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Best bets for Sandown’s finale

Mark Hobbs tells you everything you need to know ahead of the racing today.

THE BRITISH JUMPS season draws to a close at Sandown today, where an intriguing card features both graded action over obstacles and Group races on the flat.

Golden day for Sandown

The Bet365 Gold Cup is the day’s biggest betting heat, where Baby Run and Balthazar King have caught punters’ imagination in the antepost market. The former comes here on the back of a win in the Foxhunters chase in Aintree, having fallen while holding every chance in the equivalent race in Cheltenham.  Balthazar King avoided the major festivals and comes into the race in search of a hat-trick after scoring twice in lesser company.

Other fancied runners include Suzy Smith’s Aimigayle; a mare that ran with great credit before finishing second in the Byrne Group Plate at Cheltenham on her second run back after a serious injury, and Paul Nicholls’ Meanus Dandy. The Nicholls-Walsh partnership always captures the imagination, but their charge’s lack of consistency is a point of concern in what is a competitive race.

The finest of the flat action comes in the Bet365 mile, a race that has been farmed by Richard Hannon in recent years. His record is certainly enviable; the reigning champion trainer has saddled the last three winners of the event and has been successful in five of the last seven runnings. It’s no surprise then that Hannon’s Dick Turpin will start the race as favourite. The colt was runner-up in three consecutive Group Ones last year before finally sealing a victory at that level in France, and his form is far and away the best on offer. Cityscape appears to be the biggest danger to Richard Hughes’ mount, but the likely good-to-firm conditions are something of an unknown for the horse whose best form has come on easier going.

Elsewhere on the card, in the Gordon Richard Stakes Viscount Nelson is a fascinating runner for the all-powerful Ballydoyle team. In a stable rich with stars it is notable that the four-year-old has not been sold on despite their strength in the middle-distance department. The regally-bred colt failed to register a victory last season, but the owners’ decision to persevere with him is likely based on his promising one-length third to Twice Over in the Coral Eclipse. His shrewd connections must expect further progress this year, and he may be one to keep an eye on.

Nap of the day

It’s not one that will make you a millionaire, but Dick Turpin looks the best bet of the short ones at 5/6. His trainer clearly targets this race and knows how to get them ready for it, while the horse has won first time out before and handles firm ground.

Cityscape and Music Show are no back-markers; but Hannon’s colt was top-class last year and should win if anything near his best. It’s always difficult to gauge whether a horse has trained on or not, but the mere fact that he is running here is a tip in itself and 5/6 is arguably a big price given what he achieved last term.

Each-Way

Poker de Sivola was expected to run a big race in the Scottish National last week, and was unfortunate to get hampered in running and unseat his rider at an early stage. His stamina for the trip is assured; he won over half a furlong further in 2010; and he should be able to deal with the fast ground. His season has been relatively easy to date, and his freshness may give him an edge on his rivals. Trainer Ferdy Murphy is a dab hand in these staying chases, and the horse has a good each-way chance at 12/1.

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Mark Hobbs

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