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Horse Racing - Racing: bet365 Sandown Meeting Preview

There are two exciting days of racing ahead at Sandown Park on Friday and Saturday this week and bet365 are proud sponsors of the meeting.

On Friday, it's the bet365 Classic Trial Day as Flat racing returns to the Esher venue for the first time this year, with Group 2 and Group 3 races on the card.

Onto Saturday and it's the bet365 Jump Finale afternoon, as Britain's National Hunt season draws to a close with the Celebration Chase the main dish.

We look ahead to what should be a cracking couple of days racing at Sandown Park, which you can follow on our Sports Live Streaming platform.

Appleby and Buick aim for Trial prize

The bet365 Classic Trial (15.35) has been won in the past by subsequent Derby winners in Shergar and Troy amongst others, while as recently as 2018 Masar was second in this contest before scoring in the Epsom Classic for Charlie Appleby.

The Newmarket trainer has started the season in blistering form, with rider William Buick the main beneficiary as they've shown the Midas touch in recent weeks. Appleby's strike-rate standing at a staggering 56 per-cent (13-23) in the last fortnight.

Goldspur, priced at 11/8, is his contender for glory in the bet365 Classic Trial. The Dubawi colt won easily over a mile on debut here last September and bagged a Newmarket Group 3 on his second start in October. He was third in the Group 1 Prix Criterium at Saint-Cloud on very soft ground and there could be plenty more to come this season.

He faces three once-raced winners here – River Thames at 7/2 for Aidan O'Brien, Cash at 11/2 for David Simcock and John & Thady Gosden's Franz Strauss (also owned by Godolphin) at 10/1.

The Gosdens also run Frantastic – the mount of Frankie Dettori – while Andrew Balding's Groundbreaker and Ralph Beckett's Westover complete the field.

Hot-pots in the Group races

The preceding pair of Group-races feature hot favourites in the Mostahdaf for Team Gosden in the bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes (14.25) and Alcohol Free for Balding in the bet365 Mile (15.00).

The latter contest was won last season by brilliant miler Palace Pier. The filly Alcohol Free, priced at 4/6, was no match for him or Baaeed on British Champions Day at Ascot in the QEII, but she was a dual scorer at the top level last season, winning on her reappearance and is unpenalised despite a drop into Group 2 company here.

The Charlie Hills-trained Mutasaabeq, winner of a Conditions race at Thirsk on comeback recently, is 4/1 in the betting and looking for a first strike in Pattern-race company.

Earlier, Jim Crowley will be eager to steer home 8/11 Mostahdaf in the Gordon Richards Stakes. The only defeat of his six-race career came in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last season and he's 2-2 at Sandown previously, both wins over a mile.

Juan Elcano for Kevin Ryan at 4/1 and the Balding-trained King Power runner Foxes Tales at 5/2 complete a three-runner field for this mile-and-a-quarter contest.

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Champions to be crowned on Saturday

The National Hunt season in Britain concludes on Saturday with the traditional bet365 Finale card.

On the individual awards front, there's not much spice to be had. Paul Nicholls is all but assured of his 13th trainers' championship, with a lead of around £300,000 over his old rival Nicky Henderson, who conceded he was too far behind after Aintree.

The jockeys' championship went down to the wire last season with Harry Skelton pipping Brian Hughes, but the latter has roared back into top spot this season and became the fourth jockey to break through 200 winners in the season - a feat achieved by champions such as Sir Anthony McCoy, Richard Johnson and Peter Scudamore before him – in reclaiming the crown.

Kevin Brogan will win the Conditional jockeys' championship, while JP McManus is once more leading owner.

Skeltons aim for Grade 1 signoff

On the track, the bet365 Celebration Chase (15.00) is the concluding Grade 1 of the season and Nube Negra is 6/4 for Dan and Harry Skelton. He won the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November but was forced to miss the Queen Mother Champion Chase last month in the Cotswolds.

His only other start this season was in the Tingle Creek over track and trip in December when he was no better than fourth.

Greaneteen, the surprise winner of that midwinter race, is 13/8 to have his measure again for Paul Nicholls after he swerved Cheltenham last month and the eight-year-old will be bidding for back-to-back renewals of this race.

Henry de Bromhead was the last Irish trainer to win the Celebration Chase with Special Tiara in 2015 and he could run Champion Chase third Envoi Allen, trading at 10/1, in the Sandown showpiece this time.

Kitty's back for another crack

Arguably there wouldn't be a more popular winner on Saturday than the Christian Williams-trained Kitty's Light if the six-year-old can justify odds of 5/1 in the bet365 Gold Cup (15.32).

Kitty's Light was, for many, the moral winner of the race last year, suffering interference from first-past-the-post Enrilo but, agonisingly, short-headed into second by Potterman – who got a clear run – ensuring the stewards' had no choice but to award the race to Alan King's charge once Nicholls' Enrilo had been thrown out for causing the interference.

Kitty's Light has finished second in four of seven starts this season, including behind stablemate Win My Wings in the Scottish Grand National most recently.

Both Enrilo, at 4/1, and Potterman at 12/1 featured amongst the five-day confirmations for Saturday's race, while Irish trainer John McConnell could fire Go Another One and Streets Of Doyen at the £90k top prize.

Nicholls, meanwhile, could have a strong hand in the bet365 Oaksey Chase (14.25) with 15/8 Hitman and 10/3 Saint Calvados engaged. The former was second behind Fakir D'oudairies in the Melling Chase at Aintree recently, while Saint Calvados was fifth in the same contest and is 0-3 since moving to Ditcheat.

Nicky Henderson has 11/4 Mister Fisher – pulled up in the Melling Chase – entered while the Seven Barrows chief could also call on Fusil Raffles, winner of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase early in the season at Wetherby, and a 12/1 chance to claim the second Grade 2 of his campaign here.

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