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Nic Ladds 24th Apr 2009 - 23:00

Weatherby's preview: Sandown and Ripon

Get ready for the final big English jumps meeting as well as some thrilling flat action and to help you, we've once again got our Weatherby's expert Paul Jones to give you his opinions on the big televised races today.

All the action can be seen live on Channel 4 with the first race starting at 2:05, with the final jump meeting from Sandown and one of the highlights of the weekend, flat racing from Ripon.

The racing from Sandown includes the afternoon's showpiece, the bet365.com Celebration Chase going off at 2:35.

The Sandown card also includes three flat races, with the first one coming at 3.45 - the bet365 Mile

Don't forget that every race comes with our Best Odds Guaranteed promise, which means if you take a price when you place your bet and the SP is bigger, we will pay you out at the bigger price.



A competitive handicap in which I can see French Opera running well off top weight.

If he settles better than when fifth in a similarly hot race at Aintree last time and given he is the Nicky Henderson second string on jockey bookings, he is likely to be a decent each-way price.

Tasheba is Henderson's number one after easily winning at Cheltenham last week but I fear his price may be a little skinny.

Seven Is My Number has run two poor races since his eye-catching second in the Imperial Cup here on his seasonal debut which he had looked plotted up for.

It is possible a return to this track could see an improved running but David Pipe's yard have gone well off the boil again.

Gary Moore's Cockatoo could be the best percentage play as he is fresh following just two runs this season.

His shrewd trainer has a habit of winning quality handicap hurdles at the track and he won well last time out.


2.20 RIPON

Kevin Ryan runs Coleorton Dancer who trained the winner of this three-year-old handicap for the same owner five years ago.

He interests me, especially off the mark of a promising return when second dropping back to 5f for his seasonal debut.

Considering he ended his 2yo career with back to back wins over 6f on soft ground, that return effort over the minimum trip of firm ground looked a little like a sighter for the season.

With that run under his belt and stepping back up to 6f, he is most interesting.

The main dangers look to be Mister Laurel and Proclaim. Mister Laurel looked like a horse to keep on the right side of when winning at the track last time out for Richard Fahey whilst Mark Johnston's Proclaim has a most progressive looking profile.



Twist Magic has an 8lbs class advantage over his rivals but has spat the dummy out in his last two runs since his good run in the William Hill Tingle Creek Chase.

There he fell 2 out when about 3l adrift of Master Minded when yet to be asked a question.

His supporters will no doubt point to the fact they expect an improved performance returning to the track where he clearly goes very well.

He seriously impressed when winning the previous season's William Hill Tingle Creek Chase and Ruby Walsh is back in the saddle.

It is still too much of a leap of faith for me at his likely odds given he runs more moody races than good these days.

I would fancy Kalahari King to beat him as he will love this fast ground and I think he is an under-rated improving novice who won at Aintree in the style of a horse that suggests he or Big Zeb are the second-best two-mile chasers around right now.

I think it is interesting that Ferdy Murphy goes for this Grade 2 race rather than the more valuable Grade 1 race at Punchestown next week.

Oumeyade is a big danger as he impressed in early season races on right-handed tracks, jumping slick and fast from the front which is always a massive plus on this chase course, but I will take Kalahari King's class to come through.



This is not the race it used to be by a long chalk but the trends still hold up well and history tells us it is very hard to win this race carrying over 11st so I am looking towards those in the lower half of the handicap.

Of those in the top half of the weights I think New Little Bric looks to have the best chance.

He has run well here twice before and was a revelation winning a very valuable handicap at Newbury before falling in the Topham when travelling okay.

I couldn't put anyone off a little each-way sniff on him. I've backed two earlier in the week, Bowleaze and Oodachee.

The former each-way as he is a solid horse that looks guaranteed to run his race. Bowleaze isn't sexy but neither was Harwell Lad who won this race for Robert Alner over a decade ago.

I do like his profile for this race off 10st 6lbs coming off a big run when a close-up fourth in the Kim Muir.

His course form is excellent having ran a blinder in the London National on Tingle Creek day to be beaten only two lengths on ground softer than ideal and his two previous visits to Sandown both resulted in wins.

However, he is much better horse on faster ground which he will have here, as demonstrated by the fact that all his career wins have been in the autumn or spring.

I think he will run a huge race and older horses have proven they can win this race but at the age of ten he is hardly ancient.

Oodachee is my other fancy off the back of his very good second in the Topham and Charlie Swan has shown he is not averse to plundering some of our better handicaps. The trip has been mooted as a problem but he wasn't beaten far in last season's Irish National and he was also placed in the Galway Plate so he has been hitting the crossbar in top handicap chases.

Hoo La Baloo is favourite judged on his third last year and races off a lower mark, but he just doesn't look to be in as good form this time.

Church Island rather got the run of the race in a very odd Irish National where nothing got into it bar the three that cut out the running so I think he is flattered by that run.


3.30 RIPON

Wells Lyrical ended last season on a big high winning three on the spin but this is tougher.

My preference is for My Immortal, who is better known for his jumping exploits for David Pipe but has been with John Quinn for his recent races.

Forget his last run on the Flat as he was hampered and done few favours.

He is better than that and is open to plenty more improvement now he has changed yards and he has only had six runs on the Flat during his career, winning twice.

A positive market move would be interesting.

Dunaksin, Bollin Felix and Dolly Penrose are others to catch the eye in a competitive staying handicap.



Even with his penalties Paco Boy should be too good for these.

His trip to Dubai proved a disaster as he drawn wide which made his task very difficult so I would put a line through that.

For me, it is just a question of whether the trip and experience has taken anything out of him as I reckon a mile will be fine for him with another winter on his back having looked so good over 7f.

Remember, the Dubai race he was being trained for was actually 1m½f so they must confident a mile should not be a problem.

With the John Gosden yard firing on all cylinders Virtual may prove to be his biggest threat as they have not be lacking for fitness on their season debuts.

I can see the globe-trotting Lovelace run well as he has race fitness on his side and is proven over the course and distance.

Dream Eater is a talented individual but I am really not convinced a stiff mile is ideal for him and he looked better over trips short of a mile as three-year-old, notably when third in the Jersey Stakes.

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