We had a weekend to remember last week at Newbury with our two selections both running crackers. Houblon des Obeaux was outpaced and didn’t jump fluently, but he stayed on dourly for a place. Our 16/1 each way NAP San Benedeto was given a peach of a ride by Nick Schofield and won easily. Sandown is the venue for a super card of action on Saturday and you can check out Dave Stevos’ Sandown Imperial Cup tip below.…
Sandown Imperial Cup Tip: 2.25 Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
The big race of the day on Saturday is the Imperial Cup at Sandown. This 2 mile handicap hurdle has attracted a field of 15 runners, and some hold entries for the Cheltenham festival. One horse that hasn’t got an entry next week is Our Merlin. Despite being a few pounds out of the handicap, he could make a bold bid in this.
This 7yo son of Pasternak is in the care of a very shrewd operator in Robert Walford. He may have only had 1 winner from 11 runners at Sandown, but he has also had 5 top four finishes. That is a frame hitting strike rate of almost 55%, and Our Merlin has run big on both previous visits to this track.
Solid Course Form
He was 9L behind today’s favourite Monsieur Lecoq here off 128 in January on his penultimate start. On the face of it, he looks to face a tough task to turn that form around, but he was conceding weight that day. They are off level weights here as they are both out of the handicap, although Chester Williams will claim 7lb off Monsieur Lecoq.
Our Merlin was a gallant 2nd on his only other run at Sandown off a mark of 123. He was beaten just over 3l by Call Me Lord, who was winning off 143. He went on to get within a neck of the winner in this race off 152 next time out. That horse now has a rating of 160 over hurdles. They will meet again here and with a 6lb swing in the weights, Our Merlin could get a lot closer to that rival.
The form of Our Merlin’s run at Cheltenham in January last year has worked out very well too. He only 3L behind Remiluc off 127 (getting 5lb) and Remiluc went on to be 2nd in the County Hurdle off 5lb higher. Huntsman’s Son was 2nd that day and he was 4th in this race on his next outing off a 2lb higher mark.
All things considered, Our Merlin looks a pretty big price at odds of 33/1. He has course form in the book, he carries no weight and his trainer has a decent record at Sandown. Walford had a winner during the week so his string is in good shape. This may well have been Our Merlin’s target for some time, and at 33/1 he looks worth chancing each way.
SANDOWN IMPERIAL CUP TIP: OUR MERLIN E/W @ 33/1 (5 PLACES BETVICTOR)