9 Mar 2019

Matchbook Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)

It’s that time of year again. Imperial Cup day, followed by a week of the finest jumps racing on the planet. It doesn’t get better than this, so it would be nice to set off with a winner.

You don’t get to win a race as competitive as this by accident. Horses prepared specifically for the race will always tend to be at home in soft conditions - so it's a relief to see the ground described as soft (heavy in places) on the hurdles course. Things don’t feel right at Sandown on the jumps course unless there’s ease underfoot. Anything else and I tend to lose interest.

Other than a liking for the conditions, the other key pre-requisite is to arrive in good form. Winners have almost always recently confirmed their well-being, even if smuggled into the race on a protected mark. 

They also have to be at their best going right-handed (or at least not disadvantaged).

Other things to look for. A prep run 16 to 60 days ago. Not too much weight - ideally no more than a net 11-02 - and the ability to stay further than the bare trip. Given the strong galloping, testing nature of the race it’s a real challenge just to run to your mark. The ones that do stay well.

Plug all this in and the one who ticks all the boxes is Paul Nicholls' MALAYA. Stays further - a stiff 2 miles on soft looks perfect - goes RH, ideal weight, excellent career record and an improving profile. Looks thoroughly laid too out after a deliberately quiet (but excellent) prep.

Henderson controls the handicap but has inadvertently set things up to a nicety for Malaya, although it’s worth having a saver on his own runner, DREAM DU GRAND VAL, who is improving fast and could have more untapped potential.

Looking further ahead, this would be a very timely moment to obtain ENIGMA Forum access. Once a member, it's free to subscribe to my Key Racing Gold thread and receive a copy of all my bets throughout the Festival. Roll on Tuesday!

2.25 Sandown, Malaya 1.5pt win 5/1
2.25 Sandown, Dream Du Grand Val 0.5pt win 7/1

Herbie authors the Key Racing Gold thread on the ENIGMA Forum - check the performance at: WWW.ENIGMARACING.NET/RACING-FORUM

** Malaya Wins 7/1 SP - jockey confirmed she had been laid out for months and was given a quiet confidence booster ahead of the big day...roll on Tuesday ** 

Mud, mud, glorious mud

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