The Imperial Cup at Sandown is precisely the kind of punting conundrum that’s ideal to sharpen bettors’ instincts before the Cheltenham Festival next week and this year’s edition is a typically competitive looking affair.
In true Countdown fashion our Imperial Cup tips are taking one from the top (of the betting) and one from the bottom as we throw in out lot with one trainer who’s been irresistible at the track this season and another who has done very well with his rare runners in the race.
Imperial Cup 2023 betting tips
Check out the latest Imperial Cup odd from Betzone.
Unexposed Nicholls charge can step up from Sandown sharpener
Paul Nicholls has saddled 33 winners from 146 runners at the track over the last five seasons for a 23% win rate, but this season his course record has been particularly strong.
The Ditcheat Svengali has sent out nine scorers from just 23 runners at the Esher circuit in 2022/23 at a strike rate of a whopping 39%.
His Iceo wasn’t among Nicholls representatives to enter the Sandown winners enclosure this term. Nonetheless his second in a class two handicap hurdle at the track on January the 7th was a very credible run coming off the back of a 315-day break.
The re-opposing Hardy Du Seuil beat him by three lengths on that occasion, in receipt of 7lbs and with a race fitness advantage. Djelo and Lightly Squeeze, who will also contest the Imperial Cup finished further down the field.
This time around Iceo only concedes 3lbs to his conqueror and must be open to a great deal of improvement on only his sixth run under rules.
He already has solid form in the bank from his juvenile campaign too, finishing just over four lengths behind Aucunrisque in last season’s Grade 2 Dovecote at Kempton. Chris Gordon’s gelding is now rated 147 after winning the Betfair Hurdle, while Iceo remains on 132.
Nicholls landed the Imperial Cup with a five-year-old in Malaya back in 2019 and has an excellent chance of doubling his tally of winners in the race with his sole entrant in this year’s contest.
Longsdon’s race record suggests outside is worth a second look.
Charlie Longsdon has saddled three runners in this race in the last 20 years for a return of one winner and one placed horse. As such it’s evident that Western Zephyr is well worth a second look despite being disregarded by the odds compilers.
He won two of his first three outings over timber before being sent to stake on Luccia in a Listed Novice and ruining his race by running far too free early on then running out of gas.
Longsdon deploys a hood for the first time here in a race that also happens to be the horse’s handicap debut and just his fifth hurdles outing.
That should help avoid a repetition of his Exeter hot-headedness and it would be no surprise to see the six-year-old find plenty of improvement for its application for a trainer who has targeted this contest judiciously in the past.