12:00 Sandown

AUTHORISED SPEED can get favourite backers off to a flyer in the opener here. Gary Moore’s charge fared best of the British when fifth in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival and scored impressively on his hurdles debut on his reappearance just over two weeks ago. He has to contend with a five-pounds penalty but he looks poised to make his mark in graded company in this sphere at some point this season and he should prove extremely hard to beat in this race. 

12:35 Sandown

PLENTY OF TIME could be the surprise package in this race. She ran a good race when second on her hurdles debut to subsequent winner Abuffalosoldier before easily going one better next time. She’s since joined Gay Kelleway and Harry Cobden has been booked to ride, who has been in great form already this year. I am astonished she’s not trading a bit shorter in the betting, as there’s no doubt she would be if she were trained by one of the more notable yards, so it’s hard not to envisage her going well here. 

WEST BALBOA returned a comfortable winner on his hurdles debut at Warwick and matched that form when second to Stage Star in a Grade One at Newbury next time. I know we haven’t seen her since but she’s clearly been let in here lightly on handicap debut off a mark of 127 and should benefit for the drop in distance. It is possible she will improve plenty for the run but either way, it’s hard to see her out of the frame here against mostly-exposed opposition with the exception of Plenty Of Time, who’s my other choice in the race. 

13:10 Sandown

CALL ME LORD ended a near three-year losing spell when winning at Kempton last time and while this race is slightly tougher, he’s well-handicapped based on his peak form. This nine-year-old has a great record at this course with figures reading 112132363 and he remains unexposed over three-miles. A four pounds rise for that latest success is offset by his rider’s seven-pounds valuable claim and the soft ground will hold no fears. He could make a bold effort to defend his good record here. 

BRIDGE NORTH has won two of his five starts this year and stayed on stoutly to finish fifth in a Grade One at Aintree back in April. He wasn’t suited to the steady pace on his return last time over the intermediate trip but the return to this longer distance will suit a lot better and he should improve fitness-wise for that latest start too, which was his first outing after six months off, while trainer Henry Daly has his team in good order of late. That positive bodes well for this six-year-old’s chances and there’s a good chance he’ll be competitive here. 

13:45 Sandown

He won’t be much of a price but it was hard not to be impressed with the way JONBON made a successful chase debut at Warwick last month, where his jumping was good as he strolled home to a seven-length success over the well-regarded Monmiral. His only career defeat came at the hands of stablemate Constitution Hill, who is destined for greatness amongst the two-mile hurdle division this season. 

This brother to the high-class Douvan was one of the leading novice hurdles of last season in which he completed his campaign with success in a Grade One at Aintree. His latest chase debut earned him early favouritism for the Arkle at next year’s Cheltenham Festival and it would come as a huge surprise if any of his opponents, including Boothill, were to lower his colours here. 

14:20 Sandown

Despite a lot of in-form opponents lining up for this competitive event, including a couple of last-time-out winners, Harry Fry’s LOVE ENVOI sets a clear standard based on last season’s hurdles form, where she won six of her seven starts and ran a very tidy race when runner-up in a Grade One in Ireland on her final start of the campaign behind Brandy Love and that piece of form is the best form on offer here. 

She had previously won a Grade Two at this course in February and then claimed another victory at that same level next time at the Cheltenham Festival. An opening handicap debut mark of 139 looks fair and she gets her favoured soft ground too so, with a lot more to come this season, this highly-talented six-year-old is strong fancied to make another successful reappearance. 

14:55 Sandown

Nicky Henderson’s SHISHKIN had carried all before him over fences and over hurdles until disaster struck when pulled up in the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival having been sent off odds-on favourite to win at the Festival for the third consecutive year and make it eight-from-eight in this sphere. However, it was clear that he didn’t handle the ground on the day, as he never travelled from the get-go and a rare bone condition is what also contributed to his rare-blip in that race, so that run is excused. 

Besides this performance though, he was unbeaten in seven starts over fences and under rules in all completed starts and showcased his class when beating last year’s winner of this race, Greaneteen, by ten lengths in the Desert Orchid Chase. He is the best horse in this race on the figures, so while he’s surprisingly yet to run at this course before, which is something to bear in mind, this two-time Cheltenham Festival winner remains the one to beat. He should add another Grade One to his CV if Nicky has him back to something near his best which is likely. 

The market, however, might have underestimated the chances of the Alan King-trained EDWARDSTONE though, who was the leading novice chaser last season due to five consecutive victories, including in a pair of Grade One events, such as on this card twelve months ago (recorded quicker time than the Tingle Creek winner) before winning the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival in good style

Alan King’s charge returned a beaten favourite at Aintree when only second to Gentlemen De Mee but he had a hard season and his record fresh is decent, so a break will have helped. He will be suited to a strong-pace that could be on offer and has the course form in the book, so I don’t think he’s got as much to find with the favourite despite the ratings suggesting otherwise and could give the favourite most to think about.