On a day where the last National Hunt Grade 1 of the season takes place in the form of the Celebration Chase, the card also holds the ultra-competitive Bet365 Gold Cup handicap chase, which is always a thrilling staying race that begins to bring the curtain down on another fantastic National Hunt season.

Generally for this type of staying handicap, you are looking for a horse that has a bit of class about them, that have contested graded races in the not too distant past, but are on a relatively good mark and not carrying a huge weight. Looking back through the past winners, only 1 has carried more than 11 stone since 2006 and won, and that horse was none other than Tidal Bay, who carried top weight to win this in 2012. You need to be a seriously classy type to carry that sort of weight to win this and horses at the top end of the handicap could well struggle.

SOUTHFIELD THEATRE (7-1) tops the betting at the time of writing, and with the ongoing drama of the Nicholls vs Mullins battle for the Trainers Championship you can see why both of those stables will have well-backed horses for these races on the final day at Sandown. But from a form perspective you can certainly make a case for taking him on. He was travelling well enough in the Ultima handicap at Cheltenham when brought down, but prior to that was convincingly beaten on his 2 other seasonal starts. These were in hot races, but no piece of form stands out from his earlier days either. He is of course open to improvement and could well run a big race here, but it is not in the least bit tempting at 7-1.

HENRI PARRY MORGAN (10-1) has been a huge improver this year. He won easily at Chepstow and at Uttoxeter before his best run to date at the Aintree Festival when going down 3L to Native River. He fits the bill of the type of horse that could run well here but his lack of experience at a Graded level puts me off, as does the fact his last run was only a few weeks ago which wasn’t the easiest of races. One at the prices we can leave alone.

The Neil Mulholland pair of THE YOUNG MASTER (10-1) and THE DRUIDS NEPHEW (16-1) are both quietly fancied by some. THE DRUIDS NEPHEW isn’t one for me. I couldn’t understand him being so short for the National, just because he was travelling well last year when falling. He still looks not exactly well handicapped as he is still above his last winning mark (when he was in sparkling form) and I can’t see him holding his own off that weight. The ground will be a positive if it goes good, though. THE YOUNG MASTER looks to have a better chance. One I thought at the start of the season would be heading for the National, he has gradually been coming back into form. He ran well in the Listed handicap chase at Ascot before Christmas, before a strange run over Hurdles in the Cleeve. He then finished a staying on 3rd to Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima handicap at Cheltenham and on that run he wouldn’t be far away here. He carries 11st1lb which isn’t unfeasible to say he could be there at the finish. CAROLES DESTRIER had a wind op before Cheltenham but that couldn’t help him as he was pulled up which was a very tame run. I couldn’t have him winning this off a mark of 151.

Others high in the weights include SAUSALITO SUNRISE (16-1), BISHOPS ROAD (20-1) and DYNASTE (25-1). The former two will struggle off their weights and BISHOPS ROAD would be in with a squeak on heavy ground but shouldn’t get that on Saturday. DYNASTY is certainly interesting, competing at Grade 1 level for such a long time drops into a Grade 3 handicap chase off a mark of 153. He wouldn’t be without a chance and matches that classy type needed to overcome a big weight in this race. He was only 5L behind Djakadam at Aintree and the extra distance could well see him improve as he is now a 10 year old.

LE REVE (20/1) would probably be my other one to include here. He finished a length in front of PAINT THE CLOUDS in this very race last year (who I had fancied to run a big race before being taken out at final decs stage), off a 1lb higher mark also, so he comes here on very similar terms. LE REVE won at this track in February, and despite THEATRE GUIDE beating him at Kempton, he comes here meeting on much better terms so it can be logical to assume he has a good chance of reversing that form, especially considering THEATRE GUIDE had a heavy fall at Cheltenham when running a poor race. His run in the National wasn’t brilliant, but he finished, and I think he is the dour staying type that often does well in this race.

At the prices, and in a conclusion, it is an extremely tricky race to decipher. Many have claims and many also have slight negatives surrounding them. LE REVE is one that is proven in this type of race and this race in particular, and comes here on very similar terms to last year, and therefore you would have to imagine that he have a good chance of outrunning his odds. I say this a lot but it really is true that trainers are creatures of habit and tend to really go after a race they narrowly miss out on the year previous and it wouldn’t surprise me that either of them have been nicely tuned up to run big races here. Some bookmakers, including the sponsors, may end up doing 5 places so keep an eye out for that.

Good luck whatever you end up backing, it is sure to be a fantastic days’ racing!

Advised bets:

LE REVE 0.5pt ew 20/1.

The Snout


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