Sandown Race Preview, 13/03/2021

Sandown, Saturday March 13th

Sandown 2.25
Paddy Power Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle Class 1 Grade 3
1m7f216y – Going: Good to Soft (Soft in places) – 15 runners

Miranda*
Second win from three hurdles starts this season when taking mare’ Grade 2 at Doncaster on January 30th, edged closer when the better jump 3 out, 1st 2 pulled clear, drew upsides after 2 out and travelled much the best approaching last, led jumping, hard ridden, found extra under pressure to pull clear, ran on well last 150 yards, readily by 4 lengths from Floressa. Chances again
Diego Du Charmil*
Highly tried admittedly but form not strong this season, best effort 3rd to Sceau Royal in Elite Hurdle at Wincanton in November, chased leader closely turning out of back straight, led narrowly home turn and pushed along, headed 2 out, put under pressure, one pace between last 2, faded last 150 yards. In first-time cheekpieces, was all done on the home turn in Christmas Hurdle at Kempton when last seen, dropped to last by 2 out, tailed off when knocked down last behind Silver Streak. Has become well treated and cheekpieces now removed
Fransham
Two wins earlier this season, looking like one for these sorts of handicaps when defeating the then-promising Marlborough Sounds in good style at Wetherby in October, but off higher marks has found disappointingly little the last twice, at Newcastle last time out mistake 4th, edged closer on the bit home turn, moved into 2nd straightening, the better jump 2 out and within half a length between last 2, led on the bit approaching last, a length up when niggled along, led 2 lengths jumping, immediately put under pressure, driven, was reeled in and headed by Hooligan inside last 100 yards, no extra close home. The place to put him in front is halfway up the run-in – strong form chance but comes with risks
Leoncavallo
On only jumps start since November 2019, won novices’ chase at Stratford in July 2020, mistakes 6th and 8th, ridden into 9th, made ground 10th, mistake and went left but led 11th, mistake 3 out, niggled along, ridden into 2 out, ridden along and stayed on to go clear turning out of back straight, well ahead and safe with the race approaching last, beat Oscar Rose 13 lengths. Switched to the Flat and looked ahead of his mark when winning at Haydock in August, and ran with credit in Cesarewitch at Newmarket in October when 6th to Great White Shark, tracked leaders, niggled along a mile out, pushed along 4f out, soon hard ridden, stayed on and still every chance under a ride 3f out, faded 300 yards out, soon held and heavy-legged final furlong, lost ground on those ahead and was being closed on by the next ones last 50 yards. Not out since. Well treated on some form
Highway One O Two
Good run for a long way in Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 21st but eventually paid the price for racing up with a strong pace,  travelled comfortably from home turn to 3 out, soon pushed along, faded, largely left alone and dropped into midfield when steadied into 2 out, weakened further amd tailed off behind Soaring Glory. In an easier race, good 2nd to Millers Bank at Newbury last Saturday, led turning out of back straight, niggled along home turn, pushed along 3 out, stayed on till steadied into and headed 2 out, no extra, looked held when steadied into last, hard driven and no impression, beaten 10 lengths. Coming down the weights but a bit to find back in a good handicap – it doesn’t look a coincidence that the good run last Saturday was in a Class 3 race, rather than Class 2 or 1, in which grade this season it’s been two out of two tailed-offs
Mick Maestro
Progressing sort who’s posted two wins this season – it may well have been three if he hadn’t fallen 3 out when arguably going best in race won by Wild Max at Doncaster in December – most recent win at Catterick just after Christmas, prominent 4th, blundered badly 5th (ran into it and for all intents and purposes tripped over it – had to be seen to be believed), led 6th,  travelled best of the field off home turn, pushed along between last 2, drew further clear approaching last, not hard ridden to maintain run-in, looked full of running last 50 yards, beat the reopposing Miss Heritage 15 lengths. That one reversed the form when they were 2nd and 3rd to Ajero at Market Rasen on February 21st last time, arguably going best approaching 2 out, hard ridden on landing, stayed on, closed on Ajero between last 2, a length and a half down when mistake last, hard ridden, no more and only the one pace last 125 yards, stuck to task but lost 2nd close home. Would have been 2nd but for the mistake at the last and continues in form, but that’s the second time a jumping error has cost him; still worth a go at this race, although his only win right-handed to date was in a bumper
Malaya*
No wins since taking this race in 2019, started a move going comfortably and passed several home turn, blundered 2 out, chased leader last, effort and stayed on under pressure to lead 125 yards out, going away from Monsieur Lecoq at the line. Standout run this season is 2nd to Kid Commando at Ascot on October 31st, passed most of the field to chase leader approaching home turn, shaken up straightening, taken to stands’ side, a length and a bit down 2 out, pushed along between last 2, 1st 2 drew clear, no extra and looked held when mistake last. Couldn’t do anything about Millers Bank when 4th to that one at Kempton in January (with Fransham 3rd), no impression and looked held approaching last, driven and one pace last 150 yards, and the 2m3f-trip probably too far when 8th to Shannon Bridge at Ascot last month,  towards rear travelling comfortably in Swinley Bottom, at most nudged along before 3 out, pushed along after it and made no ground, struggling in rear of main group approaching home turn, well held 2 out, pushed along and looked heavy-legged between last 2, well back last. A drop in the handicap to 134 for this makes her tempting
Miss Heritage
