The absence of Sprinter Sacre from today’s Tingle Creek at Sandown, though a disappointment to those impatient for another demonstration of his talent and superiority, does at least give the best of the rest in the two-mile chase division a rare chance of glory.
It is hoped that jump racing’s equivalent to Frankel will be fit and well to resume his tour of victory parades at Ascot next month, but – perhaps for one time only – connections of horses like Sire de Grugy are rubbing their hands at the thought of collecting one of the most prestigious races in the calendar.
Sire de Grugy (3.0, Sandown) was beaten fair and square by Captain Conan around this time last year when both were novices, but there is strong evidence that the former has made better progress since. Gary Moore’s speedy seven-year-old seems a good proposition going right-handed and his form on good ground should be good enough for this.
On a splendid supporting card, former top class hurdler, Grandouet (1.50, Sandown), can take care of decent opposition in the Henry V111 Novices’ Chase, while Urbain De Sivola (2.25, Sandown) and Buddy Bolero (3.35, Sandown) stand out in the televised handicaps.
The Becher Chase, run over the Grand National fences, is looked upon as a trial for the main event at Aintree, but is a most worthwhile prize in its own right.
Across The Bay (2.05, Aintree) is very interesting. Trained by Donald McCain and therefore already granted an edge on the Liverpool stage, this bold-jumping nine-year-old led the field for much of the way in the National last spring before his stamina gave out and might well last home over this shorter distance.
The Willie Mullins-trained pair, On His Own and Vesper Bell, are significant threats, as is Gullible Gordon, whose two creditable efforts last year when conditions were not ideal entitle him to more respect than odds of around 20-1 suggest.
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