There are three Grade 1s set to take place at Sandown on Saturday if the meeting survives an early morning inspection - the rescheduled Fighting Fifth Hurdle, the Henry VIII Novices' Chase and the Tingle Creek Chase.
There will be long odds-on favourites in the Fighting Fifth and Tingle Creek if the principals all turn up, but the Henry VIII Novices' Chase (13:50) looks a bit more competitive. Six runners are set to head to post with Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings headed by JPR One (165p) who would have run out an authoritative winner of a Grade 2 at Cheltenham last month only to unluckily unseat at the final fence when five lengths clear, earning the Horse In Focus Flag.
JPR One was a useful hurdler but he's a chasing type on looks and has quickly raised his game over fences, impressing with how well he jumped and travelled at Newton Abbot before enhancing his reputation with his effort at Cheltenham. JPR One jumped the final fence cleanly at Cheltenham but stumbled on landing and unseated his rider. He was clearly very lucky not to win there and the form he was in the process of showing marks him out as a leading player in this, particularly with further improvement to come.
Iceo (154+) was sent off favourite to beat JPR One when conceding plenty of weight in a novice handicap chase at Newton Abbot but he proved to be a disappointment, finding little when challenged on the home turn. Iceo had created a good impression when making a successful chasing debut on his reappearance at the same venue a few weeks earlier, however, and is clearly better than he showed last time. It's worth noting that Iceo won the Imperial Cup here last season and he returns from a seven-week break with the Paul Nicholls yard in excellent order (has the Hot Trainer Flag).
Colonel Harry showed useful form over hurdles last season, winning a couple of times, including a maiden at this venue, and he made a successful start over fences at Chepstow last month. His task was made easier by the favourite flopping, but there was still a lot to like about Colonel Harry's performance, including how soundly he jumped.
Unexpected Party failed to win during his first campaign over fences last season, but he showed smart form on occasions and he put that experience to good use on his reappearance at Chepstow to beat the promising Knappers Hill. He was unable to sustain his effort when fifth in the prestigious Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month so he may be suited by this drop back in trip, and he should prove more competitive than when a distant third in this last season.
Le Patron (152p) has quickly proved himself a better chaser than hurdler and made it two from two over fences when comfortably landing a two-and-a-half-mile novice handicap here last month, earning the Horse In Focus Flag. This is a big step up in class, and poses a new test down in trip, but his accurate jumping is an asset.
The only maiden chaser in the line-up is Petit Tonnerre (153p) but he shaped well when runner-up on his first start over fences at Cheltenham in the race JPR One was set to win until unseating. Petit Tonnerre obviously has a bit to find, though he's still unexposed and should improve for the experience of his chasing debut.
Timeform's Analyst Verdict:
JPR ONE jumped superbly and was set to land a Grade 2 before stumbling and unseating after the last at Cheltenham in November. A repeat of that sort of performance should be enough for him to quickly gain compensation, although Iceo and Unexpected Party both look feasible threats.
Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings:
165p JPR One
164 Unexpected Party
153p Petit Tonnerre
152p Le Patron
150p Colonel Harry
Race Passes are the ultimate form guide, providing Timeform analysis, Flags and ratings for every runner in every race in Britain and Ireland. Subscribers have access to additional features that add extra levels of insight, including complete performance histories, an extensive form archive and unlimited use of horse, jockey and trainer searches.