Patroite game enough for Imperial challenge

Steve Hughes previews Sandown’s Imperial Cup card on Saturday

We have the usual pre-Cheltenham fixture at Sandown to be run under very testing conditions. As usual the Imperial Cup is the highlight on the card and I have an each-way suggestion for the race.

Sandown 1.50: Indian Hawk & Jabulani

The EBF Final always throws up a competitive field of budding chasers and I am taking two against the field.

Indian Hawk looks just about the class of the field having won three of his last four starts, his one defeat coming in graded company at Doncaster where the 3m looked too far. However he has looked a class above in his two other races at around 2m4f including on very soft ground at Ludlow. He was far too good for Weebill at Warwick last time and whilst he does have a big weight to carry, there is only a stone’s differential between him and the bottom horse which is not overly taxing.

Jabulani looks interesting at a bigger price. He performed with credit when placed at Cheltenham in the autumn and then won a qualifier for this race with ease at Lingfield with the fancied First Assignment well held – and he meets that rival on favourable terms today. Although well beaten in his last two starts in handicaps, they were against experienced rivals in high class company and he can leave those runnings behind against fellow novices today.

Sandown 2.25: Le Patriote

A pair of cheekpieces appeared to be the making of Le Patriote at Ascot last month and if the headgear works as well today he looks to have the right profile for the Imperial Cup.

A strong traveller he looks perfectly suited to the demands of a big field handicap and that looked the case at Ascot, albeit over 3m further than today. On his two previous starts in Britain he had again travelled smoothly only to find little off the bridle. However he found plenty with the headgear on at Ascot, albeit he did wander around in front.

I think he is a pretty classy horse and the presence of Call Me Lord in the field keeps the weights compressed and means he has a lovely weight of just 10-9 to carry today and will hopefully give jockey Sam Twiston-Davies a nice boost ahead of the Festival.

Sandown 3.35: Tanit River

A good winner over course and distance last time, Tanit River can follow up under similar soft ground conditions today.

Like many of Tim Vaughan’s string the 8yo does seem a bit hit and miss, but has always shown talent and has a solid 25% strike rate throughout his career. He had served notice his time was near when a fair fifth in the Mandarin at Newbury in December where he did not quite seem to last home over 3m2f in bottomless ground.

Given 2f less and slightly less taxing going here last time, he was always travelling well again, but this time kept going through the line to see off Aubusson by 3l. A 5lb rise looks fair enough and this is not the strongest race of its type for Sandown.

Sandown 4.10: The Last But One

Of little account over hurdles, The Last But One has jumped brilliantly for a novice in winning two from two over the bigger obstacles.

He had plenty in hand at Musselburgh when winning there last month by 7l, making most of the running and then won again at Fontwell most recently, when more patient tactics were employed. I think he had more in hand than the 3l margin suggests and if anything still displayed signs of greenness that will be ironed out with more experience.

He does have softer ground to face today, but on his racecourse debut when with Gordon Elliott he did finish second in a heavy ground Limerick bumper so hopefully that will be no barrier to success today.

Recommended bets:

0.75pts each-way – Indian Hawk – 1.50 Sandown – 9/1 general

0.5pts each-way – Jabulani – 1.50 Sandown – 40/1 general

1pt each-way – Le Patriote – 2.25 Sandown – 9/1 Bet365, William Hill

1pt win – Tanit River – 3.35 Sandown – 7/2 Betfred, Totesport

1.5pts win – The Last But One – 4.10 Sandown – 7/4 Betfred, Totesport

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