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Bonus hunters are out in force at Sandown on Saturday. The winner of the feature race, the Sunderlands Imperial Handicap Hurdle, can collect an extra £60,000 on top of the prize money if the horse goes on to win any race at Cheltenham next week. Martin Pipe has scooped that dividend twice, with Olympian in 1993 and Blowing Wind in 1998.
Pipe's intent could hardly be clearer. He was responsible for fifteen of the forty-two entries at the five-day declaration stage and having won three of the last seven renewals it would take a brave man to say the fourteen-time champion trainer won't do it again.
His best entry of the three that made the final cut is Medison. He won a decent race at Ludlow nine days ago but will have to step up considerably on that bare form to play a role here, let alone win one of Cheltenham's ultra-competitive races. Still, stable jockey Timmy Murphy has plumped for him which is well worth noting.
A horse with more solid claims already in the book is Far Pavilions. This six-year old gelding is running from a very decent handicap mark of 129. Two seasons ago as a novice he was good enough to give four pounds and a beating to Crystal D'Ainay, now running from 160 and second favourite for the Ladbroke's World Hurdle next Thursday at Cheltenham. Far Pavilions won last time out at Musselburgh in the style of a horse still on the upgrade.
In the mares' Bumper, Heltornic is worth a small bet. This full sister to decent Glenmoss Tara won at Fakenham in good style, eleven lengths clear of her field. Mambo has been pulled up on his last two starts but excuses can be made for him. He should be good enough to win the Sunderlands Novices' Chase if anything like back to his best.
3:25 Sandown Far Pavilions (win)
4:00 Sandown Heltornic (win)
4:30 Sandown Mambo (win)