Qaspal to set up Festival bonus tilt with Imperial Cup win at Sandown

Bill Esdaile
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TOMORROW’S Paddy Power Imperial Cup is normally a Pipe family benefit race, but the one they’d obviously lined up for the race, Hunterview, unfortunately missed the cut. He would surely have had a great chance to continue the stable’s fine record, but in his absence the one to be on is Philip Hobbs’ QASPAL (pictured). The trainer has always loved this six-year-old and he would need to win this to get a penalty to get into the Martin Pipe Conditionals Hurdle at Cheltenham next Friday.

Our selection won with plenty in hand at Kempton over two miles last month before bolting up at Sandown over 2m4f seven days later. He pulled hard that day, but still powered up the hill and he’ll surely settle better over this shorter trip. The Hobbs yard is hitting form at exactly the right time for Cheltenham and they have now won eight races from their last 24 runners.

Sponsors Paddy Power have put up a £75,000 bonus for any horse that wins the Imperial Cup and goes on to win a race at the Festival. The firm currently have Qaspal as 10/1 favourite for the Martin Pipe and if he wins this he will be nearer 4/1 off what will likely be a feather weight. Keep an eye out for any bookmaker who prices up Qaspal to win the Imperial Cup and any race at the Festival. I’d be looking for around 20/1 and we could have a very interesting bet if he wins as I expect him to tomorrow.

Sandown stages a cracking looking card this afternoon and the feature race is the Grand Military Gold Cup at 3.30pm. Look out for the Nicky Henderson trained SCOTS DRAGOON as he looks a cut above this lot and comes here in form.

With the Cheltenham Festival just days away, we already have a decent looking book of ante-post bets, but it isn’t too late to add a few more now that all firms have gone non-runner no bet. Firstly, snap up the 10/1 available about Irish raider MOURAD in the Coral Cup on Wednesday. If he does run, he’ll be really well backed and I could see him starting closer to 5/1. He also has the option of running in the World Hurdle and if he does, we will get our money back.

On the subject of the World Hurdle, I have heard that Alan King’s KATCHIT has been working really well at home and we all know how much he loves Cheltenham. He is currently available at 33/1 to win the race, but I reckon it might be safer backing him at 16/1 without Big Buck’s.

My final recommendation is the Paul Nicholls trained ALFIE SHERRIN in Thursday’s Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle. He was very impressive at Newbury last time, conceding weight to some unexposed rivals and he’s been the subject of some bullish reports from connections. The worry would be the way he dropped out quickly at Chepstow on his seasonal reappearance, but I would put that down to the soft ground and too short a trip. These conditions will be much more in his favour and he could genuinely be a World Hurdle contender next season. Plus, if top weight Fair Along stands his ground, he will race off just 10st 10lb.

Don’t miss the Punter throughout the Cheltenham Festival next week and we will be kicking the week off with an exclusive interview with Paul Nicholls on Monday.


SCOTS DRAGOON 3.30pm Sandown, today

QASPAL 3.05pm Sandown, tomorrow

MOURAD 10/1 e/w Coral Cup, Cheltenham

ALFIE SHERRIN 9/2 Pertemps Final, Cheltenham

KATCHIT w/o Big Buck’s 16/1 e/w World Hurdle, Cheltenham