Sandown Saturday Preview: Our Merlin Is A Magical Bet

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Our Merlin – 7-1 with William Hill and 888Sport

Jump racing fans are in for a treat this Saturday with Chepstow’s rearranged Coral Welsh Grand National meeting joining a high-quality card at Sandown, the feature race being the Grade 1 32Red Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at 2.25pm. Eleven horses have been entered for the two mile contest at Monday’s declaration stage but with running plans unclear at the moment the race which appeals more as an ante-post betting medium is the concluding 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle at 3.35pm.

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One of the big success stories of last season was that of the Debra Hamer-trained Tobefair who provided the gelding’s enthusiastic owner’s Down The Quay Club with a fairytale series of seven victories starting in June off a lowly mark of 81 and culminating eight months later with a win at Newbury off a revised rating of 134. Asked by the handicapper to carry 62lb more than the son of Central Park’s opening mark last season proved too much for Tobefair in the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham festival but nevertheless the improvement shown by the hurdler was nothing short of remarkable.

Whether any horse is capable of climbing those heights in the current season is debatable but the Robert Walford-trained Our Merlin is already well on his way to a similar campaign to that horse and the winning-run of the lightly-raced six-year-old can continue at Sandown on Saturday afternoon in the final race of the day covered by ITV4.

Looking badly in need of the run on his first start of the season when failing to beat a rival at Worcester in October the son of Pasternak was in the process of giving odds-on favourite Dalaman a fright when unseasing his rider at Plumpton the following month off a low mark of 86. That promising effort failed to go unnoticed, resulting in the mount of Harry Cobden being sent off 9-4 joint-favourite at that course two weeks later and the support was justified as Our Merlin cruised home by a long-looking 21 lengths.

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Another easy victory followed at Fontwell shortly afterwards and three days later connections decided to strike while the iron was hot sending the gelding to Taunton off a rating of 100. The rise in the weights proved woefully inadequate as Our Merlin cruised to an impressive 15 length win over Mr Lando and New Millennium in the fifteen-runner handicap. Our Merlin will need to defy a new mark of 123 if he is continue his fantastic run on Saturday, but, as was the case with Tobefair, it is dangerous to underestimate a horse in such blistering form.

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