By Simon Jackson
Sandown officials are confident that racing will go ahead on Saturday where the feature race of the day offers a £100,000 bonus if the winner can also score at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.
The ultra-consistent Regal Encore heads the betting for the showpiece race, the Grade 3 William Hill Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle, where victory for the six-year-old will secure a place in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle or the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on March 14.
The Anthony Honeyball-trained gelding has won three and finished second three times in his six starts to date and Sandown’s head of racing and clerk of the course, Andrew Cooper, has expressed his delight at the quality of the 19 entries, while warning that conditions are likely to be testing.
“A competitive renewal of the William Hill Imperial Cup on Saturday looks guaranteed,” Cooper said. “Ground conditions are likely to remain testing but with a largely dry week in store we are confident of racing.”
In other news from Sandown, this year’s Royal Artillery Gold Cup – which was part of the card that was abandoned due to waterlogging last month – has been rescheduled for Wincanton on April 2.
The three miles and half a furlong chase for amateur riders, first run at Sandown in 1878, is restricted to horses raced by current or former members of the Royal Artillery and Cooper is thrilled that this year’s contest is going ahead.
“Sandown Park welcomes the re-scheduling of the 2014 Royal Artillery Gold Cup to Wincanton on April 2, given that there was no suitable remaining fixture here,” Cooper said.
“This historic race has not been lost since 1952 and all involved have worked hard to ensure a renewal for this year at another of The Jockey Club’s racecourses.”
Wincanton general manager, Steve Parlett, added: “We are delighted to be able to offer the Royal Artillery Gold Cup a home this season. It is a race with a rich tradition and with the large amount of military personnel in the general vicinity Wincanton will provide an excellent temporary home and we look forward to welcoming all the owners, trainers, jockeys and service men and women to the West Country.”
Read Horse Talk with Simon Jackson each day at London24 for the latest horse racing news.