SANDOWN'S Imperial Cup is traditionally the final big race prior to the Cheltenham Festival and it looks as though Paul Nicholls will warm up for Cheltenham in the best possible manner with Vibrato Valtat looking like the one who will take all the beating.
The five-year-old holds an entry for the County Hurdle at Cheltenham next week and even with a penalty may struggle to get into that race, but this could prove to be worthy compensation if that proves to be the case.
It was last time out at Exeter before the French import opened his account and that was his seventh start for Nicholls but he was impressive in winning that listed contest and should manage to oblige again a month later.
The David Pipe-trained Swing Bowler might give him most to do at around about 10/1 but it's hard to oppose Vibrato Valtat.
ON A ROLL FOR A LUCKY FESTIVAL
With Cheltenham just around the corner I popped into my local Boylesports to do an adventurous bet, which may mean I won't be back here in a fortnight's time.
Ahead of Cheltenham it's always interesting to do a Lucky 15 or accumulator for small money and hope that you can hit the target and, if I'm lucky enough to do that, I'll be enjoying a lengthy break somewhere sunny.
The four horses I put into my Lucky 15 were: Gilgamboa in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. He won the Boylesports.com at Leopardstown and looks well handicapped for the County Hurdle but I think connections might be tempted to take their chance in Grade One company and he was 20/1.
The second one was Living Next Door of Tony Martin's stable in the four-miler on Tuesday. I think Foxrock looks very hard to beat in this but Martin gave his lad up at a Cheltenham Preview Night and at 50/1, I thought it was worth a shot.
Then I have included two Gordon Elliott-trained runners in Tiger Roll – in what looks like a wide open Triumph Hurdle at 14/1 – and Bayan in the Coral Cup at 12/1.
For a small bet like an accumulator, Patent or Lucky 15 it does give you a good interest if you throw in a few big priced ones, so maybe that is something to consider over the weekend.
Imperial Cup betting
Regal Encore 5/2; Vibrato Valtat 3/1; New Years Eve 8/1; Swing Bowler 9/1; Baltimore Rock 10/1; Gassin Golf 14/1; Fourth Estate 14/1; Harristown 16/1; Little Jon 16/1; Somemothersdohavem 16/1; Knight Of Pleasure 20/1; First Avenue 25/1; Skint 50/1; Chesil Beach Boy 50/1.
– Niall Cronin