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Matthew Sutcliffe’s Value Punts – Tips for the Final Day of the Jumps Season

The National Hunt season draws to a close at Sandown on Saturday. Keen to make the value count for one more time over jumps, Matty Sutcliffe has four selections for the day.

Published: 1.45pm Wednesday, 24th April (Odds correct at time of publishing)

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1:50 Sandown – bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4yo+) – Maasai Mara 20/1 1pt EW 3 places

A wide open market at this stage with the twenty-eight entries headed by Fiercely Proud at 9/1 toward to top of the market, but the 10/1 about Golden Maverick makes the 20/1 about MAASAI MARA a huge price. Our selection comfortably beat Snowden’s by seven lengths at Catterick in February, travelling strongly and jumping fluently throughout in the manner of a promising juvenile hurdler. Golden Maverick was well backed there and has since won two on the bounce, but only has a 5lbs swing with Maasai Mara and that wouldn’t be enough to reverse the form, so the pair are priced incorrectly. 

Maasai Mara returned from a 72 day break with an excellent second to the 4/7 favourite Insurrection where he gave Cobdemn something to think about on the turn for home. Though in receipt of 8lbs, he still had 10lbs to find on ratings with the 130r runner so a subsequent 7lbs rise looks more than manageable. 

He’ll need two to come out after decs which I’m confident of, and four yearolds have won two of the last three runnings of this valuable contest. From the family of Monsun, it’ll be no surprise should this progressive son of Roaring Lion overcome a mark of 119 given his smart exploits on the flat, with the forecast softening ground no issue. 

bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race)

2:45 Haydock – Trustatrader.com Handicap (Class 2) (4yo+) – Zouky 12/1 1pt EW 3 places

In typical Haydock fashion, despite drying ground around the country in the last week, we still have heavy going at the Merseyside track at the current time of writing with parts of the track unraceable, so we’re to err on the side of caution with some of these regarding fitness levels at this point in the season. One who will be cherry ripe for it is ZOUKY, who despite taking her all-weather record to 0-4 last time out, posted a career high RPR of 97 when finishing 5th in a Listed Fillies contest at Kempton at the start of the month. She lost two places late on there when weakening late on, shaping like this drop back to seven furlongs is where she’ll find her winning form this season. 

Zouky should be much happier back on turf and with a career best last time out, she can continue her upward progress when last seen on turf. She was beaten half a length into 5th in a Listed Fillies & Mares contest at Ascot in October under Rossa Ryan, faring best of those in rear after taking an early keen grip. She was a neck behind the 102r Breege there suggesting this mark of 92 is workable, and that’s backed up by her run in the City Of Doncaster on St Leger weekend, where she split two in-form colts in second with the winner now rated 105 having won at Newmarket earlier this month, and the third is rated 3lbs higher having won at Newmarket the previous day. The 4th has also climbed 9lbs higher (100r) after a productive winter on the all-weather, so again I think Zouky is attractively well handicapped off a mark of 92 this spring and can make a winning return to turf at a track she’s 1-1 at. 

My only mild concern would be if it were to turn up heavy as she’s unraced on ground softer than good (according to Timeform, though was G/S when winning at Newbury and second at Doncaster according to RP). That said, her dam was a winner on soft ground and she’s a half sister to three soft ground winners. She’s got a fairly large frame as opposed to a lighter, nippy sort and with a slight knee action, perhaps this softer ground won’t pose a problem, particularly given she stays seven furlongs strongly so any extra reserves of stamina will be welcome.

3:35 Sandown – bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – Amirite 10/1 1pt WIN + Courtland 66/1 0.5pt EW 4 places 

AMIRITE was looking for a third consecutive victory fresh when favourite for last year’s Irish Grand National, but pulled up on account of reportedly never travelling. He’s been very lightly raced since, but his two efforts would see him attractively weighted off 142 for a tilt here. The first came when fourth off a 201 day break in a 31k handicap at Cheltenham in October off this mark, giving weight away to the three in front who have all posted smart bits of form since. Wayfinder (3rd) was second to Nassalam in the Welsh National Trial, Twig (2nd) was 2nd in the Ultima then a good 5th in the Freebooter Handicap at Aintree, and the winner was 3rd behind the handicap blot of the season in the Kim Muir. 

