Yesterday was a good day of racing, which was summed up by the joy and relief when Arctic Fire got back to his feet after falling at the last in the Aintree Hurdle.
There were winners in the shape of On The Fringe (4/1) and Taglietelle (8/1) in the final two races. While Rock On Ruby and Devilment both were near misses after finishing second.
Today is Ladies Day and the on-track action looks quite tricky to find the winners so some of these are big prices and well worth going for the each-way alternative.
1:40 – Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle
This 22-runner handicap to start proceedings looks a tricky race to judge especially after some of these went down different roads at Cheltenham, so trying to find the strongest race in terms of form so soon after is a little difficult.
Theinval (11/1 each-way) won the Silver Plate race at Kempton the weekend after Cheltenham so hasn’t had much time to freshen up from his 2¾ lengths win. That win at Kempton was over a furlong further than today on good ground so he has the stamina for a quickly ran race while the drying ground isn’t a problem. He did look a little keen in the early stages at Kempton but if he settles down early on well then he will be dangerous to the market leaders. However at the business end of the race he travelled well. He kept on to win under Barry Geraghty to take the victory however not all of his jumping was fluent. There were glimpses of his jumping ability and he can prove here today. He has been risen 10lbs by the handicapper for this race and Jeremiah McGrath takes the ride today so he can claim 3lbs.
Aux Ptits Soins won the Coral Cup, which looked the strongest of the handicaps at Cheltenham. A number of these like Daneking, MIjhaar, Vulcanite, Vasco Du Ronceray and Baradari ran in that race, so could be potential winners of this race.
However I’m going to take a chance on Lyvius (33/1 each-way). In the Coral Cup he finished 12th of 25 after not picking up in the closing stages, which doesn’t show his ability. Some of his best form comes at Aintree and on good ground, which are the positives for taking a risk on him here. At Cheltenham he was settled towards the back of the pack and travelled nicely up until a poor jump at the second last. For me he could be a horse that if you ride a bit more prominently then he could win you some good races, especially if his jumping gets ironed out. He was 17th in this race last year and possibly is in the grip of the handicapper off a mark of 144. At Ascot in January Baradari beat him by ¼l after being headed close home again making jumping errors.
2:15 – E-Lites Top Novices’ Hurdle
Qewy (6/1) beat Cardinal Walter by 6l at Newbury in impressive fashion that put him in the frame for a crack in the Supreme Novices at Cheltenham where he was a well beaten fifth. In the Supreme he sat at the rear and was driven out but wasn’t really close to placing. AP McCoy won on him at Newbury and is back on board today so knows how to get the best out of him after his magnificent run at Newbury. Under McCoy he travelled beautifully and could go further with the way he kept on at the end. In a race like this of lesser quality and at a flatter track he is the one that will go close.
Qewy’s stable mate Commissioned (14/1 each-way) is worth backing at a nice price to finish in a place. The drying ground is a major positive for this five-year-old who has been off the track for 145 days so should be fresh. When he ran fresh at the start of the season he won at Cheltenham by 8l so there is a positive too. He was fourth in the 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle last year behind Clarcam, who was second and yesterday went onto win the Manifesto Novices Chase by 4l. He was fifth last time out at Cheltenham in November but it is fair to say he didn’t act or take much liking to the ground and was well beaten. Despite being the stables second choice for this race he would be the one on this better ground to run well and at least place at the price.
Glingerburn is the current favourite after winning four in a row. He beat Bristol De Mai, who was third in the 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle yesterday, and Hawk High, who won the Fred Winter in 2014. For that run he is now off a mark of 152 for the Nicky Richards yard and has raced in the north. Despite being the oldest horse in the race at 7-years-old he has shown potential this season and is the obvious danger when looking at the horses he has beaten on his last two starts. His price currently at 15/8 looks a little too short for me, especially after yesterday’s action but he has a win on good ground at Doncaster. The return to good ground should also suit Jolly’s Cracked It. He seemed to hate it at Sandown in January on soft ground when second to L’Ami Serge where he didn’t pick up but today might bring the best out of him if he has recovered from his Cheltenham excursions.
2:50 – Betfred Mildmay Novices’ Chase
After his third in the Stable Plate at Cheltenham, when I put him up, I’m willing to give him another go as a big priced outsider. Rawnaq (18/1 each-way, right of picture) for the Andrew Lynch yard represents good value in a race that could be wide open as there are still doubts about Saphir Du Rheu’s jumping ability. That third at Cheltenham could have been closer if he didn’t make a mistake at the last, which cost him his momentum. He has only been raised 3lbs for his Cheltenham excursions so is well in this for me and has a fantastic chance of placing again. In February he beat Gilgamboa, who returned to action when winning the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse on Sunday. The only worry is how much the Stable Plate took out of him but the step up in trip on better ground is something he should relish.
Saphir Du Rheu returns chasing after his attempt at the backend of last year where he unseated-won-fell. When he won at Exeter he beat Horizontal Speed by 11l and he went onto finish fourth in the Chaps Restaurant Novices Handicap Chase at Cheltenham, so there is a bit of form there from his win. Gold Cup winning Coneygree won the two times he failed to complete those races. He went back over hurdles and won the Cleeve Hurdle before finishing second to Cole Harden in the World Hurdle. If he can show his jumping qualities over fences he is in with a great chance but he hasn’t proved that so well on his previous starts.
Carole’s Destrier is a progressive sort and has won his last two and stays off his mark of 152 from his last win at Wetherby where he won well from two rivals, who can be inconsistent in honesty. He is proven at this distance so is another danger while Ainsi Fideles has good racing record but in fairly weak and moderate races in small fields and would need to find something to beat off a few of these. Irish Saint has chances, he was fourth behind Vautour in the JLT Novices Chase at Cheltenham and he won the Grade 2 Pendil Novices Chase and was second in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles. He’ll be there or thereabouts come the closing stages.
