Sandown End Of Season Special

The end of season card at Sandown today is likely to disappoint many of you – purely because it brings the curtain down on a fantastic jumping season – but it’s true that we can save the best for last, and a stunning Sandown card helps us say goodbye to a memorable season in style. First things first, a congratulatory message to Richard Johnson, a first time Champion and as dominant as his old rival AP McCoy ever was throughout this season. The 16 time runner up has been a bastion of consistency during a fine career, and the outpouring of congratulations that have come his way have been only too deserved – along with the time in the national spotlight for a fantastic ambassador. He must be long odds on to retain his title and bigger career landmarks are surely within his sights after the fifth best season of any jump jockey in the past 10 years and his personal best by a considerable margin. If he stays healthy, then 4,000 winners – with the same luck he’s had this season – his surely within his reach. The Trainers title is nowhere near done, however, and the battle between Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins has given Sandown racegoers, punters and general fans a treat as the two have 29 runners across the course of the card today with many of Colsutton’s best flying over for the assault. The difference between the two stands at £53,393 in favour of Nicholls, whose five timer last week – including the Scottish National – changed the game in favour of the home team. Mullins has 10 runners here today on a card that’s full of riches, and based on the betting markets he has plenty going for him. But odds on quotes for the title to stay home look right considering the sheet amount of place money that Nicholls can be expected to gain today and perhaps next year will be the one for him. He can kickstart his challenge in the best possible way with victory for Voix Du Reve in the Bet365 Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (2.20). The French arrival let a few down on his debut when beaten at 4/7, but he was going swimmingly in the Fred Winter at the Festival when he fell at the last and off a 5lbs higher mark he has to take all the beating today. The chief threat is Tommy Silver, seventh in the Triumph but sure to go well here, according to the betting, but Ashoka has been given a big pull in the weights from their meeting at Musselburgh in the Triumph Trial and has a nice mark for the red hot Skeltons. Duke Street may not relish the drop back in trip from 2m3f and Wolf of Windlesham can go well in a good opener. If he doesn’t hit the board in the first, Mullins will hope to take The Oaksey Chase (2.50) with Valseur Lido. The seven year old ideally would be suited by further, but he has built on a solid novice campaign with a decent season that saw him finish best of the rest in the Ryanair behind Vautour at Cheltenham. The time before he was going to take all the beating when falling at the last in the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup – whilst his second in the John Durkan doesn’t look all that bad – and the worry for him is likely to be the trip and the ground, although he’s run well at this time of year (won at Punchestown last year) and he’s well treated at these conditions, getting weight from everyone but his stablemate Ballycasey. Nicholls has three in the race, but all of Saphir Du Rheu, Rocky Creek and Wonderful Charm have their serious issues. The danger is the winner for the last two years, Menorah, who must give the pick 5lbs. The Celebration Chase (3.35), one of the feature events of the day and the second richest, gives Mullins a big opportunity with a £71,131 first prize but Un De Sceaux was trashed at Cheltenham by Sprinter Sacre and the dream comeback can have a happy ending here. Nicky Henderson’s charge found buckets when asked for a response at Cheltenham having travelled and jumped with much of the old zest that he did before his heart issues, and perhaps more crucially, he gets his ground once again with little rain overnight. Sire De Grugy, Dodging Bullets, Solar Impulse and Ulck De Lin would have mountains to climb based on previous form. The Bet365 Gold Cup (4.10) could be sure to change everything with Southfield Theatre the current joint favourite for Nicholls. Based on his second in last year’s RSA he’s on a decent mark but in the two starts before his unfortunate exit at the Cheltenham Festival he jumped poorly before being beaten all ends up and whilst he should stay based on previous impressions, more has to be taken on trust than his comfortable. Mullins brings Measureofmydreams and Sir Des Champs over, but both have weaknesses. Measureofmydreams was the pick for the Scottish National and has an obvious chance