They may be getting on in years but the 17 runners declared for the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase embody everything the public loves about the jumps as well as representing one of the strongest fields the Veterans’ Series has seen since its inauguration in 2015.
Staged over three miles, the two immediate past heroes of this contest return for more as Buywise, who swooped late in the day to conquer 12 months ago and Pete The Feat, denied in those last strides last year, are both among those involved. The first named has struggled to repeat the form of his triumph last season, while Pete The Feat, already a Jump racing legend, runs in this race at the almighty age of 15. He is not entered purely for show, however, as he won over course and distance as recently as March and was an encouraging third latest. Discount him at your peril.
Most of this field have shown a particular aptitude for Sandown throughout their careers, in particular Rathlin Rose, a dual winner of the Royal Artillery Gold Cup, who will strip fitter for his seasonal reappearance here in November. Winner of that contest was Loose Chips who, like Pete The Feat, is trained by Charlie Longsdon, clearly a master at getting the best out of an ageing star.
Both Houblon Des Obeaux and Le Reve are course and distance winners in their own right too. If this race were based purely on the ability of these at their peak then Venetia Williams’ charge, Houblon Des Obeaux, would have to stand out having run in a Gold Cup at his pomp. Now aged 12, his form is waning but the attitude certainly remains. Le Reve meanwhile, returned from a long absence with a highly promising comeback at Warwick.
Another who could boast top class form when his legs were more youthful is Theatre Guide, currently 22/1 with sponsors Unibet. Reminiscent of Cue Card (he runs for the same owners and carries a noseband for good measure), he is likely to prove a popular choice.
Henllan Harri was a shock winner of the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in 2017. He is sure to see out the trip better than most and was fencing as fluently as ever over the summer.
The ultra-consistent pair of Exitas and Cultram Abbey are sure to run their usual honest races while Rock Gone, who is relatively a young gun, has filled the runner-up spot on his last two starts and is the current favourite at 6/1.
It may follow the sole Grade One on the card in the Tolworth Hurdle, but there will be nobody leaving Sandown Park early with the Veterans’ finale just half an hour in its wake. All 17 horses are already treasures of the sport, but one of them will prove the hero beyond all heroes.
Our guest article is written by Joe Napier, a freelance writer and blogger. Read more by Joe on his blog, https://joeblogsracing.wordpress.com/.