THE CURTAIN comes down on another jumps season at Sandown Park tomorrow afternoon and it’s as you were with AP McCoy and Paul Nicholls picking up the champion jockey and trainer awards.
McCoy will take home his 19th straight championship trophy tomorrow – one of the most remarkable achievements ever in sport.
Nicholls relinquished the title to Nicky Henderson last year after seven straight successes, but the Ditcheat handler has bounced back in fine style this campaign.
The highlight of tomorrow’s card is the bet365 Gold Cup (3.50pm) and Nicholls will be hoping to end the season in style with a fourth win in the race.
Bury Parade looks like being his number one hope after a good run in the BetBright Chase at Kempton last time. However, he is far from certain to stay this trip and he’s always struck me as a quirky customer.
The one I can’t get away from is last year’s runner-up SAME DIFFERENCE who is seven pounds lower than 12 months ago. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ inmate has admittedly been slightly disappointing this season, but there were signs of a return to form when fifth in the Kim Muir last time.
He’s only an eight-year-old, so there should still be improvement to come, and it’s going to be very hard to keep him out of the frame. Take the 10/1 with Star Sports.
There are plenty of dangers in the field, none more so than Ardkilly Witness for Grand National-winning trainer Dr Richard Newland. He was 33/1 a couple of weeks ago, though, so I can’t bring myself to back him at just 12/1.
It might be worth also having a few quid each-way on ANY CURRENCY at 20/1. He was third in this race two years ago and ran a belter in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham when just touched off by Balthazar King, who went on to claim second prize in the National.
Today’s card at Sandown features some top quality flat action and the reappearance of last season’s talking horse Telescope, the long-term ante-post favourite for the Investec Derby who missed his big assignment as he wasn’t sparkling at home.
A 24-length romp in a three-runner conditions event on his long-awaited return was promising but he didn’t look a world-beater in two subsequent runs.
Yet the market still seems to be pricing Sir Michael Stoute’s colt on hype rather than reality and at 5/4 he makes little appeal against Godolphin’s SKY HUNTER in today’s Gordon Richard Stakes (2.10pm).
The French import is four from five with the only blemish a close up third behind Intello in the French Derby. That form is far stronger than Telescope’s, who may find 10 furlongs on the sharp side in any case. Take the 15/8 available with Star Sports.
The opening Esher Cup (1.40pm) looks a very useful contest with three unbeaten horses in the line-up of eight in which only one has yet to win.
SACRED ACT made his debut just 17 days ago but John Gosden’s charge made a big impression when winning a decent-looking maiden at Nottingham.
Very green, he quickened up impressively to win cosily and there should be plenty more to come from this St James’s Palace Stakes entry. A best price of 5/2 is fair, although Cricklewood Green and End Of Line will ensure it’s no walk in the park for the son of Oasis Dream.
The five-furlong shoot at Sandown normally favours those drawn low but, if you can bounce out quickly and get across, horses are often hard to pass and DESERT ACE makes plenty of appeal for Clive Cox in the 3.50pm.
Adam Kirby is riding out of his skin at present and his mount boasts a course-and-distance win, has a promising reappearance under his belt and could be hard to catch with the ground coming right for him.
SACRED ACT 1.40pm Sandown (today)
SKY HUNTER 2.10pm Sandown (today)
DESERT ACE e/w 3.50pm Sandown (today)
SAME DIFFERENCE e/w 3.50pm Sandown (tomorrow)
ANY CURRENCY e/w 3.50pm Sandown (tomorrow)