Sandown team considering all-chase option for Saturday card

Officials at Sandown are pursuing the possibility of staging an all-chase chase card on Saturday should the hurdle track remain unraceable.

The next 24 hours could be crucial as to what form the programme will take, with more rain forecast at the Esher venue.

As a consequence, an inspection has been called for midday on Tuesday with particular emphasis on the hurdles course.

There are currently set to be eight races on the card – four over hurdles and four over fences, following confirmation the Cotswold Chase is to be moved after Cheltenham was abandoned at the weekend.

Before that announcement from the British Horseracing Authority, Sandown clerk of the course Andrew Cooper said: “The entries closed at midday today on the basis of a seven-race card, including hurdle races.

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“Our view is, as it stands, we’d be raceable over fences but not raceable over hurdles.

“We’ve got a week with potentially a couple of spells of rain, which could be appreciable overnight tonight and throughout the course of Wednesday in particular. There is rain certainly in the first half of the week.

“We’re giving some thought to the possibility of going all steeplechase if that seems to be the best way to go to make sure we race in some shape or form on Saturday.

“If we didn’t look at that and stuck to the conventional chase-hurdle card we could come to a point with the latter that we might lose everything later in the week, so we have to develop a contingency option. I think there will be quite a lot happening over the next 24 hours.

“There’s a lot to run its course, and we’d hopeful of getting some racing here on Saturday, but quite what format that meeting would take remains to be seen.

“The Cotswold Chase has been kicked around as a possible race to be rescheduled here from Cheltenham. With the Cotswold, we’d be up to eight races. It is volatile at the moment, and there is a lot of weather to come through.”

The going is described as soft, heavy in places on the chase course but raceable – and heavy, soft in places on the hurdles course with some waterlogging/saturation on the home straight.

The BHA confirmed on Monday afternoon that the Cotswold Chase will be run at Sandown, while the same day’s Wetherby card will feature the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle – which was also initially due to be run at Cheltenham.

The Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase is set to be Sandown’s Grade One feature, with Dan Skelton’s Kauto Star Novices’ Chase winner Shan Blue going for a second top-level strike.

He is unbeaten in three starts over fences – while Alan King’s Messire Des Obeaux has won both his chases this season, having also scored at Grade One level over hurdles before injury intervened in his career.

Dame De Compagnie, Allart, Hitman and Sporting John also figure among 10 contenders.

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