Unibet Veterans' Handicap Chase Analysis
15:00 at Sandown on 4th January
It’s amazing to think this handicap for horses aged 10 and older is worth more than double the grade one Tolworth, and it’s easy to see why any trainer with a veteran chaser worthy of his place in the line-up will have targeted the race.
This is just the fifth edition, and winners so far have been aged 11 (two), 12, and 13. They’ve been rated 124, 135, 138, and 145, and have carried 10-1, 10-8, 11-3, and 11-9.
Despite their advancing years, plenty of the runners are still above or around their last winning marks. That includes Kings Odyssey and Vieux Lion Rouge, both of whom have more weight than any other winner of the race. That mark also applies to course winner Carole’s Destrier who, despite being on a much lower mark than at his peak, would prefer another two furlongs.
Burtons Well is 5lb higher than his last winning mark, but he is trained by last year’s winning trainer Venetia Williams. Meanwhile, last year’s runner-up Theatre Guide could go well off the same mark hasn’t won for three years.
Abolitionist has been out of form for a while, but there is no better target trainer than Dr Richard Newland.
Short Stepper also needs to return to a level of form he’s not shown for a while. The Wild West Wind has won off a 4lb higher mark but there could be an obvious reason why this mistake-prone chaser has not run before at the stiff jumping test that is Sandown.
Jepeck has shown improved form over hurdles of late but needs to transfer that to fences, whilst Regal Flow normally needs a stiffer test of stamina to be seen at his former best. Horatio Hornblower has won his last two and has placed in both previous run at Sandown but is up in the weight and class this time.
Dark Flame made the shortlist due to his second to Houblon Des Obeaux over course and distance in November, but the horses behind him weren’t up to much.