It’s Tolworth Hurdle Day at Sandown Park this Saturday, but while we’re all interested to see how well Constitution Hill goes and whether he can be beaten, the betting value lies elsewhere.
Our bets come from Sandown, Lingfield and Kempton in what is tantamount to a Surrey Special – who said we don’t move racing around the country enough, eh? We begin with a front-runner who can hopefully gallop the finish out of his rivals.
1.50 Sandown (Handicap Chase) – NUMITOR
Heather Main’s Numitor is terrific when being allowed to stride out in front and it’s hoped the grey can get back to winning ways by rider Tom Scudamore using that tactic this weekend.
Third around Sandown on heavy ground last February, Numitor began this season with an all the way success at Wetherby, beating a horse on a hat-trick into fifth with the third and fourth both coming out to win subsequently.
That’s strong form and he nearly followed it up at Newbury six weeks ago. Having got to the front early, he wasn’t allowed to lead the rest of the way and ultimately battled on valiantly for second place.
If he can get back to the front today and hold that position, which looks likely, he could be too strong for this field. He’s now 7lbs higher-rated than at Wetherby, which shouldn’t trouble him too much as he can continue to improve.
The main dangers appear to be likely favourite Gunsight Ridge and Up The Straight, who looks to be fair value in the market.
2.20 Lingfield (Handicap) – CHANCE
Skipping across to Lingfield for their all-weather Flat card, this mile-and-a-quarter handicap looks good quality. Staged at Class 2 level and worth £10,000 to the winner, the race has attracted just five horses and you’d have to give every one of them a chance on paper.
There is one standout for me though, and that’s the Crisford’s runner Chance. A six-year-old now but arguably still improving, Chance comes into this as a last-time-out winner having been successful over a mile at Kempton.
He only just got there by a neck that day, but in truth he had a little something in hand. Based on his old turf form, I’d say there’s a good few pounds worth of improvement still to come from him and these racing conditions should prove to be ideal.
His main challenger in the market is Alexander James who also rates as the chief danger to the selection, while Headingley, Habit Rouge and Deal A Dollar were all hard to separate and can all challenge the big two at various points in the race.
3.30 Lingfield (Handicap) – SEA OF CHARM
It’s a very rare day when I look to have a bet in a Class 6 race on the all-weather, but this event is fascinating for one reason and the reason is indeed the selection, Sea Of Charm.
Harry Dunlop’s four-year-old filly had raced ten times in her career up to November with no real inkling that she’d be anything better than a mid-50’s horse, give or take. But, over this course and distance she then routed her field in her 11th race, scoring very easily and being kindly treated in the final 100 yards or so.
That was off a mark of only 54 and she’s off 67 now, but she was already going the right way before being sent into battle in the Listed Quebec Stakes in December, again over this track and trip.
In that race she was up against the likes of Dubai Warrior, Felix and Regal Reality, rated 108-110. She was dragged along by those better types admittedly, but ran a blinder in sixth at 200/1, ultimately beaten just six lengths and running to a mark closer to 90.
Now, I don’t expect her to put up a 90 performance this time. What that run showed us though is that she is much better than a 67 filly, it will have got her in peak condition and she must be worth backing now in such lowly company. Just for good measure; jockey George Rooke can now claim his 3lbs again, something he was denied in the Listed race.
3.35 Sandown (Handicap Hurdle) – MACK THE MAN
Closing the Tolworth Hurdle card at Sandown is this Class 2, two-mile handicap hurdle and it’s one in which Jane Williams’ Hermes Boy has been popular all week.
It’s easy to see why. The five-year-old was a decent winner of a novice hurdle at Exeter back in early December and has been handed a mark of 124, not too harsh you would think. The form of that novice race is a little in and out however and there’s definitely more quality in the profile of Mack The Man.
Evan Williams’ eight-year-old gelding still has plenty to give having had only 14 career races, indeed he is a last time out winner.
He was close to winning the Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle when being brought down at the last two years ago off today’s mark of 130. Before that, he beat Protektorat and Song For Someone over this course and distance.
Having taken some retrograde action for a while, he’s now back on form having began this season with a handicap win at Exeter. He’s been given eight weeks to recover and can now reach a new level under jockey Adam Wedge. Hermes Boy and Volkovka were next on the list.
6.45 Kempton (Conditions Stakes) – LORD OF THE LODGE
Edraak is bound to be hugely popular after a recent course win for Michael Appleby, but he has to go back to six furlongs now and could be a little vulnerable.
Higher rated by 3lbs, in good form and with superior speed figures is Lord Of The Lodge and he may be better value for the win. He too has won most recently over seven furlongs, but just held on when doing so with this six looking right up his street.
Fernando Rah is a silly early price and can get involved, while Fivethousandtoone and Apollo One have work to do to.