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Dublin: 11°C Friday 16 April 2021

Mark your Card: your best bets for today’s Grade racing

Sprinter Sacre or Sanctuaire? Declan Smyth looks at two absolute humdingers on the card at Sandown.

Image: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

THERE ARE TWO Grade 1 chases to tease us this afternoon as Sandown stages one of its big meetings of the year. Only five have been declared for the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase over 2m, which is due off at 1.55pm.

With prize money down to fifth place all participants will collect if they finish, but Act of Kalanisi will need huge improvement if he is to come home in the placings.

Escort’men won a Grade 2 hurdle back in February 2010. His form has declined since then, and though he moved on from Paul Nicholls to Anthony Middleton after his last run in November, he shouldn’t trouble the judge.

Third Intention finished in third place, eight lengths behind the likely favourite Captain Conan at Cheltenham, and he probably needs further.

Hinterland is an interesting runner and coming from the Nicholls yard, he has to be respected. He came from France last season with a big reputation but had mixed form. His future was always going to be over the larger obstacles and having started the season off successfully over hurdles at Chepstow, he was well beaten at Exeter on his chasing debut by Theatre Guide. Still only a four-year-old, it’s interesting that Nicholls pitches him into this Grade 1 and drops him back in trip.

CAPTAIN CONAN is the one they all have to beat. Another French import, he was decent enough over hurdles last year. The noises coming from Seven Barrows about him after the summer were hugely encouraging and he didn’t disappoint on his chasing debut at Cheltenham when, up against more experienced opponents, he jumped well. Although he only won by two lengths, he was never in danger.

His trainer Nicky Henderson isn’t a bad judge and if he believes he is one if the yard’s best hopes for the season, expect him to confirm that this afternoon.

Tingle Creek Chase (Grade 1)

The Tingle Creek Chase is one of the highlights of the season and a hugely important race for the two-milers. Seven have been declared but in truth it looks to be a match between Sanctuaire and Sprinter Sacre. With prize money for the first six finishers, it could develop into two races.

Both of the main contenders tend to run keenly but it’s likely that Sanctuaire will make the pace which might set it up for Sprinter Sacre and his terrific engine. The danger is that if they spark each other off, they could both blow their lights out.

Sprinter Sacre won a hurdle on soft ground while Sanctuaire has also won on it, although his trainer Paul Nicholls has said that outing was as soft as he’d like it. It’s also worth remembering that the latter has shown some temperament in the past.

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Chasing has made Sanctuaire, who was a bit of a liability over hurdles, but Sprinter Sacre has always been consistent and beaten some top horses. Nicky Henderson’s horse has the better form in the book, while Sanctuaire not really been tested and a lot of his opponents didn’t run to their form in his last race.

In what should be a fascinating race and a great spectacle, SPRINTER SACRE can just about prevail.

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About the author:

Declan Smyth

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