Betfair Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle
|Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle,
Sandown Park 14:25
£100,000 guaranteed, 4yo plus,
1m 7f 216y, Class 1
1 Iceo 5/1
2 Knickerbockerglory 25/1
3 Playful Saint 13/2
4 Fine Casting 12/1
16 ran NR: Salsada, Soaring Glory
Distances: 3¾l, 1¼l, nk Time: 4m 11.00s (slow by 19.00s)
A big double on the card for owner Chris Giles as Iceo carries his silks to victory in the @BetfairRacing Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle, with the five-year-old asserting on the run for home in the hands of @CobdenHarry for trainer @PFNicholls 🏆 pic.twitter.com/gyMBZiYhbf— Sandown Park (@Sandownpark) March 11, 2023
Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden achieved big-race success ahead of the Cheltenham Festival with an impressive display form Iceo.
The champion trainer has not saddled a winner at the showpiece meeting since the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Politologue three years ago, but will return to the Cotswolds with high hopes for the likes Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle ace Hermes Allen and Gold Cup contender Bravemansgame.
The Ditcheat team claimed eight winners in the first nine days of March and Iceo continued the hot streak with victory in the traditional feature the weekend before the Festival.
The French recruit ran with promise in a couple of Grade Two juvenile events last season and finished second on his handicap debut at Sandown in January, his first appearance in 11 months.
The four-year-old was 5-1 for this tougher assignment and while the front-running Knickerbockerglory looked likely to prevail halfway up the home straight, Iceo reeled him in between the final two flights and was ultimately good value for the winning margin of just under four lengths.
Nicholls said: “He ran well here a couple of months ago having been off for a year with a tiny fracture on his cannon bone. We had to give him time and he needed that run. I said one race we will aim for is the Imperial Cup and pray it rains.
“The rain came for him, he stays strongly and it was the perfect ride. Today was always the plan and Chris (Giles, owner) has been backing him all week. If the ground would have been good they might have gone too quick for him. He wants a trip really.
“I thought he would finish fifth or sixth the last day and it looked like he was going to win jumping the last but he just got tired. At the stage of fitness he was there I knew there was huge improvement to come. I knew we had him right today.”
“Looking at him there I’d say going to Cheltenham is unlikely as Harry said he had a hard race. We are not chasing any bonus,” Nicholls added.
“Chris would love to have a runner at Ayr so if the Scottish Champion Hurdle was testing ground we could run him there.”
Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle
£100,000 guaranteed, 4yo plus, 1m 7f 216y, Class 1
Going: Heavy, Soft in places
POS. DIST HORSE AGE WGT TRAINER JOCKEY SP
1 Iceo 5 11-3 Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden 5/1
2 3¾ Knickerbockerglory 7 11-0 Dan Skelton Tristan Durrell 25/1
3 1¼ Playful Saint 8 11-6 Dan Skelton Harry Skelton 13/2
4 nk Fine Casting 7 11-0 Ben Pauling Luca Morgan 12/1
5 1¾ Monviel 6 11-0 Philip Hobbs Ben Jones 11/2
6 5 Kellahen 6 10-7 Tom Symonds Ben Poste 28/1
7 hd Hardy Du Seuil 6 10-13 Jamie Snowden Gavin Sheehan 11/1
8 nk Djelo 5 11-1 Venetia Williams Charlie Deutsch 14/1
PU Lightly Squeeze 9 11-6 Harry Fry Ben Bromley 80/1
PU Zoffany Bay 9 10-10 Peter Fahey Aidan Coleman 12/1
PU Metier 7 12-0 Harry Fry Sean Bowen 12/1
PU Punctuation 6 11-0 Fergal O'Brien Paddy Brennan 22/1
PU Givega 7 11-4 Gary Moore Jamie Moore 9/2F
PU Royale Margaux 5 11-3 Tom Symonds Caoilin Quinn 80/1
PU Man O Work 5 11-3 P G Fahey William Kennedy 14/1
PU Western Zephyr 6 10-6 Charlie Longsdon Sam Twiston-Davies 33/1
NR 2 Soaring Glory 8 12-0 Jonjo O'Neill NON RUNNER
NR 15 Salsada 6 10-12 Brian Ellison NON RUNNER