Mullins duo fancied on Channel 4 to support top trainer bid
The big story is the battle between Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins to be finish top of the Trainers’ Championship and four of Sandown’s seven-race card will be available to watch on Channel 4.
Here is how we see the quartet of televised races panning out:
Mullins’ Voix De Reve arguably looked the most likely winner of the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival before falling at the final hurdle.
He has been raised 5lb here, but most interesting is the booking of 3lb claimer and Grand National-winning jockey Danny Mullins for the ride, ahead of usual Ruby Walsh understudy Paul Townend.
Of the remainder, Duke Street seems to need a longer trip than this 1m7f and Nicholls’ Tommy Silver is 18lb worse off with Ashoka for an 11-length success in February.
The big danger may prove Wolf Of Windlesham, who had Fred Winter second and third Romain De Senam and Coo Star Sivola behind when winning at Cheltenham in November, before flopping at the same course on heavy ground in the Triumph Hurdle trial.
That run may be worth ignoring, with Sandown’s sounder surface sure to be more to his liking. The going remains classified as good despite gentle rain for much of the last 24 hours.
The defection of Vautour, most probably to a race at the Punchestown Festival next week, has made the Oaksey Chase trickier to call than it could have been.
However, Mullins still has the clear favourite with Valseur Lido, who got to within six lengths of his high-profile stablemate in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
This extra 2f should suit too, while he is receiving weight from his obvious threats. It is possible that Mullins withdrew Vautour on the basis that his understady was good enough to beat what look a moderate class of opposition.
Menorah has won this for the past two years and looks the best of the rest, while the enigmatic Saphir Du Rheu from the Nicholls team remains well thought of despite constantly underachieving. One day he may finally fulfil his potential.
The last four Champion Chase winners from the Cheltenham Festival make this a fascinating race, with Sprinter Sacre favourite following his victory last month.
However, few will doubt that Un De Sceaux is the quickest in this six-runner line up and unlike Cheltenham, he will get to employ his preferred front-running tactics here as Special Tiara is not among the entries. The Celebration Chase is only run over 1m7f too.
The only real concern is if the ground will be soft enough for his liking as the eight-year-old’s first experience of good ground was in the Champion Chase, when finishing second to Sprinter Sacre.
Had he won at Cheltenham, Un De Sceaux could have been as short as 2/5 here, so the drop in distance and a likely uncontested lead almost make him a value bet.
Unsurprisingly this is an incredibly open race, with a good handful having solid claims for victory.
Nicholls’ Southfield Theatre heads the market and he was travelling well off this mark in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham before being brought down. He looks capable of better.
La Reve is only 1lb higher than when third in this last year has placed in six of his eight starts at Sandown, while Henri Parry Morgan was second in a Grade 1 at Aintree last time and remains open to improvement.
However, the selection is The Druids Nephew, who is worth another opportunity off a 2lb lower mark than when disappointing in the Grand National on unsuitable heavy ground.
The expected good ground at Sandown will be more up his street and he was certainly not given a hard time at Aintree earlier this month, meaning that excursion is unlikely to have taken much out of him.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.