Byline: GRAHAM CUNNINGHAM
WHAT could be more straightforward on a Saturday afternoon than a u50,000 handicap hurdle with a massive field and a multiple entry from the Martin Pipe stable?
The final weekend before Cheltenham doesn't offer too many obvious bankers for those who want to build up their betting bank, but keep a close eye on Non So when he bids to continue his run of improvement in the Sunderlands Imperial Cup at Sandown tomorrow.
This is a race with a rich tradition which has been given added spice in recent years due to the fact that any horse who wins it becomes eligible for a lucrative u60,000 bonus if he or she goes on to follow up at the Festival.
No prizes for naming 'Pipey' as the only man ever to have landed the loot.
And no prizes for guessing that it was the same man who supplied 13 of the 38 horses entered for tomorrow's race at the five-day stage.
Britain's champion trainer gave bookmakers a severe pre-Festival headache in this race twelve months ago when Polar Red battled home under an inspired Tony McCoy having been heavily backed down to 6-4 in a field of 16.
The ex-French gelding Korelo looks the prime mover in the Pipe posse this time after showing much improved form to beat the fastimproving Chopneyev in a valuable handicap at Ascot last month.
He's already the 5-1 favourite for next week's Coral Cup at Cheltenham, and now the genie has been let out of the bottle there could well be much more improvement to come.
Against that, Korelo did seem to come into his own when faced with a stiff two and a half miles in demanding ground at Ascot.
This return to two miles on what will probably be better ground presentshim with a much different type of test, and at the likely odds Non So looks a better value bet.
This time last year Nicky Henderson's gelding lined up as a 40-1 shot for the Triumph Hurdle and ran accordingly in being pulled up when soundly beaten. …