ITV Racing tips: Enrilo can rule for champion partnership of Paul Nicholls and Harry Skelton
And now for the Finale, that’s the Jumps Finale at Sandown which brings down the curtain on the 2020/21 National Hunt season.
It was a season like no other, as while racing continued as scheduled including the Cheltenham and Grand National Festivals, they went ahead in front of virtually empty stands – hopefully an experience that will not need to be repeated in 2022.
The Sandown fixture will celebrate the campaign and while it may not feature some of the equine stars, most of which are trained in Ireland, it has attracted the human stars who contributed to the most memorable moments of the season.
Harry Skelton will be crowned champion jump jockey at the end of a prolific three months in which he undertook to catch defending champion Brian Hughes and overhaul him in the last two weeks of the season.
The other star of the saddle, Rachael Blackmore, the first woman to ride the winner of the Grand National and the first to be leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival, will bid to round off a breakthrough season on Plan Of Attack in the Bet365 Gold Cup.
While her boss, trainer Henry de Bromhead, who saddled the winners of the Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National, has brought over not only Plan Of Attack but also Champion Chase winner Put The Kettle On for the Celebration Chase.
It all unfolds from 13:25pm on ITV and we have previewed the three most significant races of the day in our ITV Racing tips.
There are only four runners but realistically only two horses can win it.
Ladbrokes King George VI Chase winner Frodon will shade the betting on the strength of his superior form and consistency. He has only run once since his Boxing Day triumph and that was in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in which he finished a well beaten fifth. He probably didn’t stay the trip so an extended 2m6f will be much more to his liking.
Mister Fisher may represent better value, if he can stay on his feet. He has failed to complete on three of his four starts this season, but won the Peterborough Chase second time out. He had jumped well until coming down in the Bowl at Aintree last time and if he gets round he could strike.
Better late than never, Altior returns to action on the final day of the season. It’s 118 days since his last appearance at the Ladbrokes Christmas Festival ended in a shock defeat in the Desert Orchid Chase at the hands of Nube Negra.
That was only his second defeat in 17 chases. Since landing the 2018 Champion Chase, training setbacks have prevented him defending his crown. He can go a little way towards resetting the record as he comes up against this year’s Champion Chase winner Put The Kettle On in a race he has already won three times.
On his day Altior can beat anything and aged 11, four years older than Put The Kettle On, there are plenty who suspect his best days are behind him. It will be time to write him off when there is evidence to support it. But perhaps not yet.
The last big handicap chase of the season has proven not to be a good race for favourites, but given the season that Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead have had, there will be plenty wanting to back Plan Of Attack. His form is hardly outstanding but he was going well until falling four out in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham.
Paul Nicholls considered running Clan Des Obeaux off top weight here before rerouting him to Punchestown, but that hasn’t weakened his hand. He saddles Enrilo, a novice whose one blemish came in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton over Christmas when he was pulled up.
That performance was blamed on a tooth infection. He won when next out at Newbury in February and provided he can stay this longer trip he can add to Nicholls’s two victories in the last ten runnings. Champion trainer and champion jockey will be in tandem as a result of the booking of Harry Skelton and that is another plus.
ITV Racing Schedule, Saturday 24th April
13:55 Sandown – Novices’ Handicap Hurdle
14:10 Leicester – King Richard III Stakes
14:30 Sandown – Oaksey Chase
14:50 Haydock – Handicap
15:05 Sandown – Celebration Chase
15:40 Sandown – bet365 Gold Cup
All odds and markets are correct as of the date of publishing.