Aintree is such a good meeting these days. Of course there is a split of targets between this Festival and Punchestown (25-29 April) and there is also an increasing tendency for some trainers to look at the big meetings at Auteuil in May and June. That said, we have a good selection of Cheltenham runners back for more here and, of course, the stark difference provided by both the Mildmay and Grand National courses means that others have better chances here, as well as providing some with better options, e.g. the Aintree Hurdle over 2m 4f. Add to that the horses that have been saved and are fresh for their opportunities here and we are provided with a feast of top racing.
For me, Thursday is the top racing day of the meeting with no less than four Grade 1s in succession to set us on our way, plus the amateurs over the Grand National course (29 runners this year so a real competitor for the excitement of the National on Saturday), plus a Grade 2 and a Grade 3. What a card! I flagged up the notable entries when they were published last week so it’s particularly interesting to see which ones have stood their ground.
After watering the going is good, good to soft in places on the Mildmay and hurdles courses (going stick 7.0/6.9) and good to soft, good in places on the National course (6.2). Based locally I take the view that it will be be more good than good to soft all over and drying all the way until the National at 5.15 p.m. on Saturday.
1.40 2m4f (2m3f200y) (Mildmay) Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Last week: Interesting entries: Balko des Flos Cloudy Dream Frodon Politologue Road To Respect
This has to be one of the easiest Grade 1s of the season and the betting is all about Top Notch**** (5/4) and Cloudy Dream (3/1). Top Notch should win this comfortably but I’m less convinced about Cloudy Dream over this distance and ground. He ran beyond my expectations at Cheltenham and may not reproduce the same form. I see Frodon following Top Notch home at £80.95 to a £10 forecast stake. You could also do worse than take a look at the tricast (Top Notch, Frodon and Cloudy Dream) at 18/1.
2.20 2m1f (2m209y) Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo)
Last week: Interesting entries: Defi du Seuil Dinaria des Obeaux Divin Bere
Defi du Seuil**** is by some way the best juvenile hurdler this season and I think that the course will suit. He should win this easily but is not a betting proposition at 1/3. I’m therefore looking at the forecast again, this time with the well-regarded Divin Bere, my selection and a neck second to Flying Tiger (receiving 5lb) in the Fred Winter, at 6/4. It’s 11/1 bar so it’s reasonable to take these two as leading the field home.
2.50 3m1f (3m210y) (Mildmay) Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Last week: Interesting entries: Bristol de Mai Cue Card Empire of Dirt Outlander Sub Lieutenant
This is the race of the day and there have been rumours swirling round that this is Cue Card‘s *** (15/8) last race. Many people have noted that he fell at the third last in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2016 and followed up by easily winning this and again fell at the third last in the Gold Cup this year so… The difference is that in 2016 he was a potential Gold Cup winner whereas this year he wasn’t. Nonetheless he has repeatedly shown the ability to bounce back and his Aintree form is 1221. I think that he’s the winner. I refuse to give up on Bristol de Mai (6/1) whose previous wins at Haydock (twice) and Sandown suggest that this course will suit him. In a seven runner race 32Red are offering a remarkable 1/3rd the odds first two which is very appealing. The only worry is that the ground may be too fast for him. By the way, I can’t have Empire of Dirt who, for me, is a horse that doesn’t quite come up to scratch and put in a poor effort in the Ryanair.
3.25 2m4f Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Last week: No confirmed entries yet but favourite is Buveur d’Air (8/15) and 8/1 bar so we know where that one’s likely to go.
The absence of Yanworth and Apples Jade leaves this one as a penalty kick for Buveur d’Air***** (2/5) and 8/1 bar. I’m not interested in any of the opposition, all of whom have good reasons not to win. One to watch.
4.05 2m5f (2m5f19y) (Grand National) Randox Health Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 2) (6yo+)
Last week: Interesting entries: Balnaslow On The Fringe Pacha du Polder
The market says that this is about On The Fringe** (7/4), Pacha du Poldeur (4/1) and Balnaslow (9/1), 16/1 bar. Notwithstanding that there are 29 runners this race has a tendency to revolve around the favourites with a big emphasis on the best amateur jockeys. 19 of these are 25/1 or more with 12 100/1 or more. When previewing Cheltenham I pointed out that On The Fringe had an easy and very encouraging first time out this season at Leopardstown in February and I’m going to forgive him the reasonable fourth in the Cheltenham Foxhunters’. He thrives here and I have no problem with a good 12yo in this type of race. Balnaslow is good for a place and, this time, Bet365 have the best offer at 1/4 the odds for the first four.
Don’t ignore Bear’s Affair* (25/1 ->16/1), formerly with Nicky Henderson and currently 20/1 for the Ladbrokes Gold Cup (formerly the Hennessy).
4.40 2m (1m7f176y) (Mildmay) Betway Red Rum Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Last week: Interesting entries: Alisier d’Irlande Bun Doran Le Prezien Parsnip Pete (place) Romain de Senaim San Benedeto Theinval Zamdy Man
Theinval*** was my selection for the Grand Annual (at 20/1 -> 9/1 SP) and was a creditable third. He is currently 6/1, having been joined as favourite by Dandridge and remains a confident selection. Perhaps even more interesting here for a place is Parsnip Pete*, an Aintree and place specialist at great odds of 18/1 (first three 1/4 odds) for a place.
5.15 2m 1f Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2)
Last week: Interesting entries: Cap Soleil Dame Rose Martello Park Petticoat Tails Redhotfillypeppers
This race has, somewhat surprisingly, not delivered the quite exciting field that might have been expected with likely favourite Cap Soleil an absentee. Nonetheless it’s a decent conundrum to finish the day. I’m going to focus attention on those I identified as interesting entries when first published (as shown above). I was uncomplimentary about Dame Rose last time out but 25/1 (in from 50/1) is too big a price. Sweetlittlemystery (7/1) has attracted support in the last 24 hours but is not for me. I identified Petticoat Tails (3/1f) as a candidate when viewing the initial entries but I’ve plumped for Mountain Path* at 14/1. This one is a 4yo having her first outing for Jonjo O’Neill and her second race with Aidan Coleman on board, having beaten Shearling on good to soft at a winning price of 25/1 in January. A tasty price to end the day.
- 6 Top Notch
- 2 Defi du Seuil
- 2 Bristol de Mai
- 1 Buveur d’Air
- 19 On The Fringe, 2 Bear’s Affair
- 3 Theinval, 8 Parsnip Pete
Incidentally, I picked up another tip from my shopping at M&S this evening. Domaine de Beauregard Bergerac white: normally £8 per bottle and currently two for £12 with a 25% discount for six. A guaranteed winner!