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Mulholland stands in the way of title contenders

Neil Mulholland greets The Young Master and Sam Waley-Cohen after their victory in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in 2016
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3.35 Sandown
bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase | Grade 3 | 3m5f | 5yo+ | ITV/RUK

It could all come down to this, the biggest prize on the final day of the 2016-17 jumps season and strong teams set to represent both Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls.

Of course, everything could have been decided before this point –with the likes of Altior set to swagger into action for Henderson – but two circuits of the chase course at Sandown could determine where the trainers’ championship goes.

While both trainers have won this race in the last three years, they face a significant roadblock in the shape of Neil Mulholland, who won the contest with The Young Master last year and brings him and two others along to play.

These include Doing Fine, an impressive winner at Cheltenham last time out and well-backed in the run up to this race, and The Druids Nephew, who has had this race front and centre of his campaign since the start.

Lightweights rule
Only one winner in the last ten years has carried more than 11st to victory. That was the extremely talented Tidal Bay in 2012.

Not a race for favourites
No favourite has won this race in the last ten years. They have finished: F423035P42. Doing Fine is the likely favourite for this year’s contest.

What they say . . .

Colin Tizzard, trainer of Theatre Guide
We decided to miss Aintree and wait for this race. He was staying on when he won at Cheltenham in December, so I think he should stay the trip. In my opinion he has as good a chance as any of them.

Paul Nicholls, trainer of Just A Par and Present Man
Just A Par always runs well in this race. He won it two years ago and was beaten a short head last year. This is a race that suits him. Present Man is an unknown over the trip. He’s bred to get it and has won over three miles. The good ground and right-handed course are ideal for him.

Neil Mulholland, trainer of The Young Master, The Druids Nephew and Doing Fine
There are concerns with running a horse back after a short time, but we won’t know exactly how Doing Fine is until he runs. He seems to be fine though and it was a very good performance at Cheltenham. I’m looking forward to running him. The Druids Nephew raced a bit lazily last time so we’ve put the visor on. We’ve kept him for this good ground all year. I think he’s got a massive chance. The Young Master is only a couple of pounds higher than when winning last year. Things didn’t go to plan in the National but he didn’t have too hard a race as a result and we’ve kept him fresh since then.

Philip Hobbs, trainer of Rock The Kasbah
I'm slightly concerned as to whether he'll be quite so effective on fast ground, but he's not over-big so hopefully he'll be safe on it. All his best form is on softer ground but he seems to be a thorough stayer so we hope the longer trip negates the fact that softer ground seems to bring out his stamina.

Tom George, trainer of Whats Happening
He had a year off with injury. He ran a good, solid race at Exeter but didn't run his race at Cheltenham. I imagine he bounced. We've been aiming him for this since. We know he stays the trip and he's a fresh horse when a lot of them aren't.

Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Benbens
He ran the race of his life in the Scottish National the other day and we just hope that doesn't catch him out. He seems to have taken it well at home and should like the track.

Nicky Henderson, trainer of Vyta Du Roc and Sugar Baron
Vyta Du Roc has been kept back for this race and is in good form. He's been running well in these big staying races for a long time and deserves to win one. Sugar Baron unseated at the first in Scotland so he's coming for this. He's been in good order since last week.

Peter Bowen, trainer of Henllan Hari
He is a bit out of the handicap but we hope he'll run well. He's been running well most of the season. The trip shouldn't be a problem; his whole family have stayed and stayed.

We’ve kept him for this good ground all year. I think he’s got a massive chance
E.W. Terms
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