The final weekend of the jumps season and this race will take some getting, a stiff 3m4f around Sandown and many of the runners will have been prepared for this race by connections. It’s been a truly memorable jumps season, let’s hope we out with a bang!
DOING FINE has previously been frustrating to follow with a string of three second places before gaining his breakthrough success over fences last time out at Cheltenham over this trip 3m4f, he was impressive and proved he has stamina in abundance after being held up off the pace before finishing very strongly. However, patient tactics around this track don’t always pay off and these fences come up thick and fast and it may catch him out, also he will need plenty of luck in-running because he will no doubt be held up and he lacks any kind of value for me at around 5/1. I just can’t have him at that price and is worth moving on with better value in the contest.
VYTA DU ROC has some high-class form to his name which included when finishing fifth in last year’s Scottish Grand National and also was placed behind the likes of THISTLECRACK. He also ran well to finish fifth in last year’s RSA Chase and ran a stormer to finish sixth in the Hennessy Gold Cup, all of those came off much higher marks. VYTA DU ROC has class and stamina, which is what you need for these type of races. He finishes his races very well and developed a decent partnership with rider DARYL JACOB. He is very well handicapped on a mark 136 and he should go well for connections who have had a glorious season. He’s been given a 78 day break and has clearly been saved for this today. VYTA DU ROC won on his sole start at this venue two years ago but hasn’t been seen since a disappointing favourite at Kempton last time. I think he can go well at generous odds.
JUST A PAR has a decent chance of going well as he really should have won last year’s renewal but was caught on the line. He hails from a yard who do well in this race and the ground will be up his street. There is no doubt he will be finishing strongly because he gets the trip well and finished a respectable mid-field in the Grand National over 4m4f. My only worry with this horse is the fact he has a big weight to carry and it won’t be easy applying the same tactics as he did last year in a stronger renewal this time around. Connections wouldn’t be sending him here unless thought capable of a good run and he is only 1lb higher than when second last year. He has a good each-way chance.
PRESENT MAN is an interesting one here, he’s developed into a classy chaser this season and has won four of his last six starts. He won a grade 2 race at Doncaster three starts ago off 139 beating two good sorts and finished a creditable fourth in the Grade 1 Feltham two starts ago. PRESENT MAN won last time out at Ascot over 3 miles, gamely making all the running which suits him very well. He’s an in-form horse who jumps well and Trainer Paul Nicholls has purposely skipped Cheltenham and Aintree festivals with this horse to keep him for this race instead. That’s a positive move and promising jockey Jack sherwood stays in the saddle, who gets on really well with the horse. PRESENT MAN will likely be ridden from the front, which suits around this course and the step-up to 3m4f should bring further improvement as he looks a real stayer. He’s only 7-years-old and younger horses do really well in the race. At biggish odds, he looks good value to run a big race.
I have narrowed it down to two selections who I think will go well. Firstly, VYTA DU ROC looks thrown in here off a mark 136 on his past high-class form at the highest level and many other top-class races. He’s been saved for this contest here and it would be no surprise to be him in the mix towards the end of the race. He’s a strong finisher and has course form from over hurdles, which is a little bonus. Nicky Henderson has had a wonderful season and this horse would only need to produce something near his best to go close here. He’s an each-way player off a nice light-weight.
My other choice is PRESENT MAN, who is an improving young horse and gets on very well with his rider Jack Sherwood. Paul Nicholls has a good record in the race and the whole campaign of this horse looks to have been built around this contest. He carries a nice light-weight and comes into the race with four victories from his last six starts. Front running tactics are a big factor at this course and he jumps well. If he gets into a good rhythm from the front, he will be hard to peg back and the step-up to 3m4f looks perfect for him. I really like his chances here.
VYTA DU ROC – 0.5pts e/w – (11/1) with BET365 (1/4 odds – four places)
PRESENT MAN – 0.5pts e/w – (14/1) with BET365 (1/4 odds – four places)