SATURDAY will be an emotional day in racing as AP McCoy signs off from the sport. Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) gives us his best bets.
14:35 Sandown | Channel 4
A decent little end of season race that’s attracted a couple of top horses in Menorah and Al Ferof. They are both lightly raced this season and are the two most likely winners in the field. I would expect the winner to come from these two, but which one?
Al Ferof is the paper favourite so we’ll start with him. A former winner of the Supreme Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, Al Ferof has spent his time contesting some of the top races during his career.
A fragile sort who is best fresh, he won on his seasonal debut in the Amlin Chase beating the reliable Somersby by nine lengths. He was next seen in the King George where despite coming third he never really landed a blow behind Silvinaco Conte.
His final start, at the Melling Chase he was, like the rest of the field, annihilated by Don Cossack. However he did only finish eight lengths behind Cue Card, which in the context of this race is top form.
My concern with Al Ferof however is that his best form comes on the back of a break and his Aintree run was only 15 days ago, so he might be vulnerable here.
Menorah is second favourite in the market at 3/1, and he won this race last year. Another stalwart of the National Hunt scene he is a real favourite of mine. He won the Charlie Hall on his seasonal debut, before finishing behind Silvinaco Conte three times, with his last two efforts, in the King George and Betfred Bowl disappointing.
I tipped him up to run a big race at Aintree but he jumped poorly and never looked like landing a blow. This however represents a drop in class, and with no Silvinaco Conte in this field I can see Menorah taking advantage and ending the season on a high.
Pepite Rose who came second in this last year is a better horse at Newbury and Rebel Rebellion ran well for a while in the Grand National before being pulled up and I wonder how much that took out of him. Argocat is an improving horse but I don’t expect him to be able to win this. I see Menorah as the most likely winner here providing he jumps better, which I am confident that he will.
15:15 Sandown | Channel 4
The second last race of AP McCoy’s illustrious career and his final Grade 1 race, he lines up aboard the likely favourite Mr Mole. A previously untrustworthy individual, he appeared to turn a corner this season with a couple of victories over Brick Red, before taking advantage of a below par Sire De Grugy when winning the Game Spirit at Newbury.
He then finished last of the finishers in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham where he never travelled at all, finishing well behind two of today’s rivals. He missed the Aintree festival for this, but so did Somersby and Special Tiara and as much as I would love to see AP win this, I feel that he will come up short.
So who will win this? I’m going to rule out the three who ran at Aintree, which leaves us with three runners. If this was 2013 it would leave us with one, the formerly mighty Sprinter Sacre but its 2015, and my faith in the former champion has gone. He is a shadow of his former self, and as much as I would love to see him return to his best I unfortunately think his heart problems have robbed us of this great horse.
This leaves us with two, Champion Chase second and third Somersby and Special Tiara. Somersby has chased home some of the top two mile chasers over the years and this veteran of seven Cheltenham Festivals has come second on three occasions this season.
He has looked in top form this season, but he will always throw in a jumping mistake or two and he finds winning difficult. He is a course and distance winner, and has never been out of the places here in four attempts. My only concern is that he has only won once in his last 15 races and I can’t back Somersby to win.
This leaves us with Special Tiara. An improving chaser, he finished fourth in this last season beaten less than five lengths and he’s taken his form to a new level since then. He beat the ill fated Balder Success in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton with a tremendous round of jumping before coming third behind Dodging Bullets and Somersby in the Champion Chase.
He’s lightly raced this season and I can see this freshness allowing him to turn the tables on his rival here. Available at 4/1, I’m all over that, and it could look a huge price come 3.20! I may even take the reverse forecast option with him and Somersby as well to low stakes given Somersby’s course form.
15:50 Sandown | Channel 4
A 20 runner handicap over three miles five and a half furlongs this is going to take some winning. You could make a case for many of the runners but there is one at the bottom of the handicap that I like the look of.
Paint The Clouds has been contesting hunter chases running up a sequence of easy wins before that run came to an end in the Foxhunters Chase at the Cheltenham Festival where he came third behind On The Fringe.
On that occasion the ground was very soft and that went against Paint the Clouds. Even though he finished 17 lengths behind the winner, On the Fringe showed at Aintree that he is a seriously talented horse. Paint The Clouds travelled well through the race and I believe that he would have finished closer on good ground.
The Fox Hunters Chase has produced some top chasers down the years, and I think Paint the Clouds is a serious horse. He’s won over three and a half miles and he will improve for the better ground he will encounter here.
Getting to race off 10 stone is a real feather weight and at 10/1 I think he is a great each way bet, especially if your bookmaker is paying five places. Even though he is taking on a better quality of horse here I’m confident he will run a massive race for us and will hopefully reward our each way bet.
14:35 Sandown – Menorah to win (11/4 BetVictor)
15:15 Sandown – Special Tiara to win (7/2 Bet365)
15:50 Sandown – Paint The Clouds each way (10/1 Boylesports)
The greatest jockey of all-time retires from the sport on Saturday. Surely, surely, he ends the day with a winner?!
New customers to Betfair can back him at 3/1 to do just that.