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Horse Racing

Sandown Park – Saturday 12th March

Saturday 12th March 13:15

WhichBookie racing analyst Will Smith provides a preview of Sandown Park's Paddy Power Imperial Cup day meeting on Saturday 12th March

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Bookie Selection Best Odds Market Bet
Malakahna 4/14/1 E/W (2 places 1/4)
13.15 Sandown Park
Place BetPlace Bet
Thunder Rock 11/211/2 E/W (5 places 1/5)
13.50 Sandown Park
Place BetPlace Bet
Grisbi De Berce 22/122/1 E/W (6 places 1/5)
14.25 Sandown Park
Place BetPlace Bet

Date of Tips: 11/03/2022

Disclaimer The odds for these selections were correct at the time of publishing (21:08 11/03/2022) but may have changed since. Please check the latest price before placing your bet.

The calm before the storm…

Not a bit of it! Just the small matter of the EBF Final and the Imperial Cup at Sandown Park on Saturday to sort out before all eyes turn Cheltenham way. 17 runners in the EBF Final and 22 runners in the Imperial Cup – simple.

Before those two cavalry charges though, is the Paddy Power Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at 1.15 at Sandown Park on Saturday, and perhaps the likeliest chance of a winner from this Saturday column. It is officially a 0-125 handicap and can often be a classy and competitive affair, as many trainers treat it as something of a Boodles Fred Winter consolation race.

However, with just the seven runners and the top weight being rated just 115, that is not the case this year. That top weight is the Ian Williams-trained filly Malakahna, who has much the best form on offer, and yet hasn’t opened as favourite, and can be backed at 4/1 each-way with Paddy Power.

An impressive winner of her hurdle debut, Malakahna has since run with real credit in a couple of deep listed races at Aintree and Musselburgh, while in between those two listed affairs she chased home a good horse here at Sandown Park on heavy ground. There is 4-6mm of rain forecast in Esher, and that will certainly be no negative to her chances.

Interestingly, Malahkahna ran the final circuit of that juvenile hurdle here behind Moulins Clermont in a virtually identical time to the 144-rated 6-year-old Martello Sky did in winning the listed mares’ hurdle 35 minutes later. For all that Martello Sky had to run ½ mile further, it is still quite a striking time comparison, that sees the 115-rated Malahkahna in a very good light in relation to the opposition she meets at 1.15 on Saturday.

Hasty Parisian and Langafel are solid if unspectacular, and I strongly believe Malakahna should be favourite, so taking the early 4/1 each-way with Paddy Power could prove to be a wise move.

On to the feature races of Saturday’s Paddy Power sponsored card, and first up at 1.50 on Saturday is the EBF Paddy Power ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final, a race usually the final staging post in many a future chasers’ last season hurdling.

Year in, year out, this is a good race and one worth picking through for future assignments, but the one horse that could also be very much for the here and now is Olly Murphy’s Thunder Rock.

Thunder Rock stands out as having the scope and size to make a nice chaser, but equally he has made a very good fist of being quick enough over hurdles as to win three on the bounce over the smaller obstacles.

The last of those victories came in a very well-run handicap at Huntingdon last time, and he simply sauntered through that, and won very cosily. Added in the fact that Thunder Rock had previously beaten the subsequent Lanzarote Hurdle winner Cobblers Dream, and he has an outstanding chance in my mind.

At 11/2 with Paddy Power for 5 places, he is a skinny old price in a 17-runner affair, but Thunder Rock’s chance is obvious, and worth respecting.

Likely favourite Knappers Hill could easily prove a troublesome rival stepping up in trip, but I wasn’t sure that a stiff track on rain softened ground was exactly what he would want.

The last bet of a busy Saturday comes in the Paddy Power Imperial Cup at 2.25, and finding one to finish in the first half of the field might be an achievement, such is the open nature of this year’s renewal.

But fear not, as Paddy Power are offering a nice safety blanket of 6 places each-way, and with that in mind I think it is worth taking a swing at one a much bigger price. Alan King’s Grisbi De Berce has squeezed in to the race as number 22 on the list, and that must have pleased the Barbury handler, as it has looked like this could be the type of race which will really suit Grisbi De Berce.

At 22/1 with Paddy Power for those 6 places, there aren’t many horses in the Imperial Cup that are as overpriced as Grisbi De Berce is, in my estimation.

Grisbi De Berce has spent most of his seven-race hurdle career being taught to settle and jump, and the long-game could pay off here, as he has gradually got better in both respects with each start. With at least half the field being confirmed pacesetters or prominent racers, this could be a perfect set up.

He would have to improve a little on what he has done, but the style that connections have been trying to instil in Grisbi De Berce could be just the ticket here, when it matters most, on account of this valuable prize.

It wouldn’t be the worst warm-up for Cheltenham – backing a 22/1 winner of the Imperial Cup!

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