Sandown Stars As The Perfect Aperitif This Weekend

Features | 8th March 2023

It may serve as an aperitif to the sumptuous feast of the Cheltenham Festival but there is some
excellent racing in prospect this week

Future Stars

Sandown’s Betfair Imperial Cup meeting is the traditional weekend highlight leading into jump racing’s most important four days. The big race has a history of throwing up future stars. Collier Bay landed the two-mile handicap hurdle in 1995 before going on to win the Champion Hurdle the following season. Several winners have made a quick return to the track to complete a rapid double by following up at the Cheltenham Festival. Olympian and Blowing Wind – both trained by Martin Pipe – pulled off the notable feat in the 1990s. Not to be outdone by his dad, David Pipe sent out Gaspara to win the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Festival just three days after winning the Imperial Cup.

Langer Dan was successful two years ago before chasing home this year’s Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle. This year’s Imperial Cup has attracted a decent crop of entries. Irish trainer Peter Fahey lifted the trophy 12 months ago after Surprise Package landed the prize. He could attempt back-to-back victories with recent Ascot runner-up Zoffany Bay. Gary Moore cold have a strong hand with course winners Givega and Authorised Speed both entered, while Kieran Burke’s Soul Icon may well try to win a sixth successive race. The feature contest is backed up by some hugely-competitive supporting races. 

The EBF Betfair National Hunt Novices’ Handicap Hurdle final often attracts a strong field of future chasers to battle it out and this year’s race will be no different. Some of the best mares to run in bumpers this season will also get their day in the spotlight. It’s unusual for one of the feature races to be a National Hunt flat race and there looks to be plenty of talent in the British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ bumper. 

Flat Teaser

Also on Saturday, there’s a rather heavy hint at Wolverhampton of what’s around the corner. The Black Country’s all-weather track hosts the Spreadex Sports Lincoln Trial ahead of the Flat turf season’s opening fixture at Doncaster three weeks later. This year’s race has attracted some good entries. John and Thady Gosden look set to run recent impressive Lingfield winner Unforgotten in the famous all-blue Godolphin silks. Wolverhampton also stages the Spreadex Sports Lady Wulfruna Stakes. Named after an important Anglo-Saxon noblewoman, it is a seven-furlong Listed race won last year by Tinker Toy. French Group 1 winner Angel Bleu is among the entries this time.

This week’s racing might take place in the shadow of the Cheltenham Festival but there is plenty of decent racing that shines in its own right. At the very least, it will whet the appetite and get the senses tingling as jump racing enters its biggest week