1-20 PERTEMPS NETWORK HANDICAP HURDLE – 2 M 5 F 110 YDS
Ruacana just lacked the pace to get to Bivouac at Huntingdon last time and it is of little surprise to see John Ferguson up him in trip this afternoon. That was a decent run following a near seven month layoff and with Aiden Coleman taking the ride for only the second time, they have to be considered despite giving weight away all around. This six year old handles underfoot conditions well and it is unlikely that we have seen the best of him yet.
Sir Mangan was conceding three pounds to Ron’s Dream when finishing second at Cheltenham last time. This step back in grade will do him no harm and he looks capable going well back in this company and looks to chief danger. Foxcub was a wide margin winner at Bangor last month but he tends to reserve his best for the welsh circuit. Doctor Harper is clearly a talented sort and it is notable that David Pipe has brought him back despite an eighteen month absence. He is best watched this time around but could easily sneak a place.
Ruacana won at trips of up to a mile and a half on the flat so this trip should be well within his grasp over obstacles. The yard continue to be in good form and this six year old is likely to make his presence known.
1-40 BETFRED BECHER HANDICAP CHASE (GRADE 3) – 3 M 1 F 188 YDS
No Planning looks to be coming to the boil just at the right time and now that he is in peak physical condition, he can have a say in the outcome here. He has dropped to a winnable looking mark and his run at Haydock last time suggested that he was on his way back into form. Sean Quinlan has partnered the eight year old to victory in the past and now takes the ride for the fourth time in succession. Soft ground shouldn’t be an issue for this son of Kayf Tara and he has to be high on any shortlist this afternoon.
Goonyella heads the Irish challenge and will come on in leaps and bounds for his recent reappearance at Cork. He unseated his rider in this same contest last year and connections will be hoping that the combination remains intact this time around. A subsequent win in the Midlands Grand National and good second in the Scottish Grand National make him of obvious interest here and he looks a big threat. Pineau De Re returns to the scene of his greatest success and he too suggested that he was coming back to himself with a fine second at Sandown last time. Well handicapped on the best of his old form he is capable of making the frame once again.
No Planning has shown that he handles flattish tracks in the past having won at the likes of Haydock and Wetherby. Sue Smith has her runners in excellent shape and he cannot be dismissed in a wide open handicap.
3-00 BETFAIR TINGLE CREEK CHASE (GRADE 1) – 1 M 7 F 119 YDS
Special Tiara ought to get his own way out in front here now that Un De Sceaux misses the race. He was friendless in the market at Navan on his seasonal return and it was easy to see why when he ended up getting beaten almost fifty lengths by the talented Hidden Cyclone. Barry Geraghty wasn’t too hard on him when their chance had gone and he ought to strip a lot fitter this afternoon.
Vibrato Valtat made a winning return to action when landing the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last month. That is often a good stepping stone to this race and this improving six year old looks the biggest danger to Henry De Bromhead’s charge. Paul Nicholls bids for an unbelievable tenth win in this race since 1999 and they command utmost respect. It is of note that JP McManus has let Barry Geraghty off Mr Mole in order to ride Simonsig. He was a bit disappointing when appearing to find relatively little when up against stablemate Bob’s Worth last time. If he comes right back to his best he would be a massive threat but that is going to take a massive leap of faith.
Special Tiara has already beaten most of these before including Mr Mole, Vibrato Valtat and Somersby and it wouldn’t be the biggest of shocks to see him confirm that form this afternoon now that he is reunited with Noel Fehily and should be fully race-fit.
SATURDAY 1-20 SANDOWN RUACANA
SATURDAY 1-40 AINTREE NO PLANNING (E/W)
SATURDAY 3-00 SANDOWN SPECIAL TIARA