Cheltenham Festival: Encore looks ready to earn some applause in warm-up


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The Independent Online

Those looking for a little extra financial ammo to go to war with at Cheltenham next week might be irresistibly drawn to the familiar green and gold silks carried by Regal Encore in the Imperial Cup Hurdle at Sandown this afternoon.

Ridden by AP McCoy for owner JP McManus, both revving up for their own Festival spins, attractively weighted and seemingly laid out for the race – it’s almost too good to be true.

Which, of course, more often than not in these circumstances, it is. As every punter learns early and painfully, there is no such thing as a good thing.

But let’s be positive. Regal Encore looked a horse worth following when runner-up in last year’s Champion Bumper and he remains so, even after getting turned over at long odds-on in a minor contest at Hexham last time – although we had to wait for that winner, Seeyouatmidnight, to win twice more at much higher grades to put that defeat into perspective.

Proven in the hurly-burly, a sound jumper and sure to be well suited by this testing two miles, Regal Encore (3.15, Sandown) does indeed appear to have much in his favour. Keep an eye out for him  again at Cheltenham if he triumphs today, which he will need to if he is to make the  cut for one of the Festival handicaps.

McCoy and McManus may already have made their presence felt with Gone Too Far, another who could be a step in front of the handicapper in the EBF Hurdle Final. But though shaping encouragingly at Doncaster recently following a winter break, Gone Too Far does not yet convince with his jumping and he won’t get away with being slipshod in a hugely competitive contest.

Several front-runners will ensure a true test of stamina and this should help David Pipe’s Knight Of Noir (2.05 Sandown), who gave the impression he’s a young horse going places when scooting up at Wincanton last time.

One of those places might even be Cheltenham next week; he is currently on offer at 16-1 (with a run) for both the Coral Hurdle on Wednesday and the Martin Pipe Hurdle, run in honour of the trainer’s father, on Friday.

An anonymous punter will become a millionaire if he can find the winner of the EBF Handicap Hurdle at Sandown today.

The 60-year-old father-of-three from Nuneaton won £411,959 on last Saturday’s Scoop6 for a £2 stake and will collect a bonus of £878,564 if he picks right again to bring his total winnings to £1,290,523, one of the biggest ever wins in betting shop history.