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Roalco worth keeping on side

Dessie Hughes' Rare Bob and Vic Venturi are the only two Irish-based runners in today's Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown and are very much in the 'outsider' category.

With three of the last seven renewals going to horses aged 10 or older, Hughes' veterans, both of which made early exits in the Aintree Grand National, may not be without a chance. The three-mile-five-furlong handicap chase will bring their stamina to bear, but you'd struggle to make a solid case for either on recent form.

West End Rocker and Le Beau Bai are worthy market leaders for a race that is often still referred to by its former title, the Whitbread. Le Beau Bai, in particular, loves a slog, so the soft ground will suit, and he comes here fresher than each of his 19 rivals.

It's hard to see him not being placed but, at odds of 13/2, there may be better value elsewhere. With the ground possibly gone against last month's course winner Dover's Hill, Roalco De Farges appeals as the one to keep on side at up to 12/1.

Trained by Philip Hobbs, whose horses are finishing the season with a flourish having been out of sorts for a spell, the grey seven-year-old was an impressive winner off a mark of 124 on his fencing bow at Newbury back in November. Since then, with the exception of one no-show in the Midlands National, he has gradually improved.

Second to the subsequent Cheltenham winner Teaforthree at Chepstow in February, Roalco De Farges returned to the Welsh venue to post a thoroughly convincing triumph back in novice company a fortnight ago. He has been left on his original rating of 134 following that, which leaves him with just 10st 6lb to carry here.

Granted, that his below-par turn was over an extended trip is a concern, but the Midlands National is over four miles, one and a half furlongs, so this will be a shade less taxing. Moreover, Hobbs and his jockey Richard Johnson have won this twice in recent years, so it's surely of note that Roalco De Farges is the one they rely on now.

In the preceding Grade Two, the same partnership's Wishfull Thinking is passed over in favour of last year's winner French Opera. Second to Sprinter Sacre on its first run since then at Newbury in February, Nicky Henderson's charge fell at Cheltenham, so he comes here a fresh horse.

Later, Aidan O'Brien, whose Treasure Beach runs in Sha Tin tomorrow, saddles Imperial Monarch in the Classic trial. The September Curragh maiden winner is the most promising horse that the Ballydoyle handler has ever run in this Group Three.

Just three others will line out in the 10-furlong heat. John Gosden saddles Thought Worthy -- a once-raced winner that is a full-brother to the trainer's St Leger hero Lucarno -- Richard Hannon relies on his recent sales race victor Rougemont and Henry Cecil is represented by Stipulate, another to score at Newmarket recently.

Nonetheless, Imperial Monarch is taken to prevail. A Galileo half-brother to O'Brien's Epsom Derby runner-up The Great Gatsby, he picked up in the style of a really nice colt for Seamie Heffernan to stretch clear of Kevin Prendergast's recent Leopardstown scorer Azamata on that sole start at headquarters in the autumn.

In the Gordon Richards Stakes, Cecil's Twice Over can avenge his slim Newmarket defeat. A four-time Group One winner, Khalid Abdulla's colt was denied by Questioning that day, a race-fit rival that was second in yesterday's Group Two.

Here, Twice Over gets into a Group Three without a penalty, and should prove superior to his nine rivals under Tom Queally now that he has a run under his belt.

Best Bet: Twice Over

Irish Independent