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Regal has the class to be an Imperial ruler; WEEKEND WAGER HARLIE MCCANN.

NOT long to go now until the 2014 Cheltenham Festival but there is some excellent racing this weekend, including a cracking card from Sandown where the feature race is an excellent renewal of the Imperial Cup.

Sponsors William Hill have put up a PS100,000 bonus for any horse who wins the contest and then follows up in any race at Cheltenham.

And, like many others, I have been looking forward to the handicap debut of Regal Encore (3.15), who finished runner-up in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago.

The selection is currently 5/2 at BetVictor but can't get any shorter and is likely to go off around the 3/1 or 7/2 mark.

Regal Encore has won only one of his three starts over timber but there was no disgrace in either loss.

And the form of his two lengths defeat at the hands of Seeyouatmidnight in December reads well when you consider the subsequent exploits (Grade 2 success) of the winner.

Seeyouatmidnight is now rated 155 and there is every possibility the selection is very well treated off his current handicap mark.

But he will have to be as there are any number of, potentially, well-treated horses in opposition. In the opener, Carry On Sydney (1.30) needs to win in order to get a penalty which should be enough to get him into the Fred Winter at the Festival for Oliver Sherwood.

The selection was an 80-rated horse on the flat and looked to be found out by the heavy ground at Wincanton last time. With the ground drying out all the time he must go close.

The EBF Final is another top-class handicap and despite the impost of 11st 10lbs David Pipe's Knight Of Noir (2.05) must go close.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Mar 8, 2014
Words:297
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