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I am very frustrated with the ride Buick gave Sense Of Duty, and to be honest, I don't get why he was riding her as Fallon was booked to ride her and say what you want about Buick being the better jockey, but Fallon knows the horse much better and I thought his decision making was appalling. She went off a shade of odds-on, so we got the ‘value' early on, but I can't believe she didn't win that.
Butler's Brief was the sole winner of Saturday and I hope some of you got the odds this morning when he was 18/1 as 15/2 is tiny in comparison. Imperial Merlin was subject of another farce at Aintree where the low sun ruined the racing, and at that point just void all bets and give the punter's money back as that's not what we're putting our money on the line for. Forward Plan moved into the Badger Beer in style but he didn't see the trip out as well as the others, so with a drop back to 3m or 2m 7f and back in grade he'll be winning again.
Sandown 1:05 – Le Patron 13/8 (2pt)
There's no doubt that Le Patron will have to be a fair few pounds ahead of the handicapper to land this as he is in much deeper waters than his win at Fontwell, but he was very impressive that day.
The ground isn't going to be testing and at the time of writing it is good to soft and good in places and I don't think that will suit most of these in this field whereas the quickish conditions should be perfect for Le Patron. He made a very nice impression on chase debut at Fontwell as I alluded to before, his jumping for the most part was spot on and considering he had no PTP experience, it was a very good debut. The Gary Moore yard hasn't had the best of seasons so seeing this horse run out a very easy winner was noticeable. The one thing I didn't like too much was how keen he was, he was still taking a pull turning for home, that's never ideal, but I think that shows that he could be still ahead of the handicapper as pulling that much and still managing to jump soundly and pull away from the field was impressive, albeit at a lower level.
The one I'm most worried about is Rock My Way as he was a decent novice hurdler last year and he had a run over hurdles last time out to knock the cobwebs off. He was always going to be a chaser, but the fact that Syd Hosie has opted for Sam Twiston-Davies over his more used jockeys isn't a great sign if you're backing this horse.
Sandown 3:25 – Elegant Escape 16/1 (0.5pt EW Bet365 3pl)
I could be losing my mind thinking Elegant Escape has a good chance of winning this race as he has hardly won a race in the last four years, but his handicap mark is far too tempting to let him go unbacked at double-figure odds.
This horse was on the boundaries of being a Grade 1 horse in his pomp, known for his tremendous stamina, shown when he won the Welsh Grand National back in 2018. He hadn't won a race since then until at Ascot last year in a Veterans' Chase off a mark of 140 and though his form took a dip since then, with the Tizzard yard going well at the moment I thought him running off a basement mark of 125 on seasonal reappearance makes him a decent bet.
I really don't think this race is as good as what it might look for a Veterans Chase. I tipped up Good Boy Bobby last time out at Chepstow, I think he was planned for that race for a long time and he only managed to get up on the line after Aye Right started to paddle. He was ahead of Cyclop that day, only by a length or so, and I don't think that is particularly great form given how the runner-up gassed out. Larry is always dangerous, but I wouldn't say he's on a great mark and his jumping is far from ideal, he's prone to making plenty of mistakes and at Sandown where the fences come quick and fast down the back straight, I wouldn't want to be on him. De Rasher Counter was a useful horse a few years back, but his handicap mark is still on the high end and Court Master ran a big race at Cheltenham a week or so ago, but at the age of 10 I think that would've taken a fair bit out of him, so based on all of that Elegant Escape seemed a bit alternative.
Harry Cobden is back on board and that's eye-catching as stable jockey, Brendan Powell, is at Sandown but they've opted for Cobden. Harry rode Elegant Escape to his last win and normally gets a nice tune out of him with two wins and four places from seven runs on this horse.
Ffos Las 1:15 – Haut Folin 13/2 (0.5pt EW Bet365)
There's no hiding that when Venetia Williams starts her jumping season off properly, she is a force to be reckoned with. She's starting to hit the ground running and has fired in a fair few winners over the last couple of weeks, so with that being said I'm going for Haut Folin.
This horse was poor on his first season for Venetia, running four times and had more letters than numbers in his form, with three PU on his record. However, to say that he hasn't got ability would be a total lie as he was a dual chase winner in France on testing ground, and recorded RPRs in high 110s and low 120s, with the highest RPR coming on his final start in France. For whatever reason it didn't quite go to plan last year but as a result his chase handicap mark has plummeted at a rate of knots and he is now 13lbs lower than when he first stepped into the country, and for that reason, I think he is worth a chance on seasonal reappearance.
This isn't a particularly strong race, some will be ahead of the handicapper, but I wouldn't say they are massively ahead, not as much as Haut Folin could be if he bounced back to form. Venetia is great at getting one ready after a break, so fitness isn't a complete issue for me, but then again I wouldn't be surprised if he did need the run, but the odds are worth a punt that he is ready first time out.
Sandown Park - 1:05 pm
13/8 @ Bet365
Sandown Park - 3:25 pm
16/1 @ Bet365
Ffos Las - 1:15 pm