Arnaud offers a cup chance
It is rather like preparing for a bout with one Klitschko brother by sparring with the other. Certainly, the Paddy Power Imperial Cup at Sandown tomorrow represents a genuine aperitif to Cheltenham – not just for the winner, who will receive a £75,000 bonus if following up at the Festival, but also for punters, who get an alarming foretaste of the handicaps they must solve next week.
Their first choice is between some unexposed but inexperienced novices, or rivals with less potential but perhaps better equipped for this kind of hurly-burly.
A chance is taken on Arnaud (3.15), who ran a cracker when a close fifth at 50-1 in the Fred Winter at the Festival last year – the only time in his career he has had a big field and strong gallop. He has since been pottering around in small fields and pretty smart company back in Ireland, and will have been reliably primed by his trainer.
Barrakilla (2.05) can likewise only be a wary pick against so many other improvers in the EBF Final, but the rapid advent of a new Flat season after the Festival awakens interest in Strictly Silver (2.55) in the William Hill Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton.
The David Pipe-trained Grands Crus has been ruled out of the Festival after an unsatisfactory scope.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Majestic Bull (4.15 Chepstow)
Shariyan (4.00 Ayr)
Latest in Sport
Sky Sports and BT Sport announce Premier League live matches for 2015/16 with Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in action
Football kits 2015/16: The good, the bad and the downright worst new shirts from around the world for next season
Sergio Ramos to Manchester United: Transfer news live - Paul Pogba and Raheem Sterling to Manchester City, Lukas Podolski to leave Arsenal
Chelsea 2015/16 home shirt leaked again as new picture appears online
Wimbledon 2015: 'Heather Watson deserved to win the match,' concedes world No 1 Serena Williams after gruelling contest
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Baby rescued 1km out to sea after parents forgot about her
- 5 Greek debt crisis: The photograph that conveys the despair of Greece's elderly
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...