Solstice Star To Shine At Sandown
If you are having a conversation without mentioning the Cheltenham Festival well then you are hanging around in the wrong circles and at this stage all roads are leading to the Cotswolds ahead of an epic four-days.
The annual curtain raiser is the Imperial Cup at Sandown and although there is no bonus up for grabs this year for any horse that wins both the Sandown race and at Cheltenham next week, the winner is likely to have the bonus of getting a penalty enabling them to get a run at Cheltenham.
Shining star at Sandown
Few horses running at Cheltenham will be going there on the back of five consecutive wins and none of those in such a winning streak will be running in handicaps but Solstice Star (8/1) is a horse who might just be able to break the mould a small bit and also break the handicapper’s heart.
Martin Keighley’s reformed six-year-old has gone on a remarkable winning sequence that has seen him rise from a mark of 93 all the way up to the 134 off which he’ll contest Saturday’s Imperial Cup.
At some stage the handicapper will have to get a grasp on him and with his latest hike maybe that time has already come but Solstice Star might just have a little bit more in hand to surprise us with.
The son of Kayf Tara will handle the testing conditions and the drop back in trip won’t inconvenience him.
The fact that he has proven his stamina in the past is also a plus.
Obviously the Imperial Cup will signal a marked step up in class for Solstice Star but the horse who finished third to him last time, Frodon, has since won a juvenile contest at Haydock and while the runner-up Cheltenian didn’t do the form a lot of favours he probably wasn’t disgraced in the Betfair Hurdle either.
Knockgraffon (12/1) is a horse with plenty of ability but probably races a bit keenly to fulfil his potential. If he settles or is allowed to dictate from the front the drop back in trip might not do him any harm, but he could prove one for another day while the favourite, Affaire D’Honneur was a real eye-catcher for how he stayed on in the Betfair Hurdle behind Agrapart when things just didn’t go right for him, but he looks a bit short at 7/2.
There’s no doubt that the top weight Rayvin Black has the pick of the form but horses carrying big weights in this race have a terrible record and it’s hard to see the course and distance winner giving a stone and more away to 13 of his 14 rivals.
*Prices correct at time of publication.