TERRY Biddlecombe, the three-time champion jockey, will be laid to rest today and there won’t be a dry eye in the house at Ascot tomorrow if SOMERSBY, formerly trained by his wife Henrietta Knight, gives him the perfect send off in the Sodexo Clarence House Chase (3.35pm).
Biddlecombe and Knight hit the headlines when Best Mate landed three straight Gold Cups from 2002-2004 and although Somersby has never scaled those heights, he won this Grade One contest two years ago.
The 10-year-old took the Haldon Gold Cup on his reappearance, beating Cue Card by six lengths, and he was then second to Sire De Grugy in the Tingle Creek at Sandown last month. Sandown doesn’t suit him as well as Ascot and the extra furlong on a stiffer track seems to bring out the best of him.
Sire De Grugy is a huge threat as he will get the soft ground he relishes. However, he has twice underperformed at Cheltenham and I’d be worried about his ability to see out 2m 1f at the Berkshire venue.
Shark Hanlon is bringing over Hidden Cyclone and he should run well. Course form counts for plenty at Ascot, though, and for that reason I’m going to back Somersby at 3/1 with Star Sports.
The big betting race up at Haydock – providing the meeting gets the go ahead – is the Peter Marsh Chase (3.15pm) and it is going to be some slog.
There are plenty in the line-up who will love the conditions, but the one to be on is KATENKO for the in-form Venetia Williams stable, who could end up being a genuine Gold Cup contender on soft ground.
We’re still not definitely sure that he has got over his colic operation, although he seemed to be travelling well in the Hennessy before unseating Aidan Coleman and this race looks perfect for him.
Jonjo O’Neill hasn’t been in the best of form recently, but things are just starting to change and TAQUIN DE SEUIL should take all the beating in the Racing Post-sponsored novice chase (1.30pm).
He was only just touched off by Oscar Whisky last time and is another who needs cut in the ground to perform at his best.
TAQUIN DE SEUIL 1.30pm Haydock (tomorrow)
KATENKO 3.15pm Haydock (tomorrow)
SOMERSBY 3.35pm Ascot (tomorrow)
WHAT'S ON AT SANDOWN PARK (ESHER) - A JOCKEY CLUB RACECOURSE
Betfred Masters Day
Saturday 01 February 2014 - Jump
Featuring the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Chase, this meeting frequently throws up some useful Cheltenham Festival pointers.
First Race 12.45 pm; Last Race 4.40 pm
Royal Artillery Gold Cup Day
Friday 14 February 2014 - Jump
Celebrate the bravery and dedication of the
British Armed Forces and enjoy the historic
Royal Artillery Gold Cup.
First Race 1.20 pm; Last Race 4.40 pm
Valentine’s Day Offers available
Grand Military Gold Cup Day
Friday 07 March 2014 - Jump
Enjoy an afternoon steeped in racing and military heritage with the Grand Military Gold Cup, dating back to 1841. A race guaranteed to feature some of the country’s finest amateur jockeys.
First Race 2.20 pm; Last Race 5.10 pm
Imperial Cup Day
Saturday 08 March - Jump
The Imperial Cup (Hurdle) was first run in 1907 and is just three days before the start of the Cheltenham Festival.
First Race 1.30 pm; Last
Race 5.00 pm
To book tickets visit www.sandown.co.uk or call 0844 579 3019 Advanced tickets available Under 18’s go free with paying adult