I'm on a particularly poor run of form at the moment that started some 25 years ago...
The racing phenomenon that is Sprinter Sacre has to miss tomorrow's Tingle Creek at Sandown following a dirty tracheal wash. In his absence top-rated Sire De Grugy has eight pounds in hand over his nearest rival (Somersby) yet there was a definite lack of fizz about his last run in the Schloer Chase at Cheltenham when beaten three and a quarter lengths by Kid Cassidy. I've seen it suggested Gary Moore's charge may be better going right-handed - he hung right after the last at Cheltenham - so there may be something in that. Following an effortless win at Chepstow, connections were keen to talk about taking on Sprinter Sacre - Sire De Grugy needs to win this if those lofty ambitions are to be realised. Should he come up short, Somersby and Captain Conan, both course and distance winners, will be waiting in the wings. Sire De Grugy is the form choice and my selection.
The Henry VIII Novices' Chase (1.50) is right out of the top drawer and should provide a useful pointer going forward. Grandouet boasts the best hurdles form but on his chase debut over course and distance the fencing looked decidedly awkward at times; he appeared held by Hinterland when coming to grief at the final flight while, similarly, Hinterland was far from fluent at the obstacles. Sandown with its Railway fences sets a stern test for any novice. Taquin Du Seuil has shown form over further but is afforded every respect while Balder Succes would have been three from three had he not come to grief two out at Cheltenham on his penultimate run. Connections of Claret Cloak will fancy their chances of reversing recent Exeter form five pounds better off with Manyriverstocross. In my book this rests between Balder Succes and Taquin Du Seuil; with layers struggling to agree a favourite this evening, Taquin Du Seuil gets the nod.
Fans of long distance chases are well catered for with the Becher at Aintree while the London National brings proceedings to a close at Sandown (Ikorodu Road having an entry in both races). I've lost count of the number of times I've half-fancied Alfie Spinner only for the beast to disappoint. Still, his second in the Badger Ales behind Standing Ovation last time reads well and he contests this off a mark 12 pounds lower than that from which he started last year's Hennessy. He finished three and a quarter lengths ahead of Emma Lavelle's Court By Surprise at Wincanton but is two pounds worse off with that rival this time - they look closely matched. With Lavelle's inmate not certain to stay the extended trip I'm going to take chance with Alan King's Scottish National winner Godsmejudge. The top weight ran well on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham three weeks ago - although coming home fifth he was beaten under five lengths and is priced up at 7/1 with Stan James this evening.