Four 2nds in her last five starts – the other was a win, which came at Warwick on February 3rd, marked headway to led approaching home turn, pushed along turning in and drew 3 lengths clear, not hard ridden when led 4 lengths 2 out, pushed along at most between last 2, about the same in front when hit last, driven out, stayed on well and pulled further clear of Time Flies By. Stepped up on that when 2nd to Ajero at Market Rasen on February 21st although didn’t impress with how she went about it, slowed up and went left 1st, shuffled back and towards rear 2nd, in close to 3rd, lost ground on those ahead when mistake 3 out, pushed along and reminder after, closed on 1st 4 turning out of back straight, got on their heels home turn and pulled wide as moved into 3rd approaching 2 out, ridden along, had a bit to do with 1st 2 approaching last, steadied into it and jumped slow, hard driven, stayed on well last 200 yards, took 2nd under driving 125 yards out and closed on Ajero last strides, never getting there. Didn’t really apply herself, with slow jumps and hitting a flat spot at the third last, and for me flattered to be 2nd; may well turn up late
Natural History
Useful Flat-performer posted his first hurdles win on third start over timber, and on handicap debut too at Plumpton on March 1st, was joined up front when mistake 3 out, shaken up turning out of back straight, pushed along home turn, stayed on and drew clear approaching 2 out, some 8 to 10 lengths up last, not ridden seriously to maintain clear advantage last 100 yards, looked to have running left in him at the line, beat Mystic Dreamer 15 lengths. Put up 16 lbs for that, if this was on the Flat he’d walk it, but holes can be picked in his hurdles form and he doesn’t deserve to be favourite
One True King
Best run this season his 2nd at Cheltenham in November, headed approaching last, hard driven, stayed on under strong pressure and still every chance 150 yards out, closed on those ahead,took 2nd and gaining on Lively Citizen last 50 yards, just failed. Less effective over around 2m4f the last twice, tailed off behind Boreham Bill in Lanzarote at Kempton in January then 3rd to Midnight River in Class 2 novice at Ascot last month, led, ridden into 6th, 7th and 3 out, niggled along home turn, pushed along approaching 2 out, blundered and headed, faded approaching last, no more run-in, eased when safe in 3rd last 150 yards. Jumping seems to be worsening, he got in close to a couple in the Lanzarote and the mistake at Ascot meant he was beaten further than he would have been otherwise; it’ll suit him to drop back to 2m, but might end up merely setting the race up
Hang In There
No wins since November 2019. Has finished 6th all four starts this season, going closest to making an impact when 4th to Cadzand at Kempton in January, disputed lead, mistake 2nd, shuffled back but remained prominent, mistake 3rd, tracked leaders when mistake 5th, led 3 out, moved comfortably home turn, hard ridden on straightening, headed approaching 2 out, faded and wandered under a ride between last 2, well held last, lost further ground last 150 yards, beaten 11 lengths. Making mistakes and finishing weakly are the usual with this one and hard to see him having a say here
Langer Dan
Best effort in his juvenile hurdle season when 6th to Aramax in Boodles Juvenile Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, rear 4th then made progress, ridden and had 10 in front and 6 lengths to find on straightening, put under pressure approaching last, kept on, sustained effort run-in but no extra last 150 yards. Hasn’t built on it in three runs this season, best of them when 4th to Ajero (with Miss Heritage and Mick Maestro in front) at Market Rasen on February 21st, held up, still last and hadn’t been asked for anything much approaching 3 out, niggled along after and had 10 to 12 lengths to make up on the leaders, pushed along and appeared to be going nowhere turning out of back straight, hadn’t made any ground and well back 2 out, pushed along and took 5th between last 2, further ground to take 4th last, stayed on last 150 yards and closing on 1st 3 close home, nearest finish. It rather mirrored the way he ran in the Boodles; hardly jumps off the page, but might pick up the pieces
Mack The Man
Failed to confirm his apparent return to form when winning a small-field handicap hurdle at Wincanton in January, when tailed off behind Soaring Glory in Betfair Hurdle at Newbury (would have placed in the race last year but for getting brought down), raced wide back straight, niggled along approaching 5th, last and struggling under a push turning out of back straight, made no ground under a ride home turn and detached last 3 out, no more, tailed off from 2 out, last over the last, trailed in. If including his poor efforts in novice chases earlier this season, that’s three tailed-offs from four starts
Eamon An Cnoic
Dropped a considerable amount in the handicap, first win since February 2019 when taking a 0-120 conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle at Sandown in February,  led after 4th, moved comfortably after 3 out, travelled best of the field home turn, niggled along approaching 2 out, led 8 to 10 lengths jumping, pushed along, stayed on in a clear lead, well ahead last, pushed out, beat Will Sting 20 lengths. Was able to race off the same mark a week later at Chepstow but ran into the in-form Grumpy Charley, led, clear, 1st 2 held those positions throughout, arguably moved the better 3 out, shaken up 2 out, stayed on but was closed on between last 2, headed last, no extra run-in, beaten 2 lengths. Likely to race from the front, he isn’t as good as he used to be and is unlikely to be up there at the end
Hasanabad
Useful middle-distance type on the Flat but a weak finisher. Winning start over hurdles at Southwell in September; best subsequent effort over hurdles (also best to date) when 3rd to Millers Bank at Newbury on March 6th, edged closer going comfortably 5th, further good ground to chase leader approaching home turn, looked to be going best approaching 3 out, at most nudged along approaching 2 out, jumped left there, pushed along and no extra between last 2, lugged left approaching last, looked held in 3rd jumping, hard driven, kept on, stuck to task but no extra run-in. A lot to do at the weights

Shortlist: Miranda, Diego Du Charmil, Malaya