Unioniste was set to test his Jewson credentials in the DipperPICTURE: Martin Lynch (racingpost.com/photos)
Disaster as rearranged Dipper is abandoned
EFFORTS to save the Grade 2 Dipper Novices' Chase, originally due to be run at Cheltenham on New Year's Day before that meeting was lost to the weather and provisionally rearranged for Sandown on Saturday, have been abandoned after the race attracted just three entries.
The Dipper is a trial for the Jewson Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, with the two races run over the same distance.
Despite a potential clash between Jewson 6-1 joint-favourite Captain Conan, who is as short as 3-1 with Victor Chandler, and recent December Gold Cup winner Unioniste, himself a 14-1 shot for the Jewson, the decision was taken to cancel the race with Brass Tax the only other runner declared.
The BHA, who released a statement via Twitter, said: "Owing to the fact that the race received fewer than four declarations the rescheduled Dipper Novices’ Chase has been cancelled. The cost to stage the race would have been £17.5k of Levy Board funds which was viewed as not best use of industry money for a three-runner race.
"Trainers consulted in advance of the rescheduled race being publicised were in agreement with the principle of cancelling the race if fewer than four runners were declared."
The other Graded race at Sandown, the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle, drew a high-class field of seven, with Court Minstrel, recent Sandown winner Golden Hoof, Punchestown Champion Bumper runner-up Melodic Rendezvous, the unbeaten Pendra and former Flat superstar Poet all lining up.
The Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow, also a Grade 1, has a small but select field as well, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Caid Du Berlais, Feb Thirtyfirst, a winner of his last two starts and exciting Flat recruits Ruacana and Swnymor all going to post.
The Coral Welsh National, a Grade 3 handicap chase over 3m5½f, has attracted a far bigger field with 18 declared. In all likelihood it will be 17 that go to post, however, with Alfie Spinner's connections preferring to go to Sandown.
Quartz De Thaix, a 14-1 shot was the most prominent defector, while Teaforthree, Michel Le Bon, Viking Blond, Sona Sasta, Giles Cross and Universal Soldier all stood their ground.