SANDOWN Park hosts the 32Red Novices’ Hurdle tomorrow afternoon (2.35pm) and Philip Hobbs’ COLOUR SQUADRON looks the one to be on in the Grade One contest formerly known as the Tolworth Hurdle.
Declarations for the two mile contest aren’t made until later this morning, so it’s unclear how many of the nine entries will stand their ground. However, one thing that is certain is that conditions will be testing and that will be right up Colour Squadron’s street. The six-year-old has won two of his three racecourse starts (incidentally both on his favoured soft ground) and his only defeat was behind It’s A Gimme in a warm contest at Newbury.
He is likely to face stiff opposition in the shape of Paul Nicholls’ Prospect Wells and Charlie Longsdon’s Magnifique Etoile, but I confidently expect him to come out on top in what could be quite a tactical affair.
Elsewhere on Sandown’s card, a field of nine have been declared for the 32Red Handicap Chase at 2.05pm and I’m prepared to stick with RILEYEV. Venetia Williams has her string in great form and he is another one who’ll appreciate every drop of rain that falls. He won a chase at Hereford on heavy ground last season and was beaten a neck on his latest start at Cheltenham last month.
Martin Keighley’s All For Free is another one who may well be still ahead of the handicapper and will be tough to beat off his flyweight. However, even though the ground will be no problem, this is a better class of race and he’s gone up another seven pounds.
The best betting race of the day looks to be the 32Red.com Handicap Chase at 3.10pm. Once again, we are slightly feeling in the dark until the official declarations are made later this morning. Nicky Henderson’s MASTER OF THE HALL still looks fairly treated off a mark of 150 and he’d be a strong fancy if standing his ground. That said, his trainer may not want him to lug top weight around if Neptune Collonges doesn’t run and may opt to sit the contest out.
If Master Of The Hall doesn’t run, I’d be tempted to throw a few quid at ATOUCHBETWEENACARA from the foot of the weights. The 11-year-old was once thought of as a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup contender and has a mark of just 121 to go to war with. He ran a cracker two starts back behind Welsh National winner Le Beau Bai and showed up well last time behind Cannington Brook. The more than able Harry Challoner takes off a useful seven pounds and he could be dangerous in what is sure to be a real test.
Looking at today’s action and there isn’t much that jumps off the page. However, Sir Mark Prescott’s APPEAL must have a big chance in the 5.15pm at Wolverhampton. Luke Morris takes the ride and he says in his exclusive Blue Square blog that the four-year-old filly is his best chance of a winner this evening. The drop back from 2m to 1m6f should suit perfectly.
We will begin our Countdown to Cheltenham series next week and hopefully we’ll be able to follow last year’s success when we flagged up RSA Chase winner Bostons Angel and Jewson Novices’ Chase winner Noble Prince at big prices.
I’ll be at Sandown tomorrow and you can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile.
APPEAL 5.15pm Wolverhampton (tonight)
RILEYEV 2.05pm Sandown (tomorrow)
COLOUR SQUADRON 2.35pm Sandown (tomorrow)
MASTER OF THE HALL 3.10pm Sandown (tomorrow)
3.10pm Sandown (tomorrow)