Muddle the answer to Imperial puzzle
Poor turnout for lucrative race - and Moore hope may be able to take advantage
The behemoth that is Cheltenham is underlined by the poor quality of the feature at Sandown today. The Matchbook Imperial Cup will have just 13 runners, most rated 128 or less.
For a handicap with stature, history and a £70,000 purse, it is very much to the likes of the County Hurdle what the BDO is to the PDC in darts. Cheltenham is not everything: it is more important than that, looking at the line-up here.
This is modest stuff for a feature on a Saturday. Trainer Gary Moore does not have much of note running next week, with Ar Mad and Sire De Grugy both out. He might be celebrating tonight, though, as Not Another Muddle appeals as one which can improve on what he has shown so far under the trainer's son, Jaime.
The son of Kayf Tara is a well-bred horse but he is a free-going sort, to the extent that the combat he faced so far was probably not ideal. Now that he comes into a relatively big field with a stronger pace on the cards, there is more in the locker potentially.
Back in bumper combat, he finished second to Champagne George, quite a promising sort which since won a novice hurdle. His lack of experience is a concern but he is a pretty adept jumper.
He has little weight and may get the better of London Prize, another keen sort which is open to better. Gassin Golf is another to consider and, yet again, how he settles in the headgear will be critical.
Punters will hope that the 16 stand their ground in the novices' handicap which introduces the start of the ITV4 coverage. Minella Awards, 8/1 yesterday, is intriguing each-way in this competitive affair.
The six-year-old is trained by Harry Fry, whose cautious approach to running his horses ensures a fine hit-rate. This one has no handicap know-how but he has plenty of ability and his Newbury second to Champers On Ice in November 2015 - his second of just four runs - reads well.
Upswing could be the one in the handicap chase for Jonjo O'Neill, who has a chance of emulating his victory in the Timico Gold Cup with Synchronised when More Of That tackles the big one on Friday. Upswing is ordinary by comparison yet he should win today's race if he could run to the form of his Cheltenham second two seasons ago.
A campaign that was seemingly derailed got back on track at Kempton last time when he was a pleasing third. O'Neill has his string in good shape.
The Listed bumper is a smart contest and, not surprisingly, Willie Mullins and namesake Mags send over horses in pursuit of black type. Redhotfillypeppers, which may have gone to Cheltenham, is tipped for Willie and amateur David Dunsdon.
Though it is a negative that the horse is ridden by someone who rides so rarely, taking on professional jockeys, the pair clicked nicely from the front at Punchestown. She cost £200,000 before she saw the track.
A couple of useful Wolverhampton contests will appeal to Flat fans, starting with the sunbets.co.uk Lincoln Trial Handicap. Examiner could prove the answer for Stuart Williams and Oisin Murphy. The son of Excellent Art did not have things go his way at this course last time but he looks sure to run well and he has won off this rating in the past.
Baraweez, a regular visitor to Ireland, could also be dangerous.
The Listed Lady Wulfruna Stakes is a high-class contest for the grade and progressive handicapper My Target may be slightly underestimated, though it could also be that he prefers the surface at Lingfield.
The Cape Cross-bred has won four on the bounce at that venue but it is worth recalling that he travelled easily on this surface in winning at Wolverhampton over a year ago. The Tapeta surface is not an issue.