on that form – after all he was well ahead of Vincente at the Festival and Native River has since gone onto win a Grade 1 – but he didn’t jump well at the Festival and fell at the third last week where he ran loose for a least a circuit. Sir Des Champs didn’t take to Aintree but hasn’t been in the best of form since coming back from injury and whilst good ground is vital to him I’m not sure he’s the horse of old. The Young Master made up ground hand over fist in the straight at Cheltenham when an excellent fourth in the Ultima Handicap Chase, crying out for the extra distance of today, his second decent handicap effort of the season following his fourth in a strong Listed event at Ascot, and with the 3lbs claim of Sam Whaley Cohen he should be finishing stronger than almost anything whilst holding much of the best form. The same can be said of Henri Parry Morgan, who has been transformed since having a breathing operation. Connections took advantage of that rule to take decent prizes at Chepstow and Uttoxeter in style, but he was then even better when second in the Mildmay Novices Chase when well ahead of the RSA and Ultima Handicap Chase winners (albeit coming on from post Cheltenham wins) and a mark of 149 based on that is reasonable if he has recovered; He should stay this far. Saint Are, Le Reve, The Druids Nephew and The Young Master have their ground but all ran in a gruelling National and completed the course so how fresh they are will be a question mark that lingers. This has been the aim for Carole’s Destrier who should go well but he was poor at the Festival and must bounce back; Theatre Guide is now 150 but uber consistent and was such a wildly impressive winner at Kempton in a Grade 3 handicap that the mark is fair. Bishops Road’s connectios endured a frustrating week at Aintree when he fell at the first in the Topham and was balloted out of the National, but his Haydock Grand National trial win is one of the best pieces of form here today and he must be respected. An interesting springer from Nicholls could be last year’s winner Just a Par, who has the 8lbs rise negated by Harry Cobden’s claim. In the Select Hurdle (4.45), Vroum Vroum Mag meets males for the first time since joining the Mullins yard. Impressive in her two British starts, she’s likely to be popular but has yet to have a main rival run to form to date and if either of Ptit Zig or Vaniteux run to form then she could be going into the unknown and Silasol and Ubak, third and first in a competitive handicap hurdle at Aintree recently, could play a part. Court Minstrel has his ground but also has to prove his stamina at this trip to boot. Nicholls has sent an army of horses to the Josh Gifford Novices´ Handicap Chase (5.20) and perhaps his As De Mee, seventh in a strong Topham Chase, could prove to be a key title swinger on good ground over a course and distance that he’s run well over before. If the battle is still on then the Bet365 Handicap Hurdle (5.55) could be even more fun than it already is. Mullins sends three with Bellow Mome the favoured of them. A winner of his last two starts – and only three for the yard – he can improve since but will need to jump better on an entirely new surface. McKinley has become disappointing over fences, so Burgas may do best, dropped back in trip here for Bryan Cooper. A very interesting pair of contenders who the market may have ignored are Hunters Hoof and Ma Du Fou. Hunters Hoof has disappointed the last twice but one of those can be put down to the ground and off 138 he may still have more to offer. Ma Du Fou went off 7/1 for one of the most competitive races of the Aintree Festival after an impressive Huntingdon win, the form of which makes a mark of 139 look very generous. If that is forgiven his price looks to be generous and he may bounce back. The pick is Matorico, who won a well contested event at Cheltenham 10 days ago when a first time tongue tie bought the best out of him and a 4lbs rise for that looks fair enough here. He could be a different horse if that application has worked and a big field handicap over this trip should suit him just fine. Nicholls’ trio of Red Hanrahan, Alcala and Qualando have plenty going for them but watch out for the market vibes on Wilde Blue Yonder – fifth in the Supreme won by Vautour before then finishing fourth in the Mersey afterwards – who makes his comeback after 749 days off. Advice 1 pt win Voix Du Reve, 2.20 Sandown (11/4 Hills) 3 pts win Valesur Lido, 2.55 Sandown (5/6 general) 3 pts win Sprinter Sacre, 3.35 Sandown (11/10 Bet365) 1 pt each/way The Young Master, 4.10 Sandown (8/1 general; seek five places) 1 pt each/way Henri Parry Morgan, 4.10 Sandown (8/1 general) 1 pt win As De Mee, 5.20 Sandown (6/1 Coral) 1 pt each/way Matorico, 5.55 Sandown (14/1 Betway)