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Nicky Henderson is also hoping to continue his good run by landing the first Grade 1 race of 2013, the 32Red Hurdle at Sandown Park, with Golden Hoof on Saturday 5th January.
The five-year-old was impressive on his previous start, again at Sandown Park, when winning the John Oakley 50th Birthday National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle in December. Henderson also saddles Royal Boy in the novice contest.
“Golden Hoof is a nice horse, but this is a step up for him,” Henderson said. “Ideally he would want slightly better ground than tomorrow, but I hear it is drying out all the time. As for Royal Boy, tomorrow’s race is a tall order for him, but he has come on from his previous run and likes the soft ground.”
Jeremy Scott has declared Melodic Rendezvous, who beat Royal Boy at Cheltenham before Christmas. Poet, who was a top class contender on the flat, has also been declared after winning his only start over hurdles at Newbury last month. His owner, former Champion Jockey, John Francome has high hopes for him as a Champion Hurdle contender in time. Charlie Longsdon saddles Pendra, who is unbeaten after three starts, while Evan Williams has declared Court Minstrel, winner of the Leamington Maiden Hurdle at Cheltenham in October.
Evan Williams also runs William’s Wishes who bids to add to his winning tally in the 32Red Casino Handicap Chase, having won six of his last seven races, the latest being at Ascot in November. The eight-year- old is partnered by regular jockey Paul Moloney.
Speaking on Friday, Evans said, “I couldn’t tell you much about William’s Wishes because he is such a poor worker at home its difficult to know. But he has always been like that. He’s so slow at home, I could overtake him on my feet on the gallops! All I can say is we’ve given him plenty of time after Ascot so hopefully he’ll continue his good form.”
He continued, “It’s always been the plan to go to the 32Red Hurdle with Court Minstrel and depending on how he does we’ll know whether we’ve got a horse to compete at the top level with.”
Emma Lavelle’s Kentford Grey Lady returns to Sandown Park to try and win for the second time at the Esher track this season in the Listed 32Red.com Mares Hurdle Race (Listed). The afternoon culminates with the most valuable race of the day, the 32Red.com HBLB Handicap Steeple Chase, worth £50,000. Contenders for this race include Gary Moore’s Fruity O’Rooney and Jonjo O’Neill’s John’s Spirit who landed the John Jarvis Novices’ Handicap Chase at Sandown Park in early December.
The going is described as Heavy, Soft in places in the back straight on the hurdles course and Soft, Heavy in Places on the chase course. The weather is expected to stay dry and mild from Friday into Saturday.
After racing, entertainment will be provided by London’s famous Comedy Store, when three of their comedians, Stephen Grant, Jeff Innocent and Louis Ramey will take centre stage for some raucous entertainment to blow away those January blues!
Gates open at 10.45am with the first race at 12.45pm and the last race at 3.40pm. Four races will be broadcast live on Channel 4 Racing, which starts at 1:30pm.