While two big-name trainers have been mopping up the prizes in Ireland, smaller yards still have half a chance in the major handicaps in Britain. Rebecca Curtis caused a shock in last weekend’s Scottish National and Mark Bradstock could get his fifth winner of the season in Sandown’s Bet365 Gold Cup, which brings down the curtain on the season on Saturday.
Step Back (3.35) is the beast in question and, if you’ve never heard of him, this is entirely forgiveable, as he has been sailing some way below most radars. An experienced pointer, he was having just his second run under rules when he went well for a long way in last year’s Albert Bartlett Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival at 100-1.
Three runs over fences this term have predictably shown him in a better light and he hammered his rivals at Fakenham last month, despite jumping to the right. An athletic type and a nice jumper, he has scope to be well ahead of his rating and is attracting support at 12-1.
Blaklion looks high in the weights and does not appeal after a couple of poor experiences in his most recent starts. Present Man might return to his Badger Ales-winning form in these conditions and that would make him dangerous. Rock The Kasbah did not like heavy going last time and may do better here.
1.50 Sandown Philip Hobbs is finally hitting his stride as the season ends and might be able to nick a bit of prize money on this card. His Show On The Road has been running on much worse ground in recent months, including when scoring easily at Exeter last time, but has form on a better surface and could still be ahead of the handicapper.
2.05 Haydock Sharper for his return last weekend and from a stable in form, Burnt Sugar is high in the weights but goes well on soft ground.
2.25 Sandown Top Notch could possibly do with a softer surface and was disappointing in a better race last time but this looks a good opportunity. Giving 6lb to Double Shuffle could be tricky but that rival was a long way below his best a fortnight ago.
2.45 Leicester Ryan Moore is an encouraging booking for Jallota, who often races at a higher level than this. He has often done well on soggy ground, including when second in a Group Three race at an early stage of last season.
3.00 Sandown End-of-season form can be tricky but this is just Altior’s third run of the season, so he ought to be capable of showing something like his best and that would be easily enough.