It’s the calm before the storm, the starter before the main course, the race that precedes the Lord Mayor’s Show. But the Imperial Cup at Sandown carries a decent prize and an opportunity for horses not suited to Cheltenham to win a lucrative handicap hurdle. Golden Spear was the favourite for Saturday’s race and has an entry in the County Hurdle at the Festival but the horse was withdrawn at the final declaration stage so William H Bonney is the selection.
The Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle has had several sponsors and this year the betting exchange Matchbook have put their name to the race. The contest is run over two miles and eight hurdles so replicates the County Hurdle next week at the jumps meeting that matters most. The sponsors have reprised the £50,000 bonus for the winner if that horse then wins a race at the following week’s Festival. The last 10 winners have carried less than eleven stone from the 4 to 8 age group.
William H Bonney was allocated a weight of 11 stones 8 pounds when the handicap was reframed after Golden Spear and other leading contenders were taken out of the race. Aged six the horse meets the age criteria of the profile of recent winners, has run in the last calendar month and been successful three times over the distance. This year’s Imperial Cup has attracted a relatively low entry of just 13 runners and only four runners carry less than 11 stone.
The Betfair Hurdle and Coral.ie Hurdle (formerly the Boylesports) have been key pointers to the County Hurdle. In fact, nine of the last 16 winners ran in one of these races. This year’s Betfair Hurdle was a hot contest in which Ballyandy beat Movewiththetimes into second place and these horses will be major players in the novice hurdle races at Cheltenham next week. William H Bonney finished 11th that day and is about the third favourite for the Imperial Cup and if winning would give a massive boost to the Betfair Hurdle form.
The Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown in January could have told us a great deal about the Irish challenge for the Imperial Cup but despite being prominent in ante-post betting Tudor City will join his stable mate Golden Spear and not run. Both horses are trained by Tony Martin who may be hatching a plot with them which could come to fruition at Cheltenham next week but not Sandown today.
With the defection of several potential leading contenders from the Imperial Cup William H Bonney is the one to consider. The horse was outclassed in the Betfair Hurdle but carries just 2 pounds more than when winning at Cheltenham in January. The horse can defy the weight to win the Imperial Cup and Cheltenham can look after itself until that job is done but if successful his price for the County Hurdle will plummet.
Tip: William H Bonney for the Imperial Cup (Sandown, Saturday 3pm) at 13/2 with bet365.