Champagne Stuff from Agrapart

The second day of the Aintree Grand National Festival is Ladies day and there is a good card with the Melling Chase and then the Topham Chase, over the National fences, being the feature.

Yesterday we had a good day with a trio of winners, as the ‘A’s’ went in. Arzal jumped for fun and was able to make all, Apple’s Jade, won by half the track and Annie Power showed her class once more in the Aintree Hurdle. There was also a 10/1 place with Current Event in the Foxhunters.

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Let’s take a look at the action on Day 2.

13:40 – Handicap Hurdle

The action starts with a big-field Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle over 2m4f and this is a very open contest. It is 8/1 the field currently and there is one at the head of the betting that does make huge appeal.

That is Warren Greatrex’s Ma Du Fou, who has won all three starts over hurdles. On debut at Ffos Las he handled slow ground to beat Agrapart, who is now rated 150, and this horse is only rated 139, so could still be ahead of his mark. He has won twice again since including the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon last time where he beat North Hill Harvey and Final Nudge, who had placed in a Grade 2 race previously. This is his handicap debut and off this mark you have to feel he will make his presence felt. Favourites don’t have a great record in this race but he can change that with a profile that looks suited to this race.

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Blazer was considered a good thing for the Betfair Hurdle but disappointed in that race, which may have come too soon after his Leopardstown win. He was a close second in the Coral Cup but his jumping just leaves a little to be desired. Dan Skelton’s Virgilio has two wins over track and trip to his name but is now 10lb higher for that. He was pulled up when last seen in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham, so the return to the Merseyside venue is likely to be a big positive. If regaining where he left off in 2015 then he enters the shortlist.

The one further down at a price is another handicap debutant in the shape of Peter Bowen’s Curious Carlos. The seven-year-old was second here in May when 1l behind Hurricane Higgins and seemed to handle the track that day. He was last seen 231-days ago when winning in good style at Bangor. That was the first time he had been stepped up in trip and he seemed to relish the extra trip. He will need to find improvement in this company but his mark looks very fair and one he could go close off.

Ibis Du Rheu beat the penalised Imperial Cup winner Flying Angel at the Festival and if that hasn’t taken much out of him he could go well. Jack Sherwood has taken his opportunities well when given them and his 5lb claim is useful. Sky Khan was third in that race and has been put up 5lb for that effort to a mark of 140. His form does look better at right-handed tracks.

Advice: Ma Du Fou (8/1 Each-Way)

              Curious Carlos (22/1 Each-Way)

14:15 – Novices’ Hurdle

A good looking Novices Hurdle where Limini heads the betting after her impressive win in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival.

She gets a weight allowance in this contest meaning she’ll be hard to beat. She coped with heavy ground at Fairyhouse in January and is likely to pick up from where she left off last month. It could turn out that her price is value in the end if running out a comfortable winner.

If you take her out of the equation we’re left with Agrapart or Buveur D’Air. I’m swayed by the Nick Williams charge, who is currently a double figure price and considering his form looks very good, he is overpriced in my opinion. Last seen when winning the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on heavy ground when ridden prominently and that is something that could be crucial here. He jumped fairly soundly that day bar the getting in tight to the last plus he already has course form. The Tolworth Hurdle form looks solid after Yorkhill won at Cheltenham and there could be more to come here.

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Nicky Henderson’s runner Buveur D’Air was third behind Altior and Min in the Supreme 24-days ago when running on late but he didn’t seem to have the turn of foot required to keep up. On this stiffer track that could be a problem once again for this son of Crillon, who was fourth in last year’s Champion Bumper. He has only had three starts over hurdles, so could have more to come.

Ball D’Arc has a good record on slow ground over in Ireland for Gordon Elliot. He won a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle last time out and does need to improve further to take this but is one that could find himself in a place at a price. North Hill Harvey was only ninth in the Supreme but a mistake two flights from home checked his momentum. He is still lightly raced and is a type I’m keeping a close eye on.

Advice: Agrapart (10/1 Each-Way)

14:50 – Mildmay Novices’ Chase

Three Cheltenham winners go to post in this contest, which looks quite competitive.

Un Temps Pour Tout currently heads the market and was a comfortable winner of the Ultima Handicap when beating a well-treated Holywell by 7l. The handicapper only put his mark up 7lb, which looks kind. If able to replicate that form then he is likely to be a big player but if they go at the same pace is what I doubt.

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Native River was second in the 4m race at Cheltenham but had previously finished third behind Blaklion in the Grade 2 Towton at Wetherby. In November the Tizzard runner beat Un Temps Pour Tout, so they all have form ties where somewhere along the line they have beaten one another. The sharper track could catch Blaklion out, which is the concern for him. Native River looks one to more than likely to fill a place.

When looking at the market it surprised me that Otago Trail was the outsider of the field. The son of Heron Island was third to Bristol De Mai at Haydock in January and still looks unexposed over fences having had four starts. On ratings he is joint second and should enjoy this ground. A likely front runner, in a race that could look to lack early pace, so similar to Arzal yesterday could be one to chance.