3:25 – Betfred Melling Chase
Balder Succes (15/2) is definitely worth chancing with here. He was a well-beaten seventh in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham however on his wins at Ascot and Kempton previously he has a very good chance. Quite a bit of form comes up against God’s Own too, who was second in the Arkle. Off the same mark of 163 he can go close at a track he has won at; he won the Grade 1 Maghull Novices Chase here last year and is one that should be suited by the flatter track. At a fairly good price he is the one to be on in this wide-open Grade 1.
As we have seen so far the Irish chasers are very good quality so that’s why these two are priced like this in the market. Champagne Fever missed Cheltenham so comes into this fresh compared to his rivals. His previous start saw him win a weak Grade 2 at Gowran Park and then previously fell at Thurles handing victory to Don Cossack, who was third in the Ryanair and is the main danger. Champagne Fever was fourth in the King George Chase on Boxing Day and at this trip can reverse the form with Al Ferof, who was third that day. For me the Nicholls horse isn’t the one to win here despite coming into this as the freshest horse after not running since finishing third in the King George. The only question mark over Don Cossack is how much his Ryanair run took out of him compared to Balder Succes and that’s why I have sided with the Alan King horse.
4:05 – Crabbie’s Topham Chase
The second time we get to have a look at the Grand National fences ahead of the big race tomorrow. This is a wide-open race with 30 runners and is going to be like the Foxhunters Chase yesterday packed with drama. There are two selections that are worth backing each-way at prices.
Benny’s Mist (16/1 each-way) form doesn’t look the greatest on paper until you delve into it and read through it. Second last time out at Newbury to Sound Investment. He was only beaten by ¾l and rallied well to challenge the Paul Nicholls runner. In the Grand Sefton he was third behind Poole Master over these fences and can run a big race again here for Aidan Coleman, who rides the well-fancied The Druids Nephew tomorrow. He performs on all ground after his second at the course to Ma Filleule in last year’s Topham Chase, again over these fences. The only slight concern would be that the Venetia Williams stable is a bit out of form. However a win here could see things back on track towards the end of the season.
Poole Master (33/1 each-way) is a big price after his win over these fences in the Grand Sefton here in December. The 10-year-old is still off a mark of 147, which he hasn’t performed at in his last two starts in races that Soll has won (he runs in the big one tomorrow.) However back at Aintree over these fences is a positive and is well worth chancing at a big price to repeat his victory in December, especially after he was 12th over these fences in the Topham Chase last April, so proved it to his liking in December. He is the stables third choice for this race but is the one to pull off a surprise.
There are lots in with chances those include Monetaire, Bless The Wings, Festive Affair (stepping up in trip, needs to be watched) and Ruben Cotter.
4:40 – Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle
Minella Rocco has won his two starts over hurdles nicely and steps up in trip for the first time. He hasn’t really been challenged in those two victories so could show his class here but is worth taking on at the price.
Two at prices interest me. Firstly Alpha Des Obeaux (14/1 each-way) who was second to Douvan at Punchestown last time out by 3¾, which is closer than anybody got to him at Cheltenham. In that race he finished ahead of Marinero, who fell at the last in the Handicap Hurdle yesterday after the saddle slipped, but he looked like mounting a challenge. His run prior to that was second to Black Hercules at Cork on heavy ground over this distance. He is the interesting runner after an absence of 90 days for Gigginstown and is worth keeping onside, especially after he won a Point-To-Point in Ireland by 20l over this distance on slow ground, so on this better ground could perform well.
At a bigger price is Flintham (20/1 each-way). Trained by the Bradstock’s, we all know what they have achieved so far this season, is an interesting contender stepping up in class and turning out after winning by 7l at Ffos Las only 11 days ago. It’ll be interesting what tactics are employed here but at Ascot in December he made all to beat off The Tourad Man. But in January he chased the leaders and was only fifth at Warwick suggesting if he goes out in front, like Coneygree and Carruthers have for the yard, then he could be one to set a strong gallop and see them off from the front. He is stepping up in class as his run at Warwick was in a Grade 2. Last time out at Ffos Las that was only a Class 3 race, which he won easily under Sean Bowen on heavy ground and still managed to pull clear. However off a mark that has risen by 12lbs for that win he could be in the grip of the handicapper.
5:15 – Champion Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race
Barters Hill (7/1) has won on all three starts and won at Newbury last time out. In that race he made all, in a race where six competitors, who were unbeaten and seven had won prior to that race. He travelled well throughout from the front and at the finish was game and gutsy to hold of Buveur D’Air and can repeat that here. That win came in February therefore he bypassed the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and can show his class for the Ben Pauling yard. Again at Warwick in December he kept it simple from the front and Joe Farrell (2nd) looked to be closing but he found extra in the final ½ furlong to kick away. He looks a nice sort and one that would relish further in the future. David Bass takes the ride and has won on board on two occasions; he is a jockey riding with confidence at the minute having ridden a treble at Market Rasen on Monday.
Potters Corner (33/1 e-w) is one at a price that can run into a place if repeating his win at Chepstow. The bumper he won at Chepstow looked a truly ran race where he sat off the pace and he travelled nicely, picking up well in the closing stages to beat Paul Nicholls trained Rainy City by ¾l. Conor Shoemark sat quietly on him and when asked for an effort responded well. Prior to that he was third in a Point-To-Point race behind Kilcrea Vale, a Nicky Henderson horse, who won first time over hurdles and Im Too Generous, trained by Rebecca Menzies, who has had a number of runs since including a win at Musselburgh in November.