The betting for the Imperial Cup chiefly revolves around two horses who could attempt to win the £100,000 bonus on offer to the winner should they go on to win any race at the Cheltenham Festival (3.10pm, Sandown, Saturday).
Bidourey (6/1), trained by David Pipe, has the option of the Fred Winter or Triumph Hurdle, while Calipto (8/1), trained by Paul Nicholls, is joint-favourite for the County Hurdle with many bookmakers.
Bidourey is unbeaten after five starts and heads the market on the strength of a very easy, 15-length defeat of Ride On Time, at odds of 1/3, in an ordinary novice hurdle over course and distance last month.
Exactly what the four-year-old achieved in doing so remains to be seen, but he did prove that he’s highly effective over 2m on soft going. The horses that finished immediately behind him on his previous start at Leicester have done little to advertise the form, but he could only beat them as effortlessly as he did and he falls into the ‘could be anything’ category.
Calipto, on the other hand, has already been to one Cheltenham Festival, finishing fourth, beaten 8¾ lengths behind Guitar Pete in the Triumph Hurdle despite jockey Daryl Jacob breaking a stirrup leather approaching the second last. The Caliphet gelding also finished a never nearer fourth, beaten 13 lengths behind Violet Dancer in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury four weeks ago and races off the same handicap mark. However, he fared best of the horses that were held up in that race, so the stiffer test of stamina, and the possibility of a decent pace to aim at, should be in his favour.
A line through his Doncaster conqueror, Glingerburn, suggests that Some Buckle (18/1) is remarkably well treated on his handicap debut. Glingerburn was a convincing winner of the Grade 2 Premier Kelso Hurdle last Saturday and is now officially rated 152, but Tom George’s (pictured) six-year-old, who went down by just a short head to Glingerburn at level weights at Doncaster on his penultimate start, starts life in handicaps off a relatively lowly mark of 135. Some Buckle was beaten 7½ lengths when only fifth of nine behind Ordo Ab Chao in the Grade 2 Classic Novices’ Hurdle, over 2m4½f at Cheltenham six weeks ago but he could be a different proposition this time.
Arzal (12/1) was another who ran in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury four weeks ago but, having been hampered at the fifth flight, could only stay on to finish sixth, beaten 15 lengths. Strictly speaking he has a little to find with Calipto, but there was much to like about the way he stuck to his task at Newbury and, with luck in running, it would be no surprise if he reversed the form. He is closely handicapped with West Wizard (12/1) on their running at Kempton in November but is a genuine, honest type who should run his race again.
The fact that Fascino Rustico (14/1) has fallen on three of his last six starts must be a concern, but one of those falls came at the second last in the Betfair Hurdle, when he was disputing fourth place. So he must enter calculations off the same handicap mark. The Milan gelding had previously recorded two convincing wins in ordinary novice company on his first two starts for Dan Skelton and looks to have a major chance once again if he can stay on his feet. If he can, a stiff two miles on soft going should be right up his street.
- Clearly, there are plenty with chances in this year’s Imperial Cup, as usual, but our betting tips advice is to back Some Buckle each-way at current best betting odds of 18/1, which can only be found with Bet365. With that bookmaker’s generous concession of paying a quarter the odds a place 1-2-3-4-5, that works out at 9/2 for a place in the first five and Some Buckle is so well handicapped that, barring accidents, the first five must a realistic possibility, at the very least.