The curtain falls on the 2013/4 National Hunt season at Sandown tomorrow with the highlight the bet365 Gold Cup due off at 3.50. Twenty have been declared with the going likely to ride soft following today's persistent rain.
In the past decade three winners have carried more than 11 stones to victory - Puntal (2004), Lacdoudal (2006) and Tidal Bay (2012).
Five of the field took part in the Scottish Grand National a fortnight ago - Godsmejudge (second), Summery Justice (fifth), Midnight Appeal (fell) with both Roalco Des Farges and Rigadin De Beauchene pulled up. I tipped the last-named for the Ayr showpiece but his jumping was poor that day; the rain will help the cause tomorrow but fencing is always at a premium here. Godsmejudge showed improved form to finish second but that was just two short weeks ago and this race may have come a shade too quickly.
Rose Of The Moon, Twirling Magnet and Burton Port all fell in the Aintree Grand National, the last two at the first and second obstacles respectively, so they'll come to this fresher than some.
Same Difference, well behind Spring Heeled at the Festival, was second in this race last year while Hadrian's Approach was fifth. That was a fine effort from Nicky Henderson's gelding at the tender age of six and one year on I'll take a small each-way interest (14/1 in places) hoping Barry Geraghty can squeeze out some further improvement; recent seven-year-old winners include Beau (2000), Ad Hoc (2001) and Lacdoudal (2006).
Champion chaser Sire De Grugy will be long odds-on for the Celebration Chase at 3.15. There's a fair chance Australia Day won't make it to the start if the ground comes up particularly soft which will leave just seven in the field and as a result snag any potential each-way betting opportunity...
Had the rain not arrived, Polly Peachum, named after a character in The Beggar's Opera and owned by Lady Tennant, would have been of considerable interest in the listed hurdle at 4.25. I saw the mare win in emphatic style at Warwick some five weeks ago and she has come out since to display a turn of foot and land a competitive listed hurdle at Cheltenham. I fear the easy going is likely to blunt that turn of foot.