Horses at opposite ends of their careers are centre stage at Sandown on Saturday and while the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at 2.25pm (all times GMT) should be a useful pointer towards the Cheltenham Festival in March, the final of the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase Series offers weekend punters a more immediate chance of a decent payout.
Aso, second in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in 2019 and a runner in the Gold Cup 10 months ago, is an obvious favourite, not least as his form behind Blaklion at Haydock in December was franked when the winner went in again last week.
In the debit column, though, Venetia Williams’s gelding is giving at least 9lb to the field and has done all his winning over fences at around two-and-a-half miles. A price around 11-4 looks too short and Indy Five (3.00) could be the best of several each-way alternatives at the other end of the weights at around 12-1.
David Dennis’s 12-year-old is 1lb out of the handicap but has been competitive off higher marks in the past and was a comfortable winner in a useful time at Doncaster in December. He appreciated a return to front-running tactics there and should go well at a track where it often pays to be up with the pace.
Wincanton 1.30: He did not beat a strong field but Planned Paradise had plenty to spare on his handicap debut at Newcastle last time and his time was decent in the circumstances.
Sandown 1.50: Gunsight Ridge gave L’Homme Presse, a subsequent Grade Two winner, a serious race until the run-in at Exeter in December and is just 3lb higher here.
Wincanton 2.05: A closely-handicapped field for the most part but Belle De Manech is the obvious candidate to improve having made a smooth switch to chasing at this track in December.
Sandown 2.25: The visual impression of Constitution Hill’s successful hurdling debut over course and distance last time was backed up by the clock and it will be a big disappointment if the current second-favourite for the Supreme Novice Hurdle cannot justify his short price here.
Wincanton 2.40: Getalead failed to land a four-timer at Taunton last time but was dropping back slightly in distance and ran as though he could still be competitive off his current mark over this trip.
Wincanton 3.15: Occasional flashes of talent have been followed by disappointment for much of Mont Des Avaloir’s stop-start career, but few trainers can get one ready first time up like Paul Nicholls and he could get off the mark over fences at the fifth attempt here.
Sandown 3.35: There was not much depth behind the winner when Hermes Boy won at Exeter in December but he had something in hand and an opening mark of 124 looks more than fair.