The Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Grand National, the Betfred (née Whitbread) Gold Cup – these races are the Holy Trinity of late season staying chases in the UK. In Ireland this week the joyously uproarious Punchestown Festival has erupted once more. The flat racing season has started, but the 2000 Guineas in a fortnight’s time is the proper juncture to register this.
The three tips on Saturday are in the three jump races on Sandown’s excellent mixed card. The Betfred Gold Cup Chase has attracted a huge field and with £160,000 up for grabs so it should. The early money flooded in for two horses, Ferdy Murphy’s You’re Special and Irish Grand National winner Point Barrow.
Point Barrow has been pulled out at the overnight stage because of concerns over the fast ground, reminding punters once more of the dangers of ante-post betting. The ground won’t inconvenience You’re Special, he can still be backed each-way and holds a favourite’s chance.
However, if you are feeling a little more adventurous, Liberthine is the horse to back. This classy mare is still on the upgrade and though she ran a little flat at Cheltenham in March she was bang on form when obliging in the Topham over the Grand National fences (advised here at 16/1). The slight concern is that she is untested at this extreme distance, but the good ground should ensure that her stamina holds out.
In the Betfred Million Handicap another Nicky Henderson inmate, Herakles, stands out. In a poor renewal of the Betfred Celebration Chase Dempsey can show that when connections sent him to the Queen Mother at Cheltenham they were not tilting at windmills. His overall level of form just shades that of decent novice Nyrche. For flat fans Primary catches the eye in the Classic trial.
2:10 Sandown Herakles (win)
2:40 Sandown Dempsey (win)
3:20 Sandown Liberthine (each-way)