Impaire Et Passe and Langer Dan face Sandown rematch

Having both been part of a pulsating three-way finish at Aintree little over a fortnight ago, Impaire Et Passe and Langer Dan are poised to renew rivalry in the bet365 Select Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday.

The Willie Mullins-trained Impaire Et Passe, a top-class novice last season, had failed to lay a glove on esteemed stablemate State Man a couple of times in Ireland this winter, prompting connections to sidestep the Cheltenham Festival in order to keep their powder dry for the Grand National meeting.

That decision paid off in a dramatic renewal of the Aintree Hurdle, with Impaire Et Passe just about denying a rallying Bob Olinger by a nose, with Langer Dan only a short head further away in third.

A lengthy stewards’ inquiry followed and while connections of both of the beaten horses might feel they were unlucky losers on the day, the placings remained unaltered.

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The first and third are set to clash again this weekend, both looking to do their bit for their respective trainers with the British title to be decided on the day, while Mullins has a second string to his bow in the form of the high-class Sir Gerhard.

Patrick Mullins, who rides Sir Gerhard, said: “Impaire Et Passe seems to have come out of Aintree very well. It’s a quick rematch for both horses, but our fellow travelled to the last hurdle on the bridle, so hopefully he can confirm the placings.

“If the main two are below par, Sir Gerhard has to have a big chance of stepping up. He didn’t stay in the Stayers’ Hurdle in soft ground and I think coming back to two-and-a-half on nicer ground will suit him very well.

“I was second on him in a Grade One novice chase this time last year (at Fairyhouse), so I’m delighted to get back on him and I’m expecting a big run from him, but it’s a very competitive race.”

Harry Skelton celebrates winning a second Coral Cup on Langer Dan
Harry Skelton celebrates winning a second Coral Cup on Langer Dan (Mike Egerton/PA)

Having proved himself capable of competing at the highest level on Merseyside, dual Coral Cup winner Langer Dan will look to take his revenge on Impaire Et Passe.

Asked if he is up for the rematch, trainer Dan Skelton told Racing TV: “Oh, definitely. It’ll tell us a little bit more. It was a great race up at Aintree, with its drama and everything else.

“There’s definitely three sides to the story but I didn’t come away from there wondering ‘what if’. That’s sport at the end of the day.”

The other Grade Two on the card is the bet365 Oaksey Chase, a competitive two-mile-six-furlong contest featuring the likes of Patrick Neville’s The Real Whacker, the Mullins-trained Easy Game and Hitman from Paul Nicholls’ yard.

Of the latter, Nicholls said: “I’ve kept him fresh this year and looking at the declarations, I would like to think he will have a nice chance. He’s run well at Sandown before and the ground will suit him.

“Looking at the opposition, Easy Game pulled up last time, Ga Law pulled up last time, The Real Whacker pulled up last time. The others are OK horses, but they’re not top-notchers and it’s not like a Ryanair Chase, so I would like to think he will have a lovely chance.”

Nicholls, who still has an outside chance of pipping Mullins and Skelton to the trainers’ title, also has high hopes for his two runners in the £100,000 bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle.

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He added: “Fire Flyer is a very nice horse and he won well at Taunton when he qualified for this.

Trainer Paul Nicholls
Trainer Paul Nicholls (John Walton/PA)

“He was a bit disappointing in the EBF Final, but I don’t think he was right then and the ground was very testing over two and a half miles.

“This is more his trip and off 126, I think he has a nice handicap mark.

“Harry (Cobden) is very keen on Fire Flyer but I don’t actually think there is much between him and Panjari, who absolutely bolted in last week and the handicapper has put him up 9lb for winning an egg and spoon race at Ffos Las.

“He’s a class horse and with Freddie taking 5lb off, we have two lovely chances.”

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