Imperial Cup: Expert Betting Tips

Sandown’s Imperial Cup is the final major handicap in Britain before the Cheltenham Festival kicks off.

Saturday’s meeting begins at 1.15 and ends at 4.40, providing plenty of fine betting opportunities for punters across the seven races.

We’ve analysed the card at Sandown on Saturday and pinpointed our best bets for a cracking afternoon of racing.

1.15 - Betfair Racing Podcasts Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (2m)

VALADON has shown a good attitude to score twice since he followed home the smart Salver on his debut in November and enters handicaps off a potentially lenient opening mark of 116 for Harry Fry.

Castelfort also emerged with credit behind Salver in the Victor Ludorum last time and can give the selection the most to think about, while Gary Moore’s pair, Bridge and Through The Ages, are others to note given the yard’s excellent record in this race - three victories from the past five runnings.

Selection: Valadon

1.50 - European Breeders’ Fund Betfair National Hunt Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final (2m4f)

Paul Nicholls has captured three of the past nine runnings of the EBF Final and has an outstanding chance of adding another success in the race with FIRE FLYER.

The only horse he has lost to over hurdles is a live Cheltenham Festival contender and he is open to significant improvement on his handicap debut.

The same is true for many others in the field, and Ben Pauling’s three-pronged challenge of Awaythelad, Champagne Twist and Pic Roc should also be noted.

Hasthing was understandably all the rage in the ante-post betting given he is well treated on his bumper exploits.

Selection: Fire Flyer

2.25 - Betfair Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (2m)

Nicholls is also responsible for a leading candidate in the Imperial Cup in SANS BRUIT.

This six-year-old’s French form stacks up well and he is expected to build on an encouraging stable debut now he tackles a slower surface.

Ben Pauling is again well represented with in-form pair Bad and Jipcot, but perhaps Junkanoo can emerge as the biggest danger on his handicap hurdle debut.

He boasts plenty of useful flat form on slower terrain and jockey bookings infer he is the Moore yard's first choice.

Selection: Sans Bruit

3.00 - British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (2m, Listed)

There have been a few smart four-year-old winners of this Listed mares’ bumper in recent seasons and perhaps PLANTAROMA can add her name to that roster.

She shaped well when second on her debut at Carlisle on soft ground and the booking of Harry Cobden is eye-catching, with trainer Tom Symonds enlisting his services for just the second time.

The standard among the older runners is set by Just Call Me Lucy and Magical Annie, while Honky Tonk Highway arrives with a big reputation from the point-to-point sphere.

Selection: Plantaroma

3.35 - Betfair Serial Winners Fund Novices’ Handicap Chase (2m4f)

Golden Son bounced right back to form with a 10-1 strike at Kempton two weeks ago and that form received a boost when runner-up Heltenham sauntered clear in the Greatwood Gold Cup last weekend.

However, KOTMASK might be better treated for Gary Moore. He arrives seeking a hat-trick having done really well to overcome a mistake at the final fence at Plumpton when last seen.

He can reassert his dominance over old foe Scarface and he likes this track.

Selection: Kotmask

4.10 - Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange Handicap Chase (3m)

There was much more promise in BALLYGRIFINCOTTAGE’s fifth in a good handicap at Ascot three weeks ago.

He made steady late headway and the handicapper has eased him another 2lb. On the cusp of Grade 1 level a few seasons ago for the Dan Skelton team, Ballygrifincottage might be able to put it all together again once more.

Easy As That is another who is temptingly treated on last year's efforts, with the Venetia Williams yard back in form and Rose Of Arcadia is right there on this season’s efforts.

Selection: Ballygrifincottage

4.40 - Handicap Chase (2m4f)

Alan King will surely snare a decent prize with ES PERFECTO before the season is out.

The lightly raced nine-year-old has been unfortunate to bump into leading novice chasers Ginny’s Destiny (twice) and Blow Your Wad when making the places in three good handicaps this winter.

There will not be a rival Es Perfecto clashes with here of that calibre, although Imperial Bede is a fair opponent if getting his jumping together, while Hudson De Grugy can never be entirely ruled out at his favourite track. Selection: Es Perfecto

Take Time to Think | | 18+

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