It’s the first day of Aintree’s three-day spring meeting that culminates with the Grand National on Saturday.
I have already published my preview with three horses for the race, so if you missed it: Click Here
Seven races today and here is a look at some of the key players and best bets.
13:40 – Manifesto Novices’ Chase
Sizing John has bumped into Douvan on numerous in his career and won’t have to face the Willie Mullins star today. He was a Grade 1 winner over hurdles and does look to have some class about him. He should enjoy the conditions and should be able to cope with the extra trip based on his pedigree.
L’Ami Serge ran a very nice race to finish third in the JLT, a race where Garde La Victoire tipped over. The Nicky Henderson six-year-old should be suited by the cut in the ground and this stiffer test of stamina. He represents a trainer who has a fine record of late in this race.
The one to take a chance on is Arzal. Harry Whittington’s inmate skipped Cheltenham and comes into this fresh. He looks bred to get this extra trip and has run some good races in defeat in Novice company on his last two starts. A front-running type and may get an uncontested lead, which could help to see him make all under Gavin Sheehan.
Advice: Arzal (13/2 Each-Way)
14:15 – Juvenile Hurdle
The four-year-old Juvenile Hurdle sees many familiar faces from Cheltenham line up including Triumph winner Ivanovich Gorbatov and Fred Winter victor Diego Du Charmil.
Ivanovich Gorbatov gave Joseph O’Brien his first winner as a trainer at a big meeting but has previously fallen sort when the ground has cut in it and with more rain forecast on Merseyside he could be vulnerable once more.
Willie Mullins saddles the next two in the market with Apple’s Jade and Footpad. Those were second and third in the Triumph Hurdle and both will handle the softer ground. It is the former of that pair that looks the most interesting considering she has finished ahead of Footpad since moving from France. She is still unexposed having only had two runs and could have more to offer.
Diego Du Charmil ran on well late to win the Fred Winter but this race look to have the same amount of pace on paper meaning it may not be run to suit him. Paul Nicholls didn’t want to spoil his mark for Cheltenham, so that was the main priority. He will need to find more to beat the Triumph form.
Advice: Apple’s Jade (E/W if 9/2+)
14:50 – Betfred Bowl Chase
This Grade 1 chase has a classy trio at the head of affairs and if all remain upright they have the class to finish in the first three.
Cue Card didn’t jump with any fluency in the Gold Cup and when he came down he was actually getting into the race, so what the outcome would have been, who knows. He looks remarkably short considering he is up against a couple of useful sorts. He has been a revelation this season winning the Charlie Hall, Betfair Chase and King George. He does look too short for me in this race.
Djakadam has finished second in two Gold Cup’s and in the Irish Gold Cup. Willie Mullins charge looks to be the play for this contest as he is very likely to be in the mix come the closing stages. People say he struggles in slow ground but he has plenty of form on heavy and could have more to offer being a seven-year-old. He makes plenty of appeal at his current price around the 5/2 mark.
Don Poli was given plenty to do in the Gold Cup but stayed on well to take third. He won a Listed race over course and distance in December when beating Many Clouds, on which was his first start of the season. Bryan Cooper is back on board and if he rides him closer to the fore then he is of some interest.
Advice: Djakadam (5/2 Win)
15:25 – Aintree Hurdle
The Aintree Hurdle Grade 1 contest sees Champion Hurdle victor Annie Power go in search of glory and give Willie Mullins another winner on these shores, which will help the trainer close the gap for the Trainers Championship.
The classy mare is likely to be able to dictate her rivals here in this small field before kicking for home like she did at Cheltenham and then Punchestown the time before that. She is the class act in the race and barring accidents she will take some beating.
My Tent Or Yours and Nichols Canyon were second and third respectively in the Champion Hurdle. An error at the last checked Nichols Canyon late momentum or else he would have held second place. He was a winner over course and distance in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, so looks the most likely danger to the jolly, with My Tent Or Yours having to prove he stays further than two-miles.
2014 winner The New One was also placed in this race back in 2013. He was a distant fourth behind the trio above at Cheltenham but the return to this flatter track could help his cause but he doesn’t look to have the quality to challenge the likely front two.
Advice: Annie Power (4/7 Win)
Nichols Canyon w/o the Fav (11/8 – Ladbrokes)
16:05 Fox Hunters Chase
On The Fringe won this race last year after winning at Cheltenham, something he repeated in March just holding off the attentions of Marito. Jamie Codd takes over from Nina Carberry in the saddle but this tends to be a race where you can look for a bit of value.
Pacha Du Polder was second last year and finished fifth at Cheltenham running on late under Victoria Pendleton. The short trip should suit and it is now Will Biddick in the saddle, who has never been out of the frame when riding this contender.
Current Event should be suited by the return to this shorter trip and the ground won’t be an issue. Katie Walsh takes the ride on this nine-year-old who finished fourth at Cheltenham. Two of his career wins have come in this month and if he remains upright can hit the frame at a double figure price.
The veteran Major Malarkey nearly slipped the field at Cheltenham but folded in the latter stages to finish seventh. This shorter trip could help him run another good race and he was fourth in this last year at 40/1.
Advice: Current Event (10/1 Each-Way)
16:40 – Red Rum Handicap Chase
Fayette County is a lightly raced nine-year-old and off a mark of 130 could have a bit more to come. Last time out he was second to Noche De Reyes, who has won again since giving strength to that form. He hasn’t quite produced his hurdles form over these larger obstacles, which is a slight worry.
Solar Impulse and Dandridge were first and second in the Grand Annual. The former looked to be suited by the better ground and was on a good mark. The nine-pound rise may not stop him here by the manner of that victory. The concern for Dandridge would be the fact the majority of his best form coming on better ground.
Pearls Legend represents John Spearing and the nine-year-old is a fairly consistent son of Midnight Legend. He has set one of the quickest speed figures in this race and that came at Cheltenham in December when beating Going Concern and Workbench. He has placed on all three starts in April and should give his running.
Advice: Pearls Legend (14/1 Each-Way)
17:15 Mares’ Bumper
La Bague Au Roi has looked a classy mare on her three career starts. She won over course and distance by 7l in October and then won by 5l at Huntingdon. Warren Greatrex has tried to keep her for the races on better ground, so this rain and the more forecasted is a worry for her chances. However she has shown gears in her races, which means I have to fancy her chances here.
Augusta Kate has handled deep ground with wins on ground with soft in the description at Naas and Listowel. She ran a creditable seventh in the Champion Bumper and wasn’t beaten too far. She is back against her own sex and is a big player.
Gordon Elliot’s Shattered Love won her point-to-point on soft ground before being purchased by Gigginstown. She won on debut for this trainer when travelling smoothly in deep ground and with having that start could have further improvement to come. At a double figure price she could spoil the party.
Advice: La Bague Au Roi (2/1 Win)