2.00 Sandown -
Coral Champion's Club trainer, Dan Skelton, much like his former boss, Paul Nicholls, has a canny knack for landing big Saturday handicaps and his TWO TAFFS looks to have an outstanding chance in the European Breeders' Fund Greenall's Gin 'National Hunt' Novices' Handicap Hurdle Final (Grade 3) at 2pm. This son of Flemensfirth was a winner of a bumper on debut and made a pleasing start over hurdles behind the consistent Lady Yeats at Bangor in October. That run was followed by an improved effort at Kempton where he finished runner-up to Brain Power and in-front of subsequent winner Theo's Charm (now rated 132). In the colours of Dai Walters and James Potter, Two Taffs again improved to finish third to Zulu Oscar in a highly competitive handicap hurdle again at Kempton when last seen. The winner of that race is now rated 140, while the second, Affaire d'Honneur is rated 133 and is favourite for the Imperial Cup later on the card. There was a lot to like about that effort, apart from the abundance of talented animals surrounding him and off the back of a break he should take all the beating off 126. The Skelton's are in-form with two winners, three seconds and two thirds from their last seven runners, including a double in France earlier in the week. At 9/2, this horse represents tremendous value and I can't see him being far away.
3.10 Sandown -
The aforementioned AFFAIRE D'HONNEUR looks to have outstanding claims in the feature race of the day, the Imperial Cup. Harry Whittington's gelding was making his British debut when finishing behind Zulu Oscar and Two Taffs and his effort in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury stood out like a sore thumb. After being left at the start, Gavin Sheehan's mount had a huge task ahead of him but his raw ability saw him stay on from an impossible position to snatch fourth. It's also worth mentioning that the first three home in that race all raced prominent early on as there was an obvious pace bias on the heavy ground. The selection should improve again for that effort and at 7/2 he rates as NAP material in the big race of the day. Of the others, For Good Measure is respected and at a massive price, last year's winner, Ebony Express, has EW claims.
3.45 Sandown -
In the mares' bumper, TEARSOFCLEWBAY looks a big price at 10/1 for Phillip Hobbs and young Conor Smith. This mare destroyed what I thought was a good field of mares at Ascot last month and the form loosely ties in with the favourite, Copper Kay. 5/4 about that one, who gives our selection 11lbs when you include the jockey's claim, doesn't sound too appealing despite being the apparent 'first string'. Hobbs is the kind of trainer who doesn't mind giving young, capable jockeys a chance and it wouldn't surprise me if Dickie Johnson was on the fav because Hobbs wanted Smith to ride the selection. At 10/1, she looks knocking EW value.
2pt TWO TAFFS - 9/2
2pt AFFAIRE D'HONNEUR - 7/2
1pt E/W TEARSOFCLEWBAY - 10/1
Jason Ryan, Senior Horse Racing Trader at Coral