Dan Skelton expects Sandown Park’s stiff uphill finish to play to the strengths of Langer Dan, one of 21 entries received for this Saturday’s Paddy Power Imperial Cup (Saturday 13th March). Langer Dan will bid to give the Alcester trainer a breakthrough victory in the Grade Three handicap hurdle by scoring for the first time since landing a Listed event at Wetherby in November 2019.
The five year old, who finished sixth in last season’s Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at The Festival™ supporting WellChild, hinted at a return to form last time out on his first appearance since undergoing a wind operation when finishing fourth at Market Rasen on February 21st.
This year’s race will carry a £50,000 bonus offered by Paddy Power to any horse that can follow up success in the race at Sandown Park on Saturday with victory in any contest at The Festival, where Langer Dan holds entries in the Coral Cup and Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle.
Skelton said: “Langer Dan ran well at Market Rasen the last day and he is probably one of those horses that as a second season hurdler going from juveniles and novices from four to five has just taken a while to find his feet.
“We have not put any pressure on him and just let him come to hand. He ran well at Market Rasen on his first start after a breathing operation and that will have helped his confidence.
“I think Sandown will really suit him as he wants a stiff finish and he didn’t have that at Market Rasen. I’m not saying he is going to win but he goes there in good health and should run well.”
The last horse to successfully win the Imperial Cup and triumph at The Festival in the same year was the David Pipe-trained Gaspara in 2007, who backed up her Sandown Park success in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
Last year’s Cesarewitch sixth, Leoncavallo, is one of three potential runners in the race for Pipe this year alongside Eamon An Cnoic and Nordic Combined.
Malaya provided Paul Nicholls with his first victory in the race in 2019 and the seven year old is one of four entered in the race by the 11-time champion trainer, alongside Diego Du Charmil, Miranda and Rockadenn.
Evan Williams is another seeking a first victory in the race and the Welsh handler also has multiple entries next to his name after entering both Grade One-winning chaser Esprit Du Large and Mack The Man.
Natural History has been installed as the 7-2 favourite by Paddy Power. Formerly owned by The Queen and a Group Three-placed performer on the Flat for Andrew Balding in 2020, the six-year-old joined Gary Moore after selling for 105,000 guineas at Tattersalls in the autumn. He was runner-up on his first two starts over hurdles before recording a runaway 15-length success on his handicap debut at Plumpton on March 8th.
Paddy Power Imperial Cup, Paddy Power odds:
7-2 Natural History; 6-1 Rockadenn; 8-1 Highway One O Two; 10-1 Eamon An Cnoic, Leoncavallo, Maries Rock, Miranda; 12-1 Do Your Job, Langer Dan, Mick Maestro; 14-1 Fransham, One True King, The Grey Falco; 16-1 Diego du Charmil, Malaya; 20-1 Esprit du Large, Hang In There, Hasanabad, Mack The Man, Miss Heritage; 33-1 Nordic Combined.
Meanwhile Paddy Power will now utilise the Imperial Cup as the race which will make one of its customers a millionaire, following the abandonment of the two scheduled fixtures at Cheltenham in January.
It is the culmination of a campaign where Paddy Power online customers who backed winners of a designated Saturday race went into a draw the following Monday, broadcast live on social media.
Each weekly draw winner gained £10,000 and a “Golden Ticket” which will randomly assign them a runner in the Paddy Power Imperial Cup.
Paddy Power himself said: “The Paddy Power Imperial Cup is an important handicap hurdle in the calendar that is greatly enhanced by the bonus for the winner then landing any race at the Cheltenham Festival.
“However, this year as well as being highly significant for the actual participants, it’s also a potential life-changer for a number of our customers who have been chasing the million and one of them will be rewarded most handsomely at the end of this historic two-mile heat.”