Imperial Cup 2022 Tips: Monviel to strike for Hobbs at Sandown
With ante-post favourite Langer Dan avoiding the Imperial Cup in favour of next week's Cheltenham Festival, Saturday's handicap highlight at Sandown Park is set to be a devilishly difficult assignment for punters, but our man Steve Chambers aims to find the winner of a fascinating 2022 Imperial Cup...
Nicky Henderson last trained the winner of this race back in 2009 when Dave's Dream was victorious, but the Seven Barrows handler has a leading contender in this weekend's highlight in the shape of Balco Coastal, who has been a real top notch performer this season - winning two of his three races - and he's entitled to be the market leader, at the time of writing. Wins at Huntingdon and Ludlow forced Henderson's hand to send him into Graded company next time out, but he was no match for North Lodge in a Grade 2 event at Cheltenham. That raider has franked the form when finishing a narrow second in a Grade 2 at Kelso last weekend, but the six-year-old Balco Coastal has been handed a mark of 134 for this contest, which could prove a little high.
A winner off a mark of 123 back in December, the Tom Symonds-trained Hystery Bere then failed to follow up at Cheltenham off a mark of 128, so Saturday's rating of 130 could see him struggle, and while he's entered for the Martin Pipe next week, it's hard to see him take victory in this event. Kim Bailey's Mr Grey Sky is going in search of a third win on the bounce after he claimed a brace of wins in soft ground at Leicester and Ludlow. Upped 7lbs for his most recent win, he's entitled to be in the shake-up here, but the quicker ground could potentially hinder his chance.
Paul Nicholls will unleash a three-pronged attack at this event, with the top-weighted Miranda spearheading them, but he was beaten off 146 last time out, and while Ben Bromley's 7lb claim could prove important, the Ditcheat raider could be in the handicapper's grip. Samarrive and Hacker Des Places complete the Ditcheat trio, and it's the former that makes most appeal, as he bounded to a runaway eight-and-a-half length victory at Sandown two starts ago, and while he failed to follow up in a tough handicap hurdle next time out at Ascot, a return to Sandown could see him bounce back and make the frame at least. Now 9lbs higher than that Sandown winning mark, he is one that could play a notable role in a competitive event.
Philip Hobbs trained Qaspal to victory in the 2010 Imperial Cup, but the classy handler could well claim more success in the valuable race with the hugely progressive MONVIEL, who sneaks in towards the bottom of the weights. The lightly-raced five-year-old has only had four career starts to date, and the last two of those have been winning ones. A maiden hurdle win at Wincanton was followed by a classy novices' hurdle win at Sandown, and having been handed a mark of 121 for Saturday's event he could be very attractively handicapped to claim glory. He ran around in the closing stages of that recent Sandown win, so he's certainly worth more than his winning victory, and with plenty of his rivals exposed, the double-figured odds available for him to strike here looks the bet to go with.
Of the others, Neil King's Onemorefortheroad failed in his quest to win four on the spin last time out when beaten by Tritonic at Ascot, and he's been duly upped a further 1lb by the handicapper, so could find it tough, while the likes of Lively Citizen and Lucky One add depth to the race, but will struggle to land a blow on the leading players.