Who can be a hero?

Saturday 3rd February, 3:10pm

Ed Keeper  @ 4/1
Transmission @ 7/1
Scamallach Liath @ 7/1
West Balboa @ 15/2
view odds

*prices correct at time of writing. 

Premier racing comes to Sandown later than planned because of January’s stormy weather, with the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase (2-35) – named after a sometimes labyrinthine roundabout close to the track, as opposed to the islands – and one of Sandown’s ferociously-competitive handicap hurdles (3-10) providing absorbing British alternatives to Ireland’s Dublin Racing Festival.

Ed Keeper has never run a bad race, and might well have recorded a success at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day but for a last-hurdle error (finished third), an effort for which he was nudged up five pounds; after a quiet spell, trainer Sam Thomas is back amongst the winners.

West Balboa disappointed at a higher level before Christmas but, previously was notably progressive and looks a big player with an excellent-value three-pound claimer to assist. Transmission’s five-pound claiming rider Joe Anderson understandably received many plaudits when they recovered from a bad jumping error to win at Plumpton, but the horse did very well too; he’s up six-pounds.

Scamallach Liath is another on the up, has good form with Transmission and cheekpieces return. Lightly-raced Saint Davy impressed as he accounted for three much more experienced opponents at Ludlow. Dubrovnik Harry was maybe a bit luckless at Haydock, while Irish challenger Ambitious Fellow has his fair share of weight but seems to revel in big-field handicaps.

Operation Manna comes to a track he likes on a four-timer, most recently having won over the course and distance in good style. Of the Anthony Honeyball-trained pair, Good Look Charm is in good heart and looks absolutely ready for another go at this kind of distance, Gustavian returns to hurdles from chases well-weighted at best.

Elsewhere at Sandown, a case can be made for most in the Scilly Isles, but the two-and-a-half-mile distance is likely to particularly suit Hermes Allen and the Wetherby winner Colonel Harry, with the latter (in the Datsalrightgino silks) likely to provide more value. At 3-45, Kestrel Valley is up twenty-three pounds since joining Team Twiston-Davies and will do well to defy that, while everyone seems to be keen on Blackjack Magic but that’s reflected in the odds, and a big run can sensibly be anticipated from Certainly Red as he returns to a right-handed track at a competitive weight.

In Leopardstown’s Irish Gold Cup (3-35), Galopin Des Champs faces Fastorslow, his conqueror the last twice they’ve met – however if the Savills Chase-winning GDC shows up, it’d be a shock if that became three in a row. He’s on a longer list than ever of interesting runners at the meeting for Willie Mullins, some less well-known than others, not least well-regarded ex-French Majborough (1-50), nominated by the trainer himself as a dark one to follow. In Musselburgh’s Edinburgh Grand National (2-15) last year’s winner Magna Sam, who’s really thrived since joining shrewdie Alistair Ralph, looks to have been trained specifically with a repeat in mind.

West Balboa and Good Look Charm against the field in the big hurdle at Sandown.

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