12:40 Sandown

Valsheda could take some beating but he’ll need to be a seriously good horse to beat former Cheltenham Festival winner LE BREUIL (best price 7/1) who’s race-fit and his assured jumping will be a big asset around here. Ben Pauling’s team are still in excellent form, so his chances have increased, and this classy ten-year-old jumped and travelled really well en route to scoring by nine lengths three weeks ago. 

That was a weak race but will have done his confidence the world of good and he’s very well-handicapped based on his previous form. I am a little bit concerned about Megan Fox’ experience for a race of this calibre so soon in her career under rules but if she’s able to get this ten-year-old into a rhythm, he should give her a great spin and can hopefully gun down the favourite, who’s way too short for this race. 

Le Breuil - 0.5pts e/w

13:45 Sandown

Milan Bridge could be tough to beat but his odds make no appeal from a value perspective and, instead, the vote goes to RAFFLE TICKET (best price 6/1) who I know hasn’t been seen for quite some time but is lightly raced for his age, clearly possesses a lot of ability based upon the form he’s shown to date and could be a shout at decent odds here. 

There’s no doubt he would have won on his debut and, in the process, beat the 130-rated Hooper at Hexham over hurdles but for falling at the last hurdle when two lengths clear. He was then narrowly denied by Voice Of Calm, who’s rated 126, beaten just a neck, which is decent form before destroying subsequent winner Hurling Magic at Huntingdon by a distance last May. 

He wasn’t suited to the pace of the race when third last time but he’s been plenty of time since and an opening mark of 123 is extremely lenient based upon his form to date, while connections pulled him out of a race the other week presumably in favour of this one. This isn’t an easy course to make your chase debut’ but he’s clearly thought highly of and he’s dangerous to discount with Alex Edwards taking off a further three-pounds. 

Raffle Ticket - 0.5pts e/w

14:20 Sandown

Man At Work clocked a good time when winning on his hurdles debut but he might meet his next here in the shape of the Paul Nicholls-trained HENRI THE SECOND (best price 9/4), who looked a bit unlucky on his hurdles debut at Chepstow and could make amends here. He won his first two bumper starts, including when beating Champion Bumper fifth Authorised Speed and while something seemed amiss when pulled up in a Grade Two at Aintree on his final start, he shaped well when runner-up on his hurdles debut at Chepstow last time. 

He probably would have won without a costly mistake at the third last hurdle but, to his credit, he stuck to the task well and rallied to only be beaten around one-length. The winner has won again since and connections have stated that he’ll be ridden more positively here. His trainer has a good record in this race (same owners when Enrilo won this in 2019) and Paul reckons this horse is one of his best novice hurdlers, so if that’s the case, he could take some beating in this race with soft ground likely to suit too. 

Henri The Second - 1pt

14:35 Exeter

The Harry Fry-trained REE OKKA (best price 9/4) developed into a smart hurdler last season, winning two of his four starts over hurdles and made a good impression in defeat when second on his chase debut at Aintree last time despite returning a beaten favourite. He looked the most likely winner throughout that contest in which his jumping was pretty good on the whole until he got pretty tired late on and was eventually caught on the run-in. However, that experience will have taught him a lot and the handicapper has only raised his mark a pound plus that latest effort was actually his first start in nine months. With improvement to come, and fitness now guaranteed,  Harry Fry’s charge makes the most appeal of those towards the top of the market here. 

The most interesting runner here is the returning MAKE ME A BELIEVER (best price 16/1), who developed into a good novice hurdler nearly two years ago and, if he’s retained his ability, he could reward each-way player at massive odds. He was last seen finishing an excellent third in a Grade Two at Warwick and makes his handicap/chase debut off a really handy mark of 134 plus he’s undergone wind surgery since. Fergus Gillard takes off three-pounds and this talented son of Presenting has always looked like a chaser in the making. It’ll be interesting to see what the market speaks of him come post-time so, at double-figure odds, he could be ready to run a big race if connections have him prepped to the tee ahead of this assignment. 

Ree Okka - 1pt
Make Me A Believer - 0.5pts e/w

14:55 Sandown

DAREBIN (best price 7/2) isn’t the force he once was but Gary Moore’s ten-year-old tends to save his best for this course-and-distance, especially this time of year, where his form in December at this course reads 34312. He won this race in 2020 off a thirteen-pounds higher mark and almost landed last year’s renewal when a one-length second to One True King off 113. He probably would have won without a bad mistake at the last fence when clear, as that knocked the stuffing out of him and he was headed on the run-in. 

He has ultimately struggled since but this race has clearly been his main target again and he sneaks into this from bottom-weight carrying just ten-stone two-pounds. Jamie Moore is likely to make full use of him again under an attacking ride again and his mount gets over a stone and upwards from the rest of the field and arrives on the back of a good third at Plumpton. Despite being three-pounds out of the weights, he has loads in his favour and looks set to make another bold bid in a race that he’s practically made his own in recent years. 

Darebin - 1pt

15:10 Exeter

DE YOUNG WARRIOR (best price 4/1) made a good start to his career over fences last season, winning his first two starts, including here on his chase debut’ where his jumping was perfect and he won with a bit in hand to defy large odds when i tipped tipped him in my column that day. He wasn’t disgraced when eighth of 18 in the Midlands Grand National when last spotted despite not jumping as well as he can do but he goes well fresh and looks well worth another try over a marathon distance with Tom O’Brien in the saddle. He has to shoulder top-weight but he’s the best horse in the race in my opinion and I think he’ll run a big race with track, ground and the distance all contributing factors within his credentials. 

De Young Warrior - 0.5pts e/w

15:30 Sandown

Neil Mulholland’s only runner on the card MOTHILL (best price 5/1) has a good chance here. The four-year-old clearly needed his first two starts in the UK to settle into his new surroundings but he’s not looked back since and should make a bold effort here. He travelled really well at Chepstow on heavy ground back in February and made the promising Marco Island pull out all the stops when beaten just a neck at the finish. 

He had subsequent winner Tango Tara held in third and then doubled his tally over timber with two wins on his next two starts, including in a class two event. He stepped up in grade at Cheltenham last time and handled the bigger occasion really well, finishing fourth of 19, beaten just five-lengths. He looked to be coming with a possible winning challenge, as he virtually got himself alongside the pacesetter until blundering the last hurdle which put him on the back-foot afterwards. He was still in front of Galahad Threepwood though and is fancied to confirm that form and take the spoils here.

Mothill - 0.5pts e/w