Ed Quigley: Two tips at Sandown and Wincanton, and a 16/1 County Hurdle pick

Slate House

A lot of eyes will be on Constitution Hill at the weekend, as he rolls into Esher for the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown Park. He looked an individual with immense potential when bolting up here last month, and providing he handles what are likely to be attritional conditions, he will shoot himself to near favouritism (Supreme Novices' Hurdle) with another strong showing.

Lowering the level slightly, there are a couple of notebook horses running this weekend, beginning with the Nick Williams-trained MOONLIGHTER in the Handicap Chase at 13:50. The nine-year-old has started to ease down the weights, and off 141, he is now 3lb lower than when last successful - which came over course and distance last season. Crucially though, underfoot conditions appear to dictate when he puts his best foot forward; both chase wins under rules have come on bottomless ground, so connections will be hoping that the ground continues to deteriorate, with it officially described as Soft at the time of writing. With more rain on the way, he should get his ground, is proven at the track, and is starting to look well handicapped. He will do for me at 14/1.

13:50 Sandown - Unibet Horserace Betting Operator Of The Year Handicap Chase
Moonlighter silk



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Over at Wincanton, an old favourite, SLATE HOUSE is clearly no longer the force of old, but now has a handicap mark to reflect that. The old fires may not burn any more, and if that's the case then retirement will probably be on the cards for the ten-year-old, but he looks too well treated to ignore. Third in this race 12 months ago off 16lb higher, he has the back class to boss this field, and the prospect of soft ground holds no fears for the Colin Tizzard representative. If he ran a big race on these terms it would be far from a shock.

Looking further afield, and there is every chance that the Irish handicappers may well be about 11-stone well in, but considering the Dan Skelton team are masters of getting one spot on for a handicap, especially the County Hurdle, WEST CORK looks one to get onside at 16/1. After an impressive comeback performance to land the Greatwood at Cheltenham after 631 days off, he then finished fifth at Ascot last month, where a post-race veterinary examination revealed an overreach. Skelton has said the horse will head straight to the County Hurdle now, and left on a mark of 141, this lightly raced seven-year-old could easily have more to offer.

The yard's previous winners of the County Hurdle, Superb Story (2016), Moohayed (2018) and Ch'tibello (2019) all won without having a run in the same calendar year, so the 'fresh' approach is a formula that has been proven to work for the Alcester base . It is entirely plausible, that for one so unexposed, we are yet to see the ceiling of his ability, and if he were to go off single figures to win this it would not surprise me.

15:15 Wincanton - Kingwell Lodge Handicap Chase
Slate House silk

Slate House

2022 County Hurdle
West Cork silk

West Cork


Moonlighter, 13:50, Sandown - Saturday 8th January, 1pt win 14/1 (Paddy Power/Betfair) 
Slate House, 15:15, Wincanton - Saturday 8th January, 1pt win
West Cork, County Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Friday 18th March 1pt win 16/1 (generally)


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