FINAL declarations for the bet365Gold Cup (3.35pm) at Sandown aren’t made until 10am in the morning, but there shouldn’t be too many surprises with 15 or 16 likely to stand their ground.
There could still be a twist in the battle for the trainers’ championship as Paul Nicholls is strongly represented in the last big race of the jump season as he looks to try and peg back Nicky Henderson.
Nicholls will be represented by Southfield Theatre, Just A Par and Present Man, while Henderson looks set to rely on Vyta Du Roc and Sugar Baron.
All five look to hold chances, with Southfield Theatre looking the most likely having been trained specifically for the race.
However, that fact hasn’t been lost on the bookmakers and having been 25/1 a week ago, he is just 8/1 in places now and hasn’t won a race for over two years.
He will also have to carry joint top weight of 11st 12lbs which certainly won’t be an easy task.
Trainer Neil Mulholland won this race 12 months ago with The Young Master and is another who holds a leading chance returning off the same handicap mark after a frustrating season so far.
Mulholland also saddles two other leading hopes in The Druids Nephew and recent Cheltenham winner DOING FINE.
The former ran fairly well at the Festival in March and has slipped to a dangerous mark, but my eyes have been drawn all week to the latter who sneaks in off a very light weight.
He hasn’t been out of the first two in four runs for Mulholland since switching from Rebecca Curtis’ yard running really well at Sandown on two of those occasions.
The trip and ground look ideal and he can line-up off the same mark from which he bolted up at Cheltenham a few weeks ago.
Tom Scudamore has been booked to ride the nine-year-old and he looks the one, with just 10st 3lbs, at 5/1 with 188BET.
At a much bigger price I’m also going to throw a few quid each-way at Sandown specialist LE REVE at 20/1.
He’s hasn’t shown his best for some time, but he comes here fresh having been placed in the race a couple of years ago and looks overpriced.
All eyes will be on Menorah as he bids to win the Oaksey Chase (2.25pm) for a remarkable fourth year on the bounce.
He may well be 12-years-old, but he still retains plenty of his old ability and has been trained specifically for this race again.
However, whether he’ll be able to give 10lbs to TRAFFIC FLUIDE has to be a doubt and I’d rather side with Gary Moore’s runner at 7/2.
Things haven’t gone smoothly for the seven-year-old this season and it was a race against time to get him to Cheltenham for the Champion Chase.
Two quick races in February without much of a gap between them were followed by an encouraging run at the Festival where he finished a gallant sixth in the Champion Chase.
However, that was followed by an even better run when third behind Fox Norton when stepped up in trip at Aintree.
That was over 2m 4f, and the way he ran on at the death that day suggest that tomorrow’s extra couple of furlong will be bang up his street.
Traffic Fluide 2.25pm Sandown
Doing Fine 3.35pm Sandown
Le Reve e/w 3.35pm Sandown