Falcon can produce flying finish

Veteran may swoop in Imperial Cup to win shot at £75,000 Cheltenham bonus

The phoney war is almost over. While the Festival does not start until Tuesday, its first big prize will be contested at Sandown this afternoon, when the Paddy Power Imperial Cup winner will become eligible for a £75,000 bonus if following up in any race at Cheltenham. The result is a suitably indigestible aperitif for punters preparing for next week's banquet.

Martin and then David Pipe are the only trainers to have won the bonus to date, and their stable had the carpet taken from under its feet when Hunterview missed the cut. He is replaced as favourite by Qaspal, who himself only crept into the race on 10st 3lb. Tony McCoy, whose lowest riding weight over the past year has been 10st 5lb, will presumably do without that second raisin for breakfast.

Since qualifying for a modest rating in novice hurdles, Qaspal has not come off the bridle in two handicap starts and it is impossible to know how much more he might have in hand. But he has been raised 14lb to meet better horses, while dropping back in distance on better ground. So while he could easily bolt up, his true odds must be pure guesswork.

Aather also remains unexposed but hinted at Cheltenham last time that he might prefer a sharper test, while Tocca Ferro needs to brush up his jumping to capitalise on a mark he will surely exceed in time. For all the more progressive types in the field, the veteran Tender Falcon (3.05) seems unfairly neglected at 33-1. The fact is that he remains pretty lightly raced over jumps, and posted a career best when only beaten a neck at Ascot last time, his furious finish suggesting he will be at home on the hill at Sandown.

Some lovely prospects tend to convene for the opener, among which Aberdale (2.0) will surely make giant strides after receiving a pretty indulgent education on his way to a first handicap rating.

Up at Wolverhampton, meanwhile, some decent sport reminds us that Flat racing on turf resumes very soon after the Festival. This weekend, moreover, both those outstanding American females, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra, make their reappearance with that big showdown in mind, in Arkansas on 9 April. The unbeaten Zenyatta will be conceding plenty of weight to her rivals at Santa Anita; Rachel Alexandra is opposed by just four in New Orleans.

Over here all eyes remain fixed upon Cheltenham. Binocular completed his remarkable resurrection yesterday when pleasing McCoy sufficiently in his work to be confirmed an intended runner in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle on Tuesday. With the choice of Nicky Henderson's other two runners, Barry Geraghty has stayed loyal to last year's winner, Punjabi, leaving Zaynar to Andrew Tinkler.

"He's a horse that's done it on the big stage," Geraghty reasoned. "More important still, he just gave me the most unbelievable feel at Kempton. I'm sure he is simply a spring horse. My decision should not reflect at all on Zaynar, as I'm sure he'll run a big race. And it's great Andrew rides; he deserves the chance on a well-fancied ride in a championship race."

Turf account: Chris McGrath

*Nap

Stormin Exit (2.40 Ayr)

Looks an improved horse for his new stable, a fluent winner switched to fences at Newcastle before losing momentum when hampered two out here last time – in the process looking ripe for a return to this longer trip.

*Next Best

Redford (2.15 Wolverhampton)

Has promised more than he has delivered so far but his new trainer sets him a test, switched to this surface round a bend, that looks sure to play to his strengths.

*One To Watch

Miss Saffron (Mrs S Gardner) had no chance against a thriving rival at Wincanton on Thursday but showed why she was well backed for her handicap debut by beating the rest readily.

*Where The Money's Going

William Hill halved Tocca Ferro from 16-1 to 8-1 for the Paddy Power Imperial Cup today.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn