Monday’s best bets, by Chris Cook
We wake to more news of proposed development at a Jockey Club racecourse in the London area. Happily, the plans to put up 300 new homes and a hotel at Sandown would not mean obliterating the track itself, which is what could happen at Kempton under plans first mooted a couple of years ago.
Part of the reason given by the Jockey Club for wiping out Kempton was that it could raise money for improvements at Sandown. As the Racing Post points out, the new plan to build on five small areas around the edges of Sandown provides an alternative source of funds for that.
But I don’t really go all the way with the Post headline, that this improves the prospects of Kempton being spared. The view from inside the Jockey Club is that these are two separate proposals, involving different local authorities and on very different scales.
The Sandown project would raise funds for many improvements at Sandown, including some that would benefit its community, like a new pedestrian link between Esher station and its High Street, a new nursery and improvements to the car park and access to it. It would also allow for refurbishments to the grandstand but would not raise enough for an entirely new stand, according to Jockey Club sources.
Much as I hate the idea of building on Kempton, there’s no denying that that project, if allowed in full, would raise an awful lot more money than what is envisioned at Sandown; the original announcement mentioned “at least £100m”, though it would surely be a lot more than that. At the Jockey Club, they fancy the idea of building on Kempton because it would produce “step-change money” for investment elsewhere, including in a new all-weather circuit at Newmarket.
You and I may not feel that such drastic action is either necessary or desirable but senior figures at the Jockey Club believe otherwise. I expect they will push on with their plans for Kempton, whether the Sandown project is allowed or not. The encouraging thing is that the Kempton plans appear to be going nowhere fast but the future of the track is not secure until its owner publicly renounces any idea of sending in the bulldozers.
Turning to the racing, I like the look of 9-4 about Court Liability (2.45) in a handicap hurdle at Musselburgh. This is a youngster from the Harry Whittington yard, which is in form, even though Saint Calvados couldn’t trouble the big two in the Tingle Creek on Saturday.
Court Liability won a couple of novice hurdles a year ago and looks very fairly treated for this handicap debut, in the light of what he achieved then. He seems to like a sound surface and gets it here.
In the opener, Outcrop (12.15) looks like an improving young hurdler who could be worth sticking with at 5-1. He stayed on from the back to win comfortably at Sedgefield but couldn’t turn the same trick behind a couple of speedier rivals round here a fortnight ago. This extra half-mile will help.
Contrastingly, the going at Lingfield is, as ever, bottomless. This is good news for Gregarious (2.00), who slogged his way to victory on similar ground at Towcester in March. He hasn’t fared well in his first two runs of the season, which is why he’s 10-1, but he has needed a couple of runs in the past and it’s interesting that he is now reunited with Maxime Tissier, who was on board at Towcester and who is worth his claim in hurdle races.
Half an hour later, Bally Longford (2.30) is rather a cowardly nap at 5-4 against three rivals. He was a fair fourth in a hotter race for amateur riders at Cheltenham last month and is probably better on this type of ground.