Cut-up Sandown has enhanced the claims of Capitaine

Court By Surprise a good price in the 32Red Veterans’ Handicap Chase

Harry Cobden riding Capitaine at Wincanton last November. Although the five-year-old grey was turned over on his penultimate start at Haydock, he made amends with a frontrunning success in a Grade Two at Ascot last month. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

It is tough to make a compelling case against Capitaine in the 32Red Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown. The Grade One at the Esher circuit cut up quite badly at the final declaration stage, which has unquestionably enhanced the claims of Paul Nicholls' grey.

Deeply unexposed and seemingly unfazed by any variants of ground, the Grade Two winner is highly unlikely to be knocked off his stride if his jockey forces the issue from flag-fall.

Capitaine bids to give Nicholls a fifth victory in the race. Although he was turned over at short odds on his penultimate start at Haydock, the five-year-old grey made amends with a game frontrunning success in a Grade Two at Ascot last month.

Nicholls, who last claimed the Tolworth with Breedsbreeze in 2008, said: “Hopefully he is up there with my past winners as he is a proper horse. As I said before, we got the tactics totally wrong at Haydock when he got beat there, but we’ve always thought a lot of him.


“We let him bowl along in front last time and he was very good. He wouldn’t want too much rain. Hopefully he will run well again. He is another horse for the future.”

Court By Surprise is a good price in the 32Red Veterans’ Handicap Chase. The 12-year-old should really have won more races during his career, but he has a decent record at the track, and could feasibly have been trained to the minute for this assignment.


Court By Surprise found three miles and five furlongs too overwhelming at this track on December 3rd, but his prior run over course and distance served notice that the fires still burn from within.

Emma Lavelle’s old-timer only went down by half a length to Loose Chips in a qualifier for this race, so it is far from beyond the realms of possibility to suggest that form can be reversed. Court By Surprise has not won for well over two years, but he is enticingly handicapped as a result, and warmed up for this with a satisfactory fourth in a handicap chase at Doncaster, where, interestingly, he was the subject of plenty of market support.

Coeur De Lion must be followed in the 32Red-sponsored juvenile hurdle. A typically smart young buck from Alan King’s yard, the four-year-old backed up victory at Wetherby in November with a solid second in a Triumph Hurdle trial at Cheltenham.

With the winner Defi Du Seuil having since plundered a top-level success over Christmas, the form is noteworthy, to say the least.