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Advice: Otago Trail (20/1 Each-Way)

15:25 – Melling Chase

Just the six-runners head to post and basically this is all I can really say on the race:

Sit back and enjoy Vautour.

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If you wanted something to follow him home then Clarcam could be the one with his good course form. He has been beaten in this grade previously and has something to find on ratings but was a smart novice who won here beating Vibrato Valtat last year.

16:05 – Topham Chase

Another spin over the Grand National fences following yesterday’s Foxhunters and this is likely to give us an idea of how the ground on the course is riding ahead of tomorrow’s big race.

As things stand Bishops Road is number 41 for the Grand National and requires one omission prior to 1pm to get a run in that race where he’d be 10lb better off than running in this. His form looks solid on a variety of grounds and should be suited by this stiff test of stamina. As we all know Kerry Lee has made a big impact in her first season training.

Killer Crow was seventh in the Irish Grand National just 11-days ago, so how much that took out of him is something to consider. He has strong claims prior to that and is back down in trip, which should suit. He was second in January behind Empire Of Dirt, who won at Cheltenham, and carrying this weight could be well treated.

Rathlin has experience of these fences after his third in this race last year. On that occasion he was rated 147 and today he runs off 138. That run also came when he was with Mouse Morris in Ireland but has switched to Micky Hammond. He ran in the Grand Sefton when eighth behind Bennys Mist in December in what was his first run of this campaign. He finally came good for his new yard at Ayr last time and he may be back in a good heart after that with the return to these fences.



Rathlin won for new trainer last time out. Source Micky Hammond Racing

Mouse Morris’ charge Dromnea is a bit of a tripless character. His last effort came in the Betfred Chase at Warwick when finishing third but didn’t stay despite that placed effort. He comes into this race fresh and the return to a shorter trip is likely to benefit this son of Presenting. He’s versatile on the ground and he can give his running at 20/1.

Village Vic will try and make the running. He is back in grade after being out of his depth in the Ryanair. Bennys Mist won over these fences in December but his regular partner Liam Treadwell is injured and unable to ride, so Aidan Coleman takes the ride. Ruben Cotter was fifth in this last year and is now 6lb lower after only having had one run this season, which came 41-days ago, so should strip fitter. He could make his presence felt if retaining his ability.

Advice: Rathlin (16/1 Each-Way)

             Dromnea (20/1 Each-Way)

16:40 – Sefton Novices’ Hurdle

This Grade 1 for the Novices’ has the argument of a fresh horse against horses that ran at Cheltenham.

Ballydine skipped Cheltenham after his close second to Barters Hill in the River Don at Doncaster. On a track similar to Town Moor he’ll be suited by that and has won with cut in the ground at Newcastle back in November where he beat Jonniesofa, who has now won a Grade 2 contest himself franking that form. There are plenty of ticks in boxes for him but I can’t get a gauge on the Charlie Longsdon yard but he his horses do seem to have ran well in the last two-weeks.

Baoulet Delaroque was a close up fifth in the Coral Cup at the Festival and was staying on well. That race gave the impression that the step-up to 3m would suit and is related to Papillon Rouge, who stayed close to this trip. Two starts ago he beat Value At Risk, who won a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse at the end of last month and his rating is now 148, meaning this Paul Nicholls horse could be ahead of his mark.

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Gangester and Balko Des Flos were seventh and fifth respectively in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival. Both are likely to be better suited by the softer ground on offer here on Merseyside. For me preference would be for the latter, who has Bryan Cooper on board and is likely to have made the decision to ride this son of Balko.

Duke Des Champs and Vintage Clouds are two likeable types that are likely to be better chasers in time.

Advice: Baoulet Delaroque (7/1 Each-Way)

17:15 – Champion Bumper

The top three in Champion Bumper at Cheltenham go to battle once more in the final race of the day. In previous years horses such as Barters Hill and The New One have won this race.

Ballyandy carries a penalty for his nose success in the Champion Bumper. He’s handled cut in the ground previously, so that shouldn’t be a problem. He finished his race off strongly up the Cheltenham hill and is a big player despite having the extra weight to carry.

Battleford is priced as favourite and has a pull 4lb pull at the weights, so has to beconsidered to reverse the form from their previous meeting. The concern would be the ground. He is a son of Midnight Legend, who’s progeny prefer quicker ground, so that could blunt him here after a solid second on good ground at Cheltenham.

The ground could help Bacardys after he wasn’t able to go with Ballyandy and Battleford. He has won a point-to-point and a bumper in deep ground. He is in the reckoning. But the vote goes to Zipple Back for Alan King, a trainer who has a good record in this sphere.

This four-year-old has only had one start, which came at Huntingdon when third. The winner has since finished second in a stronger bumper at Newbury plus the horse that finished fifth in the Huntingdon race has won since. He is likely to be suited by the strong pace and should strip fitter for that and can make his presence felt at a big price.

Advice: Zipple Back (22/1 Each-Way)


Good Luck!


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