The highlight of the racing calendar. The day the country halts to watch the events at Aintree unfold over 4m2f and of course 30 fences to negotiate. This year only 39 runners go to post after Carlito Brigante was withdrawn after the cut-off point for a reserve to take the place.
A quick recap of yesterday’s action saw Theinval (11/1) win the opening race then things went a bit pear shaped until the closing Bumper where Barters Hill (7/1) won and Potters Corner (33/1) was third.
1:30 – Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
Parlour Games (7/2) looks to be the one to start the day. The John Ferguson trained 7-year-old was second in the Neptune Hurdle behind Windsor Park and ahead of Nichols Canyon by 1¼l. On a flatter track and on ground that might have some juice in it after overnight rain he’d be the one to hold that form by winning this. He remains off the mark of 148, while Nichols Canyon remains off the same mark of 149. The fact Parlour Games went into Cheltenham fresh there is hope that the race hasn’t left it mark as it has seemed to on others who have raced at Aintree this week. Another thing we have seen so far is that hold-up horses tend to be able to cut through the field towards the end of the race rather than the leaders sustaining and holding their challenge like they do at Cheltenham, so that is another major positive. In November he won the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury beating Vyta Du Roc, who was 4th in the Neptune and a distant 2nd yesterday in the Sefton Novices Hurdle. On top of that Blaklion was 3rd in the Challow and was 4th yesterday in the same race. Horses he has beaten have gone close to winning, so the form doesn’t look too bad. One thing to note is that he usually runs in a hood and with a tongue-tie however neither are listed in the Racing Post, so presumably he has showed in his work at home he can behave and perform without the need of aids.
As stated Nichols Canyon is the main danger on the form of the Neptune and is a dual Grade 1 novice winner in Ireland. If he settles into the race better then he’ll go close to overturning the placings at Cheltenham. If looking for some each-way value then Seedling (8/1) could be the way to go. He unseated in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham last time out but was previously three from three for the Warren Greatrex yard. On pedigree he is one that could stay further than this as he is a half-sister to Seedless, so this trip of 2m4f shouldn’t be a problem today. When he won at Cheltenham in December he was top weight off a mark off 130 he now goes off 149. In that race win in December at Cheltenham he beat Some Plan and Padge, who both won next time out showing he won a decent enough contest. He beat As De Mee at Plumpton in November and the Paul Nicholls has won three of his last four starts since then and is an improving sort.
2:05 – Maghull Novices’ Chase
God’s Own was second in the Arkle behind the magnificent Un De Sceaux and him putting it up to the Willie Mullins trained horse at the final fence helped us to see the class of the Irish horse. To be fair this Tom George seven-year-old out ran his starting price of 33/1 but in honesty I didn’t think he should have been that big as he has won Grade 1 and Grade 2 race, he was just a little out of form. He is of course the favourite here but he is not always the most consistent and the Arkle race may have taken the edge of him.
A chance is being taken by the Irish raider in this race in Sizing Granite (11/2), whose only defeat chasing was when unseating in the Grade 2 Craddockstown Novice Chase at Punchestown. He is lightly raced and the Henry De Bromhead yard has their horses in decent enough form. When winning last time out he was the odds-on favourite in a small field. In November, in his first start chasing, he beat dual Grade 1 winner Lieutenant Colonel at Naas and in January he beat Fine Rightly, who has since gone onto win a Grade 3. He is a promising individual and deserves his chance stepping up in Grade. He looks the one to be with at a fair enough price coming into this fresher than most.
Traffic Fluide is a promising five-year-old who swerved Cheltenham and the Gary Moore team have high hopes for this gelding. This is a big step-up after winning moderate contests at Plumpton and Sandown by a total of 16l but he has improved massively and is a bit of an unknown. Court Minstrel has never convinced me in all honesty and his form doesn’t look too good. Prior to his 5th in the Arkle he was four of four in a Grade 1, which was won by Vibrato Valtat, who then finished ahead of him in the Arkle and was second to Clarcam on Thursday.
2:50 – Silver Cross Stayers’ Hurdle/ Liverpool Hurdle
This is an interesting race on paper with the World Hurdle winner Cole Harden, who reappears after his magical victory at Cheltenham for the Greatrex yard after his wind operation. Then many of these were in pursuit of him at Cheltenham including last year’s winner of this race Whisper.
Nine runners, so three places will be paid out by the bookies. However it isn’t something to get heavily involved in. Whisper will welcome a return to Aintree and is likely to go well after last year’s run here. Nico de Boinville has ridden him twice and in those two races he has been 1st-2nd. Lightly raced, only two this season, so despite his excursions at Cheltenham should be fit enough. Un Temps Pour Tout is one that I think will relish Aintree and with the first time headgear in the shape of a tongue-tie and blinkers should help his breathing and help him settle into his race. He is one of the dangers in this race for me. Cole Harden kept is easy at Cheltenham from the front however Aintree doesn’t tend to see many front runners winning plus there is a question of how much that win took out of him. Zarkander has no appeal at that price, currently favourite, and is one that usually finds one better than him. He was only fourth in this race last year.
