Sandown Park welcomes Parade of ChampionsBy Richard Spiller
April 27, 2012
WEST END ROCKER and Deep Purple will be bidding to make up for Grand National disappointments at Sandown Park on Saturday (April 28).
They are among the favourites for the bet365 Gold Cup at the Esher course and might fancy the soft ground left by this week’s downpours more than the much firmer surface at Aintree earlier this month.
Once again Sandown will be the scene for National Hunt’s end-of-season party although they share the stage with flat racing too.
The bet365 Ultimate Celebration is one of the pinnacle racedays of the calendar, started by an equine parade which will include the Paul Nicholls-trained, Grand National winner Neptune Collonges, Big Buck’s – who made history at Cheltenham by winning the World Hurdle for the fourth time and also enjoyed a victory at Liverpool recently – as well as Gold Cup and King George VI Chase legend Kauto Star, and Stan James Champion Hurdle victor, Rock on Ruby.
Others enjoying their round of applause will be Bob’s Worth, who took the RSA Chase, Sprinter Sacre, Finians Rainbow, Riverside Theatre and Simonsig, all of them champions for Nicky Henderson.
The parade takes place at 12.45pm, hosted by Nick Luck, and spectators will also see the Sandown Park awards. A host of celebrities including Dames Judi Dench and Kelly Holmes will be honouring the champion jockey, most prolific trainer, top owner and six other categories.
Once the racing starts at 1.30pm, in an eight-race card, most attention will be on the grade three Gold Cup.
Although declarations were not be made until Friday, the two Grand National flops – West End Rocker fell and Deep Purple was pulled up – should have an excellent chance to show their true colours over three miles, five furlongs and 110 yards.
Top weight will be the appropriately named Tidal Bay – owned by Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh – for a first outing at Sandown since the Tingle Creek in December 2008, when Master Minded won by a massive 10 lengths.
And there will be no shortage of quality elsewhere in the field either, some top-class performers in the Grade Two Celebration Chase seeing Somersby – a winner at Ascot earlier this year – competing with Wishfull Thinking and Sanctuaire, who won on the course last month and again boasting the Nicholls/Walsh combination.
Flat racing takes over for the final four races of the card and multiple group one winner Twice Over has been entered for the bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes along with Sri Putra, who was third in last year’s Coral-Eclipse.
Some useful three-year-olds are on view in the bet365 Classic Trial, including three from Aidan O’Brien’s yard – David Livingstone, Astrology and Imperial Monarch.
Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper reported that conditions were raceable and no inspections were planned for either Friday's flat meeting or the weekend's big day.