Horse Racing Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 14, 2019. Picture: REUTERS / PAUL CHILDS
Horse Racing Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 14, 2019. Picture: REUTERS / PAUL CHILDS

Of the four trainers with leading contenders for next week’s Sun Met at Kenilworth, it will be only Eric Sands who is smiling after the barrier draw with Rainbow Bridge, set to jump from stall five.

If 63-year-old Sands could have picked a position before the draw, gate five might have been his top call and 2019’s winner is better off than his three main rivals, Hawwaam, Vardy and Do It Again.

So everything is going swimmingly for Sands with Ryan Moore flying out for the ride — apparently the trainer’s idea not owner Mike Rattray’s — and now a favourable barrier draw.

Yet on the day of the race (February 1) Sands will be a worried man until his charge arrives safely at Kenilworth. Rainbow Bridge tends to sweat up in the float and he had to be hosed down before entering the parade ring for 2019’s race.

After 2019’s race, Sands said: “I never doubted I would make it, but the problem was that people doubted me.”

Wide gate

Well, that is not the case any more for the man who has trained top performers such as Flobayou, Jungle Warrior and Perfect Promise has done a first-class job with a horse who often suffered from lameness early in his career.

Trainer Mike de Kock and jockey Anton Marcus will not be too pleased that Hawwaam drew a wide gate of 12 — it means Marcus will have some early decisions to make if he is to win his fourth Met.

Justin Snaith and Adam Marcus are in the same boat. Do It Again is drawn alongside Hawwaam in gate 11 while Vardy is not that much better off in gate nine.

The word from the Snaith camp is that Do It Again — only a 50-50 chance to run last week — has improved in the last few days and will bid to further boost his impressive career earnings.

Bookmaker reaction to the draw was to trim Rainbow Bridge's price from 9-2 to 4-1.

“With question marks surrounding Hawwaam and Vardy going 2,000m, we feel Rainbow Bridge will shorten further in the betting,” said bookmaker Lance Michael.

This will be Hawwaam’s last appearance in SA with the four-year-old set to be flown to the UK — via Mauritius — a fortnight after the Met. Provided he takes the gruelling trip well, it will be interesting to see how he fares against some of the best horses on the planet.

Betting has opened on some of the supporting feature races on Met day and Paddock Stakes winner Queen Supreme has been priced up the 17-10 favourite for the Bidvest Majorca Stakes.

Regarding the two inmates of De Kock’s stable Hawwaam and Queen Supreme, would you rather take 18-10 about the former or 17-10 about the latter? Many punters will surely feel the filly is the safer option.

Sean Tarry, again among the winners at the Vaal on Tuesday, could spoil the party for Queen Supreme’s supporters by winning with Celtic Sea. She has impressed this term, and Gavin Lerena — jocked-off Rainbow Bridge — will want to ride a winner on the big day.

Front And Centre is a 5-1 third favourite for the Majorca, but there is no reason she should turn the tables on Queen Supreme on her Paddock Stakes running.

VAAL SELECTIONS

First race: (9) Towards The Sun (8) Dark Tide (4) The Pink Panther (3) Kings Road

Second race: (15) Regards To All (13) Izze Kloth (5) Urban Oasis (14) Mayweather

Third race: (3) Undisclosed (2) Trend Master (11) Soul Connection (1) Latest Craze

Fourth race: (16) Western Vision (1) Aalsmeer (2) Nu Bell (3) Samoa

Fifth race: (1) The Jocelyn Tree (6) Carry Me Carrie (5) Can Can (4) Bat Orchid

Sixth race: (5) Tilmeeth (6) Nimitz (1) Maroon Bells (7) Bellagio King

Seventh race: (1) Curvation (4) Sports Tattoo (5) Rock Me Twice (11) At First Light

Eighth race: (15) Nebraas (13) Ideal Man (5) Arminius (6) Ghalyoon 

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