Sandown's Sunday card contains a lot of familiar names and Keith Melrose from the Racing Post picks out his best bets on the day.
It is a cliched piece of advice that the EBF Final, a 2m4f handicap hurdle, at Sandown in March is the best source of novice chasers for the following season. It does tend to work out, though, and Mumbo Jumbo, having finished fourth in that race last season, put in a really promising chase debut in a traditionally strong novices' handicap chase on his debut over fences last month.
He travelled well into that race at Uttoxeter, but just lacked the sharpness of winner Kinondo Kwetu, who has since won again at Aintree. Mumbo Jumbo is evidently effective at Sandown and showed at Uttoxeter that quicker ground (good that day) holds no fears for him.
He strikes as one to keep improving over fences and, while he is hardly alone in that regard in this race, he also has a promising recent run on his side.
Does He Know is one of those horses that I always try to get beat. He does not have the most natural build for a chaser, he does not jump all that well and he was generally found out in good company last season - besides the Reynoldstown, in which favourite Corach Rambler would probably have beaten him had he stood up.
The 3m intermediate chase on the card also contains Pic D'Orhy, who is far from a certain stayer but undoubtedly classy, as well as a couple with loads on at the weights. That leaves Fantastikas, who was aimed at big spring handicaps in his novice season and, while they did not work out, comes into this campaign with a bit of unfinished business about him.
Fantastikas showed smart form on several occasions, notably when chasing home L'Homme Presse in the Dipper at Cheltenham. He was among the market leaders for the Ultima (respectable seventh) and found the Scottish Grand National a bit too much.
Even so, he is within reach of the other two players at these weights and is likely to be ready to roll first time up for Nigel Twiston-Davies, whose horses rarely lack for fitness.
Remember what I said about Nigel Twiston-Davies' horses rarely needing the run? Well Ballyandy was an exception when he ran at Perth in September. Older horses can be harder to get fit at the best of times, and Ballyandy has often proved better for his first run of the season.
He shaped very much as though in need of the run at Perth, on his first chase start since 2018. He jumped fine, though, and it is worth stressing that his first chasing career was abandoned not because he did not take to it, but because he could pursue hurdles race at just below Champion Hurdle level. Those days are gone now and he comes into veterans' chases off a very workable mark of 142.
Plenty of his rivals here will have an eye on the final back here in early-January, so expect a few to be in need of the run. Ballyandy, who is arguably the best handicapped anyway, needs no such excuses six weeks on from his seasonal return.