Amirite was then put away again until December where equipped with a first time tongue tie, he was 5th in the valuable Listed Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown, a length behind James Du Berlais who’s subsequently finished second in the G3 O’Driscolls Irish Whiskey Handicap, 7th in the Plate and 2nd in the Topham, 8lbs higher than when 4th at Leopardstown. Either he’s a tricky horse to keep fit and goes best fresh, or they’ve purposely kept him away from the torrid winter ground we’ve had and primed him for this prize on better ground. 

He’s well handicapped on several bits of form, stays well and is relatively unexposed after ten career starts. Should the team have him in fine fettle, then there’s very little negatives surrounding him and can go well with a stiff jumping test like Sandown to suit. 

The other I have to play in here is an outsider in the form of COURTLAND. As ever with Peter Bowen’s runners, Courtland thrives in the Spring/Summer months for the better ground with his record in the months of April-August reading 2171111121 as opposed to 7633155UR566PU1 elsewhere. He was gifted the race over an inadequate two miles last time out where the pair in front unseated their riders, but that will undoubtedly have brought him on for this spring. 

His excellent season last year saw him go from a make of 104 to 134 and he wasn’t disgraced at Aintree beaten thirteen lengths in October off 144. There’s a slight question mark as to whether this race will merely be a spin to drop him down in the weights, perhaps toward another tilt at the Summer Plate, but Peter Bowen won this in 2017 with a nine-year old at 40/1 who’d previously been contesting C4/C3’s, so there’s hope that he’s here for a genuine tilt as opposed to a day out. 

If the forecast rain doesn’t arrive in abundance, then he’ll prefer the ground more than most and (though goes fine on soft) and has shaped on more than one occasion that this trip could be within range.

bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race)

Added: 1.15pm Friday, 26th April (Odds correct at time of publishing)

3:00 Sandown – bet365 Celebration Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – Boothill 40/1 0.5pt EW 2 places 

I was against El Fabiolo on account of him making a jumping error in the Champion Chase so it only makes sense to follow that up with him visiting Sandown for the first time. With multiple front runners, this race could be run at a good clip and I’d be worried about him getting into a jumping rhythm around this stiff test, so he looks very opposable at 8/11F. 

For all Jonbon has his jumping frailties, he is 3/3 here but he posted a career best RPR over 2m4f at Aintree last time out and the key to Jonbon is getting him in a rhythm, so this quicker pace down in trip could possibly catch him out. Perhaps it’s a tad ironic playing BOOTHILL here, who has fallen in his last two races, but he’s generally much better on right-handed tracks and given connections have swerved both Cheltenham and Aintree, he may benefit from being fresher than most here. His record on a right handed track off a break reads 113PU11, with the outlier coming on heavy ground over hurdles at Galway. 

While he’s a bit to find on ratings, the prospect of better ground will aid his cause and he was only beaten eight lengths by Jonbon here in December 2022. Should in the in-form Harry Fry team have him in top form, then It’s not hard to envisage him creeping into the race in rear off a strong pace and benefitting from a pace collapse late on, as he’s a strong travelling sort who’s often threatened to win a nice prize, and should his jumping be accurate, then he can give a good account of himself with this likely have been a long term target. 

bet365 Celebration Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race)

4:10 Sandown – bet365 Select Hurdle (Grade 2) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4yo+) – Ballyadam 13/2 1pt WIN 

We were agonisingly stripped of a 20/1 ante-post winner in the Coral Cup with BALLYADAM, beaten only by the plot job Langer Dan. However we’re back for redemption, and I can’t work out why Ballyadam is a much bigger price here. Ballyadam gave Langer Dan 6lbs there who is now rated 160 (19lbs higher) after being beaten a toenail in a controversial G1 Aintree Hurdle, where he could easily have been given the race in the Stewards room. Ballyadam receives 4lbs from Ranger Dan now for that two length gap, which suggests he Is value for his odds with both Langer Dan and Impaire Et Passe. 

