Paul Nicholls can return to Saturday winner’s enclosure at Sandown

It must have been a strange feeling at Ditcheat in the evening last Saturday, with Paul Nicholls’ team travelling back to their Somerset base without a win to their name.

The champion trainer went on a Jamie Vardy-esque run of consecutive weekend winners last season, but has come unstuck fairly early on this time round.

However, by our reckoning, that ‘drought’ will end at Sandown on Saturday.

Nicholls saddles favourite Vibrato Valtat in the feature the Tingle Creek at the Esher track as he seeks his 10th winner in the contest, but it could be that better chances lurk elsewhere on the card.

The Listed hurdle at 14:25 looks a decent renewal with Grade 3 winner Savello and Grade 1 runner-up Devilment but Nicholls sends out a really unexposed type in Some Plan.

The seven-year-old was well beaten on his last start in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March but prior to that had put up some very smart performances over hurdles.

He beat the very useful The Grey Taylor by nine lengths at Musselburgh and got to within a length-and-a-half of Seedling in a decent Cheltenham contest 12 months ago, when giving five pounds and a 23 length beating of the 133-rated Padge.

First time out there will be people that want to take him on, but he won after an eight month break last season and could be open to plenty more improvement after to just four outings over hurdles.

It could be that the last race also sees Nicholls leading one of his charges in after claiming glory.

Sean Bowen crowned the win aboard Just A Par in the Bet 365 Gold Cup last season as the highlight of his short-career to date and the pair are back for more.

He’s gone up 8lbs in the weights for that win on the final day of last term, in what is a better race over course and distance.

He looks an out-and-out stayer and looks to appreciate every yard that he will get in this London National contest.

The fact that the ground is likely to dry out before the runners line-up in front of the starter will also be to his benefit.

Forget his run at Cheltenham last time out, as he has been well-beaten on his last two seasonal reappearances, so expect him to be cherry ripe for this contest.

With a big field likely, he will have to be spot on to land the spoils, but at around the 12/1 mark is well worth siding with each-way.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.