Inside Track: Tiara to deny AP crowning glory
De Bromhead's chaser has too much for McCoy mount Mr Mole
Of all the horses that could have been tasked with giving AP McCoy a fairytale send-off on his final Grade One mount, Mr Mole is probably the last one you'd trust to deliver.
Paul Nicholls' much-improved seven-year-old is as likely to plant himself at the start as he is to win. Indeed, prior to carrying McCoy to victory on that momentous day at Newbury in February, his antics very nearly saw him not jump off at all.
In the end he did, recovering sufficiently to spark McCoy's declaration of intent to retire at the end of the season - though only after Sire De Grugy and Uxizandre made things considerably easier by exiting up the straight.
Looking at today's Grade One, the conspiracy theorists who see these farewell outings as conveniently going the way that romantics wish too frequently could have a field day.
In Mr Mole's sole outing at the highest level, he was beaten out of sight at Cheltenham last month in the Champion Chase, yet the only one of today's six rivals rated higher than him is the busted flush that is Sprinter Sacre.
Add to that the possibility that officials have seemingly watered the track quite generously, and Mr Mole, which loves to get his toe in, all of a sudden looks a real player. Nicholls has pledged to get him here in the shape of his life, so there is - somewhat inexplicably - a very real chance that the enigmatic old rogue could live up to his unlikely billing as a suitably capable conveyance on such a historic occasion.
This correspondent would be as pleased as the next racing fan to see the sport's single greatest ambassador go out on a real high, but Mr Mole still doesn't appeal at as low as 3/1 favourite. Henry De Bromhead's Special Tiara is the sensible option at around 4/1.
On old form, the prospect of slowish ground would be a concern, but Special Tiara's most impressive performance of late came on soft going at Kempton over Christmas when he slammed Balder Succes with a breathtaking exhibition of jumping.
He followed that with an absolutely cracking turn in the Champion Chase, cutting out much of the running under Noel Fehily before keeping on bravely for third behind Dodging Bullets and Somersby.
Mick Channon's runner-up re-opposes here, but he doesn't have the same scope to progress at 11 years of age. However, Special Tiara is still quite unexposed as an eight-year-old, and he tends to come into his own in the spring.
He finished a fine third to Sire De Grugy in this last year and in 2013 he won a Grade One as a novice at Aintree. If he gets into a rhythm out in front here and jumps like he can do for Fehily again, he is fancied to get them all at it.
Later on, Ruby Walsh rides Bayan for Gordon Elliott in the Listed hurdle following Davy Condon's enforced retirement. The Ladbroke Hurdle hero needs to improve a little to win, but he has the scope to do so over this longer trip.
Richard Johnson heads the market for next season's jockeys' championship.
There is no doubt that the man who is likely to finish second to the perennial table-topper for a 16th time would be the most deserving winner. After all this time, it would be cruel to see him lose out, and you'd imagine there will be something akin to a concerted push by his backers to get him there.
In betting terms, though, odds of as low as 10/11 about him doing it are daft, given the perils of the job and the competition he will face. At 8/1, the much-improved Tom Scudamore is the value bet.
Scudamore is bred for the task, and he is concluding his best season, with 149 wins pushing Johnson (151) to the pin of his collar. His boss David Pipe also continues to grow in strength, lying third to Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson in terms of winners trained.
If they all stay sound, Johnson is the likeliest winner, but the truth is it's rarely that simple.
Argocat is bordering on the sort of horse that promises more than he delivers, but he is interesting at Sandown today.
Tom Taaffe's charge contests the Listed chase, and, for all that he has failed to hit the notes expected, he remains open to improvement at just seven years of age.
On his latest outing at Navan, he ran his best for a year when second to Felix Yonger on unsuitably soft ground.
That was a decent turn and he is a horse that tends to run especially well in the spring.
With the ground pretty decent, Argocat should give Andrew Lynch a good spin at fancy odds.
Lay Of The Day
On his best form, Al Ferof would probably take all the beating in today's Listed chase at Sandown, but he isn't one to trust.
The 10-year-old has never won over as far as this two-mile-six-furlong trip, and showed little spark when thrashed by Don Cossack at Aintree. He doesn't seem to have the stomach for a fight, so he is one to take on in a competitive race at odds of 11/4.
A Little Each Way
Henry De Bromhead's Cheltenham runner-up Grand Jesture vies for the market lead in the Bet365 Gold Cup but Tony Martin's Guess Again might be the one for the each-way money at around 16/1.
In the Kim Muir at Cheltenham, Guess Again travelled and jumped well before possibly getting blinded and falling down the back the last time. He is in off 10st under Paul Townend here and could play a part if he enjoys some luck in running.