Simon Holt: The Reel deal
Simon Holt picks out his best bets for Saturday's card at Sandown and sides with a potentially well handicapped runner.
Loose Chips can be a devil to pass when on song.
The introduction of veterans chases is one of the success stories of recent jumps seasons and Sandown's 32Red Veterans Handicap Chase Final on Saturday has attracted a hugely competitive field of old favourites.
In such an open race, it is more than tempting to seek a longer-priced runner with a decent each-way chance, and the horse I have in mind is LOOSE CHIPS who has put up several good performances on the course and seems to retain plenty of ability.
Charlie Longsdon's game front-runner clearly ran out of stamina over three-miles-and-five furlongs here behind Rocky Creek last time but previously had the same horse (same terms) back in fourth when bravely outpointing Court By Surprise (disappointing since) over the course AND distance.
A previous second to Double Ross (third in the Hennessy in November) at Chepstow also confirms that Loose Chips is in grand heart this season and, while there are others who might potentially want to go forward, he can be a devil to pass when on song.
Rocky Creek seems to have been enthused by some hunting and battled on well to fend off Doing Fine and subsequent Plumpton winner Morney Wing here last month, but the drop in trip is not necessarily in his favour these days, and he had hitherto become very unpredictable.
Perhaps the most obvious threat is Gas Line Boy despite going up 9lb for his easy defeat of Cloudy Too at Kelso last time when Aerial was about 13 lengths away in fourth, Wychwoods Brook fifth and former star chaser Dynaste a disappointing seventh.
A reproduction of that effort will surely result in Tom O'Brien's mount being thereabouts especially if he gets into a good jumping rhythm again.
One has to conclude, after that Kelso effort, that Dynaste is not the force of old yet he figured at the top of the market in the ante-post betting lists earlier this week, and the bookmakers are clearly wary of a much better run this time.
Aachen has also been out of sorts in recent starts but ran a blinder when second to Soll in this race 12 months ago and cannot be entirely dismissed on that basis.
Later on, JOHN REEL looks potentially well handicapped in the closing 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle.
Since beginning his career in bumpers, Dave Evans' eight-year-old has developed into a useful middle-distance horse on the Flat. He ran three times over hurdles way back in 2013 finishing second to the smart Three Kingdoms at Leicester on his final start after a previous win at Southwell.
After the Leicester run, John Reel was switched to the Flat under which code he has won four times achieving a rating of 97, the mark off which he finished third at Wolverhampton 12 days ago.
Given that the difference in Flat and jumps ratings are generally considered to be at least 40lb, the fact he can run off 123 here is certainly attractive and it is worth noting that his half-brother Silver Jaro won a County Hurdle.