Friday 15 December 2017

Sandown set to stage Nicholls-Henderson duel for title

Nicky Henderson. Photo: Reuters
Nicky Henderson. Photo: Reuters

Nick Robson

The race for the jumps trainers' title in England could go to the wire when the season draws to a close at Sandown on Saturday as Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson have their sights on the valuable bet365 Gold Cup.

Just A Par, the winner in 2015 and second in 2016, is one of three possibles for the Nicholls stable along with last year's fourth Southfield Theatre and Present Man as the Ditcheat handler looks to overhaul his great rival in the prize-money stakes.

Henderson has Sugar Baron, who made an early exit behind the Nicholls-trained Vicente in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday, and Vyta Du Roc in the mix after 17 horses were left in Sandown's showpiece at the five-day confirmation stage.

Jointly heading the weights on 11st 12lb are the Colin Tizzard-trained Theatre Guide and Southfield Theatre, while Neil Mulholland has left in last year's winner The Young Master, The Druids Nephew and Doing Fine.

Among other possibles are Scottish National third Benbens, Rock The Kasbah, Le Reve and Whats Happening.

On the Flat, meanwhile, Cracksman puts his Classic credentials on the line when he faces seven rivals in the Derby Trial at Epsom tomorrow.

The John Gosden-trained son of Frankel, who wears the same silks as the mighty Golden Horn, bids to confirm the promise of his only run as a two-year-old when he won a Newmarket maiden over a mile in October.

Gosden, who has won this race for the last two years, has also declared the Giant's Causeway colt Tartini, which made a successful debut at Nottingham in the autumn.

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