Great Britain & Ireland Preview: Spot Plays April 23

April 21st, 2022

Britain’s jumps racing season is a year-round business, but in terms of high-level racing it effectively ends on Saturday with the Sandown meet. Though there is good quality jumps racing in Ireland throughout the summer, in Britain there’s only a handful of jumping stakes races after this weekend until October.

Sandown in April usually marks a transition of sorts between the jumps and flat seasons. In previous years the track staged flat and jumps races on the same day – a rarity in Britain – but nowadays, the flat races are on Friday and the jumps finale on Saturday.

It’s not an average day either. The highlight of the day at Sandown is the Gold Cup Handicap Chase (G3), one of Britain’s richest handicap races, while the Celebration Chase (G1) is one of the best races for two-mile chasers in the country.

Here are some spot plays to look at for the biggest races of the day.

Race 1: Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle, two miles, open hurdlers

A field of 13 has been declared for this rich handicap hurdle for novices, and features some novices not far off the best in the country. #1 Knappers Hill will be well favored after winning nicely at Newton Abbot last start; earlier this season he was third to Jonbon in the Howden Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle (G2). #2 Doctor Parnassus also deserves attention after winning both his starts prior to finishing seventh in the Triumph Hurdle (G1) at Cheltenham. However, the one to watch may be #3 Head Law; he has won his last three, improving every start despite going up in the weights, and may well have more improvement in him.

  • $10 win/$20 show: #3 Head Law
  • $1 exacta box: 1, 2, 3, 4

Race 2: Oaksey Chase (G2), 2 13/16 miles, open steeplechasers

Late withdrawals mean just four horses are left in this race at the slightly unconventional distance of 2 13/16 miles. Form from previous editions of this race is relevant, suggesting last year’s runner-up #1 Mister Fisher is worth looking at even though his recent form isn’t sparkling. The best of the rest might be #2 Nuts Well, who drops in class after taking on Clan Des Obeaux at Aintree last start.

  • $20 win: #1 Mister Fisher
  • $5 exacta: 1, 2

Race 3: Celebration Chase (G1), 1 15/16 miles, open steeplechasers

Though missing some of the biggest names in two-mile steeplechasing, this has still drawn a handy field of five. Last year’s winner #1 Greaneteen didn’t run to his best last start but that was on very wet ground and he should appreciate a better surface here. #2 Nube Negra, fourth to Greaneteen in the Tingle Creek here Dec. 4, and Champion Chase third #4 Sceau Royal should go well but Greaneteen looks the one.

  • $20 win: #1 Greaneteen

Race 4: Gold Cup Handicap Chase (G3), 3 5/8 miles, open steeplechasers

As is usually the case, this is a difficult one to pick. The trio which fought out last year’s eventful finish are back; #5 Enrilo was first past the post, but was relegated to third after interfering with third-place finisher #4 Kitty’s Light, resulting in her promotion to second and #2 Potterman being promoted to first. All are in some form, with Kitty’s Light in the best shape after finishing second in the Scottish Grand National to stablemate #1 Win My Wings. The latter was a spectacularly easy winner at Ayr, but is 19 pounds worse off at the weights with Kitty’s Light.

Others worth a look are two improvers, #9 Flegmatik and #14 Musical Slave, and don't be surprised if #10 Cap Du Nord bounces back from his Aintree effort.

  • $10 win/$20 show: #4 Kitty’s Light
  • $2 exacta box: 1, 2, 4, 5, 9

Race 5: Select Hurdle (G2), 2 11/16 miles, open hurdlers

Just four horses are left in this event. It looks to be a contest between the proven #1 McFabulous, who has run well this season without hitting the heights of 2020-21, and the improvers, #3 Scaramanga and #4 Indefatigable.

Scaramanga spent the summer racing on the flat and hasn't raced over hurdles since this meet last year, where he won a handicap. He hasn't raced in any way since October but he comes from a stable which is adept at having its runners ready after long breaks.

However, I'm going for Indefatigable. She was going very well in the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham before falling with two to go, and if she gets around she can be right in the finish.

  • $20 win: #4 Indefatigable