While he’s not devoid of speed, this stiff test over 2m5f will suit him particularly on good ground and if the yard have him back to his peak ability, then he can surely outrun those odds and give the market protagonists something to think about.

bet365 Select Hurdle (Grade 2) (GBB Race)

4:45 Sandown – bet365 Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 2) (5yo) – Bourbali 20/1 0.5pt 3 places 

The free-going, front-running Nickle Back will ensure this is a good test here, and given he posted an RPR of 159 in the Scilly Isles over C&D, he could be tough to peg back once more off a mark of 149. However, BOURBALI has yet to be seen to best effect over fences as this keen goer desperately needs a strong pace to be given his head. He was only nine lengths behind Nickle Back in the G2 Wayward Lad in December and has a 3lbs pull with him, and although he still has work to do to bridge that gap, he’ll enjoy taking a lead off Nickle Back hopefully sitting prominently in the chasing pack going a good clip. 

We can draw a line through his last two efforts, the first when pulling up in a first time hood and his saddle slipped, then the second was when racing very freely over hurdles. Prior to that, he was a three lengths second at Wincanton behind the well backed/progressive Pilsdon Pen giving 18lbs to the winner, pulling thirteen lengths clear of the second who’s improved in two efforts since. 

All his best form has come over 2m4f on right handed tracks, and his record here is a 1st and 2nd from two efforts. He’s still well handicapped on several bits of hurdling form (a length behind Grey Dawning giving 3lbs) and for all he has something to prove after his last two runs, dropping back into Novice company with ideal conditions should see him go well from a prominent pitch and he’s certainly overpriced with a line through the favourite. 

bet365 Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase (GBB Race)

5:20 Sandown – bet365 Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-145) – Lookaway 15/2 1.5pts NAP EW 5 places 

LOOKAWAY featured in my top ten to follow at the start of the National Hunt season and he’s had a productive campaign. It’d be the cherry on top should he get back to winning ways in the curtain raiser, and unless I’m missing something blindingly obvious, he’s a monstrous price at 15/2. 

He began his hurdles career with a big reputation after taking the Aintree G2 bumper in 2022, but he had his issues as did the yard, and ultimately disappointed. However, he finally came good around this time last year when bolting up in two Uttoxeter Novice Hurdles on good ground, before beginning this season with a Grade Two success in the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle, beating Kamsinas who subsequently followed up in the G2 Newton G2 Novices Hurdle. He was then sent in to handicap company off a mark of 132 in the Greatwood where he split the subsequent Betfair Cup winner Iberico Lord (rated 24lbs higher) and the Champion Hurdle 3rd Luccia (rated 13lbs higher), with the subsequent G2 Kingwell winner Nemean Lion (rated 10lbs higher) and Imperial Cup winner Go Dante (rated 12lbs higher) both well in behind. Given he’s only rated 5lbs higher from that run, he’s incredibly well handicapped in here. Not only that, but he was second in the G1 Challow ahead of the subsequent Albert Bartlett second The Jukebox Man who’s rated 148 now, and ahead of the 138 Jonnywho. 

Three runs in competitive company likely took its toll when a distant 16th in the Betfair Hurdle on heavy ground, and he benefited from a 62 day break when a ten length third in the G1 Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree behind Firefox and Mystical Power who were 3rd/2nd in the Supreme, finishing ahead of Supreme 5th Mistergif and the 135-rated Dovecote winner Lump Sum. 

He’s effectively a proven graded performer dropping into a 0-145 and if he improves for the step back up in trip on good ground on a stiff track, then this stamina laden-bred son of Ask (Westerner mare) should flourish from a prominent ride around here, making it a stiff test for all. The Neil King yard haven’t been firing on all cylinders in recent years, but they had a 18/1 winner last week and a 28/1 place on Thursday, so they’re somewhat in form. In fact backing all of the yards runners in April would see you £88.33 up to a £1 stake. He’s proven he can back up a run quickly given there was fourteen days between his two wins last season, and this fluent mover will be better suited to the ground more than most.

bet365 Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race)

Matty Sutcliffe’s Value Tips for Saturday, 27th April

1:50 Sandown – bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4yo+) – Maasai Mara 20/1 1pt EW 3 places

2:45 Haydock – Trustatrader.com Handicap (Class 2) (4yo+) – Zouky 12/1 1pt EW 3 places

3:35 Sandown – bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – Amirite 10/1 1pt WIN

3:35 Sandown – bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – Courtland 66/1 0.5pt EW 4 places 

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