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Matt Chapman: I’m backing the Wizard to work his magic at 8/1 in the Imperial Cup

The last Saturday before Cheltenham. And Matt's back to bring on the boom!

by Matt Chapman | March 6, 2015

So this is it. Racing’s eve of Cheltenham. Having been MC at Paddy Power preview in London last Monday my anticipation is at fever pitch. And there’s one horse that really, really matters to me. But more of that next week.

Of course there are still winners to be had before Tuesday, so let’s crack on with the calm before the storm. You hear me Paddy?

Cheltenham NRNB 1430

I’m looking at the Sandown and Wolverhampton cards, so let’s kick off with the 2m4f handicap hurdle at Sandown at 2pm. This is hugely competitive and choc full of improving horses.

The one I like is AIGLE DE LA SEE (2pm), who has won his last two and fought on well two runs ago to beat re-opposing Monbeg Theatre. The latter is 2lb better off for half a length, but I have a feeling the selection will confirm the form under Barry Geraghty.

There’s a handicap chase at Sandown at 2.35pm, and this will be a real stamina test. UMBERTO D’OLIVATE is probably in the grip of the handicapper at the moment, but he could have a bit more improvement in him stepped up further in trip in which case he can run well for Felix de Giles and Robert Walford.

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We change code at 2.50pm with the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton and there’s a solid field of 10 set to go to post.

Class act SOLAR DEITY has been beaten off a mark of 105 on his last four starts – so I know he has nothing in-hand off the same rating,

What he does have this time is top-jock Ryan Moore against a host of in-form horses that have gone up in the handicap while he remains steady. A bigger field will help this tricky ride and he’ll be hard to keep out the frame.

Imperial Cup 5 places

No doubt the big betting race is the Imperial Cup at Sandown at 3.10pm. As always the eye is drawn to any David Pipe runner and the Pond House team send out Bidourey as the big hope this time. He’s done nothing wrong and could easily win.

However, I’m hoping hype horse WEST WIZARD finally lives up to a reputation which should mean he is favourite for the Champion Hurdle – but actually sees him running in a handicap!

He’s 7lb better off for a defeat by Arzal (and was 2-9 that day) earlier in the season. The drop back from two and a half miles to an extended two may well help as will Paddy Paying the first five home.

Nicky Henderson has struggled with his big guns this season. Let’s hope this one wins!

Best price guaranteed 1430

Finally at Sandown at 3.45pm it’s the Mares’ bumper, and Irish raider WHISTLE DIXIE could take a big of beating here. She won a point-to-point before joining Gordon Elliott’s team and has done nothing wrong since scoring at Limerick and Fairyhouse. A tough nut to crack.

So let’s hope something goes in pre-Cheltenham, but of course I will be back Tuesday to Friday next week to bring you all the news that really matters. Yeeehaaa!

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