Southoftheborder - 13:50 Sandown
Smart Stat: 2 - Nicky Henderson's number of winners in past 10 runnings
Southoftheborder created an excellent impression when making a successful hurdling debut at this course a few weeks ago, impressing with the way he went through the race (jumped and travelled well) before quickening clear from two out, ultimately winning by two and a half lengths in ready fashion. That was his second victory from as many starts under Rules having previously won a Ffos Las bumper in March, while he also won his sole outing in Irish points before joining the Nicky Henderson yard. Henderson has a good record in this Grade 2 having struck in 2014 and 2017 and the unbeaten Southoftheborder has all the hallmarks of one who should be capable of making an impact at this sort of level, very much the type to go on improving now up in trip (bred to stay well).
Huelgoat - 15:00 Sandown
Smart Stat: 23% - Paul Nicholls' strike rate at Sandown Park since the start of the 2019/20 season
Smart Stat: 24% - Paul Nicholls' strike rate with chasers running between 19f and up to 3m
Smart Stat: 21% - Paul Nicholls' strike rate in early season
Huelgoat showed much-improved form when regaining the winning thread at Wincanton last time, impressing with his strength at the finish in a well-run race as he forged clear late on to land the spoils by three lengths. The manner of that victory suggests Huelgoat was full value for an 8 lb rise in the weights, while the step up to three miles shouldn't be an issue, either. In fact, it could be making of him and he remains one to be interested in now that he's back in the winning groove having made good progress last season when getting on a roll with four straight wins for Paul Nicholls, who typically has his team in a rich vein of form (63% of horses running to form).
Freescape - 18:00 Dundalk
Smart Stat: 3 - David Marnane's number of winners in past 6 runnings
Freescape produced his best effort of the season when returned to this course and distance last time, keeping on well to pass the post just half a length behind the winner. That was a big step back in the right direction and he is potentially very well treated judged on the pick of his form as he tries to add to his 2019 and 2021 victories in this race for David Marnane, who also struck in 2020 with Settle For Bay. For context, Freescape is now 8 lb lower in the weights than when gaining his most recent win at this course in December last year, so he's one to keep on the right side having shaped last time as if retaining most of his ability.