.
While Mullins flies solo, Nicholls has three entrants, including Ulck Du Lin and Solar Impulse, who look well short of the standard needed to feature. But this pair will earn Nicholls virtually £5,000 for filling the fifth and sixth spots and this could even increase significantly if others fail to finish.
Overall, Mullins holds 21 entries across Sandown’s seven-race Saturday card, with Nicholls on 31. There is not a single race where the Irish trainer has the most probable runners.
Victories for Un De Sceaux and Vautour (in the Oaksey Chase) would be worth £100,000 to Mullins and for Nicholls to remain in contention the result of the Bet365 Gold Cup (the richest race on the card) could be pivotal. It is £84,405 to the winner, with Nicholls’ Southfield Theatre the ante-post favourite.
If Southfield Theatre fails to win, it may well be advantage Mullins going to the last race, but the sheer number of darts Nicholls is throwing at the card suggests he has the greater urge for victory.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.