Race Time: 3.35pm Meeting: Sandown Day: Saturday 2nd January 2015 Full Race Name: 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle Class Two
The standard ultra tricky handicap to end the Channel 4 racing every week, and a superb one to work though at that. Oliver Sherwood is having another good season and he will be hoping Rayvin Black (16/1) can recapture the same form of last year with a win here, doubling up on his 2015 success. Last season at the age of six was very different as he came here off a rating of 117 that equated to eleven stone on the day, while this year he arrives rated 137 and won’t find things anywhere near as easy. He hasn’t actually won another race since but has run well in decent enough company hence his high handicap mark, and much as we would love to see him victorious again, he seems to be weighted out of things at present.
As things stand, Melodic Rendezvous (7/1) will shoulder top weight of eleven stone twelve today, but invariably contests races way above this standard, and would be an interesting contender. His long list of recent races includes defeats by the likes of The New One, Jezki, Zarkandar, Irving, and Old Guard, and he doesn’t meet anything of that standard here, though whether he can give the weight away is a separate question. He is the class entry here, and no one can argue that his exploits mean he deserves another win, and even with his high weight he still looks likely to be the one they will all struggle to beat today.
Dr Richard Newland is a very astute trainer and does a quite remarkable job with the horses at his disposal, and he has entered course and distance winner Ebony Express (14/1) here, and he has to have each way possibilities. Rated 135 here, that is four pounds higher than when he beat Rayvin Black here last March, and he is seven pounds better off with that rival here, so he must have a better chance than his odds imply and has more to offer at the age of seven. The excellent Will Kennedy is going to ride ( confirmed), and he sits top of our list of each way options and seems sure to run a really big race, if everything goes according to plan that is.
Minstrels Gallery (9/1) is one of the few entries to have won last time out after scoring at Doncaster on heavy going in the middle of last month. It may well be that the going slowed down his rivals sufficiently to allow him to win at the minimum trip having campaigned over further for the last four races, and it seems increasingly unlikely that he will get that ground this Saturday, suggesting they may have a bit too much speed for him, and he seems destined for a top five spot at best.
To end with, Paul Nicholls actually had a winner yesterday (read in to that what you will), so it would be remiss of us not to at least mention Romain De Senam (13/2) who has some acceptable if not exactly earth shattering form against his name. A fifteen lengths win at Wincanton on his British debut promised so much but he has been beaten twice since both at odds on, once at Cheltenham in a classy race (forgivable), and once at Catterick in a weaker race when going under by a head to the John Ferguson trained Jaleo with the rest forty-one lengths and more behind, so it may not be quite as bad as it seems at first glance. No one can argue that he isn’t well weighted today off of exactly ten stone, and if the yard were in form he would be close to the top of the list – but they are, and we can’t suggest him for that very reason.