A chance is been taken with Henryville (18/1 each-way) who is the interesting contender in this race. He is usually a handicapper so coming here is slightly interesting. Harry Fry won his first Grade 1 over Easter with Bitofapuzzle at Leopardstown and can win another here. Henryville was 4th in a useful Pertemps Final behind Call The Cops, who was second on Thursday behind a horse who was 4th in the Coral Cup. That sort of handicap form is strong and makes him viable as an option to win this race. In that Pertemps Final quick sectional times were made so it was therefore unsurprising he found little up the Cheltenham hill despite doing so in October when 2nd to Sybarite. He has had one run at Aintree before where he was 2nd in a Handicap Hurdle. He can outrun his price and for me is worth chancing with
3:25 – Betfred Handicap Chase
This is another race that I couldn’t get heavily involved in. On paper it is a race that Buywise (5/2) should win. He was 4th in the Stable Plate after sitting in rear throughout and a few jumping mistakes he flew up the hill. His jumping has been a problem but when asked for a good jumps at the business end he produced, especially at the last. This 3m trip is something he should be able to manage after showing that speed at Cheltenham and after winning over 2m7f at Taunton in January last year. He does have talent and this unexposed eight-year-old looks the one to beat.
Vino Griego (7/1 each-way) would be the one to go with. You can look at its form and it does look sketchy. He was second to Duke Of Lucca in this race last year but hasn’t done much since. However he missed Cheltenham so comes here fresh plus the fact his mark has dropped from 146 in this race last year to 139, which makes him attractive. The overnight rain and the watering seems to play into his favour. The visor was absent in his last two runs but that returns and he has the tongue-tie on first time, which should help with breathing. If he turns up he has a major say on this race.
Duke Of Lucca could give Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson the perfect race prior to their National partnership on Balthazar King. However 8th in the Cross Country at Cheltenham wasn’t particular brilliant and does having a few mistakes in him. His mark lowered to 137 from 139 but that is still higher than the 134 mark he won this race off last year; he hasn’t won since.
4:15 – The Crabbie’s Grand National
See the blog post for reasoning – http://bit.ly/1DKlFCQ
Balthazar King (10/1)
Saint Are (40/1)
Portrait King (80/1)
5:10 – One Stop Energy Handicap Hurdle
This is a race for conditional and amateur riders, all but one jockey (Nico de Boinville) are able to claim in this race. Rock On Rocky is a non-runner after racing yesterday.
War Sound (10/1 each-way) comes into this after winning by 6l at Chepstow in early March. He travelled strongly after sitting in mid-division before pulling clear at the last and never really needed to be asked for an effort. This will be more difficult but he has the stamina to go further, so a strong pace would help him go well. Both of his wins have come when ridden by today’s jockey Mr Cieran Gethings, who rode a winner for Philip Hobbs yesterday at Fontwell. On his debut he beat Southfield Royale by 12l at Exeter over 2m3f, who himself is now rated 139 over hurdles and won at Huntingdon at the end of March, so there is a bit of form from his debut. Definitely a player at a price.
Ballyglasheen (50/1 each-way) is an interesting runner and worth chancing. 17th in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham but his mark has dropped to 139, on top of that Conor Ring claims 5lbs taking it to around 134. He won the Grade 3 Swinton Hurdle at Haydock in May beating Vibrato Valtat, now chasing. That day he was on a mark of 135 so today roughly 1lb lower he could be an interesting contender. His best form is off this trip and despite his last two runs, which have been disappointing at a big price he could go well and finish in a place.
One For The Guv’nr has proved a talented and progressive horse. He has won his last two races by a combined total of 16l and is a danger but in a race like this looks too short. However Nico de Boinville riding is a big positive. Dormello Mo has the talented 17-y-o jockey Sean Bowen on board. However he had a difficult race just six days ago grinding down Ryeolliean to take victory at Plumpton so carries a penalty. Queen Alphabet has performed well on good ground and hasn’t raced over winter. She could have more to offer fresh and despite her last four runs could go close to a place here.
5:40 – Pinsent Masons Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race
Yesterday’s blog found the winner and the 3rd in the closing bumper so more f the same here hopefully.
Hollies Pearl (9/1) won well at Chepstow last time out and was quite eye-catching in the manner she took victory. She travelled beautifully and was never really asked a question when going to the front from about six furlongs from home. Sean Bowen asked her to quicken inside the final furlong, which she did readily to make it consecutive wins. Also at Chepstow she defied a penalty, which adds the classy way she won that race. The hat-trick is on the cards despite some good mares and fillies from bigger yards. Her defeats in her first two starts came up against Lifeboat Mona, but I think that form can be reverse here. The stable won this race in 2010 so could have another useful prospect on their hands.
Sea Pride (20/1 each-way) is one of the most interesting runners of the day. She comes here from a flat stable trained by Sir Mark Prescott and looks open to improvement after she made all to win at Southwell by 11l last month. On better ground, that win at Southwell could have been by further, so she gets that today and is value. Previously she was beaten by a nose by Katie Too and that form can be reversed. We saw Barters Hill win making all yesterday so this Prescot filly, from Sea The Stars, can do the same under a ride from Michael Nolan claiming 3lbs.
Babylone Des Mottes won at Sandown last time out and she was quite keen early on but can improve for that run. Lifeboat Mona was third in that race but was hampered by a loose horse but stayed on at one pace. Whistle Dixie was the one that unseated at Sandown but had won her three previous starts, so on that form will be there or thereabouts come the closing stages. Miss Crick is Alan King’s first choice and won a junior bumper at Newbury over 1m4f but the trip shouldn’t be a problem. The stable is quite keen on her chances and she could be a useful sort in future.