It’s Grand National day as the nation prepares to see if Many Clouds can retain his crown just as Red Rum did back in 1974. It has been said he has improved this year and he was very impressive at Kelso.
My Grand National preview can be read here.
Yesterday had to be a day for the bookies and it started out with a 33/1 winner as Party Rock was a winner for Staffordshire trainer Jennie Candlish, whose yard is in fine fettle.
The big shock came in the Melling Chase. Vautour fell leaving God’s Own and Dynaste duelling for first place and it was the Tom George horse that claimed the Grade 1 prize.
Limini’s unbeaten run came to an abrupt end, as she could only manage third in the Grade 1 Novices’ Hurdle, which was won by Supreme Hurdle third Buveur D’Air.
In the Mildmay were potentially saw a future National type in Native River. The drop back to 3m saw him make all and claim the £56,000 prize with Henri Parry Morgan second and RSA Chase winner Blaklion only managing third.
Now is the time take a look at today’s best of Aintree.
13:45 – Handicap Hurdle
This Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle seems to revolve around the second and third from the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham.
If In Doubt was badly hampered in the finish when going like the winner that day. He was only beaten by 1l and the handicapper has put him up 4lb but the second Arpege D’Alene makes appeal here. He wandered prior to the final flight causing If In Doubt problems but with the cheekpieces back on for this he will hopefully stay in a straight line. For this he is 1lb better off than at Cheltenham and as a six-year-old could continue to improve considering that was his second effort at this trip.
Long House Hall was second in the Coral Cup but he stayed on strongly up the hill to take second, which could give encouragement at this trip for a shrewd trainer. Further down the prices is Ballycross for a combination going well in Ryan Hatch and Nigel Twiston-Davies. He has been put up 13lb for a 4l win at Sandown on heavy ground, where the form could be questioned. He won a point-to-point over this trip and was fifth in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham in December. If continuing his improvement then he could be a player.
Advice: Arpege D’Alene (11/1 Each-Way)
14:25 – Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
This Grade 1 race had to be reopened for entries and still only seven run. Yorkhill is the class act in the race and Willie Mullins charge will take plenty of beating. He ticks all the right boxes after his impressive dismantling of Yanworth at Cheltenham 24-days ago. He is 12lb better than his nearest rival on official ratings and barring any accidents is the most likely winner. Paul Townend is in the saddle after Ruby Walsh picked up a fractured wrist yesterday.
I’ve put Flying Angel up on his last two starts; a win in the Grade 3 Imperial Cup then a narrow second at Cheltenham behind Ibis Du Rheu. If in a similar vein of form he has to be the most likely to follow Yorkhill home. Le Prezien beat The Dutchman last time at Kelso but both look to have plenty to prove in this better race. With how the Paul Nicholls horses have run I wouldn’t be surprised to The Dutchman reverse that Kelso form plus Sandy Thomson’s charge ran well at Ayr over this trip on debut for the yard.
15:00 – Maghull Novices’ Chase
Just four rivals for Douvan to see off here and he is the best current jumper in the business. The way he attacks his fences but jumps them quickly and slickly is a joy to behold. A comfortable winner of the Arkle last month he’ll take all the beating.
Alisier D’Irlande fell three starts ago at Fairyhouse but has since bounced back with wins at Naas and Leopardstown. He has been able to front run on both of those occasions but he won’t get it all his own way up against Douvan today. If he does try and go forward then he could empty out too soon.
Fox Norton was third in the Arkle and The Game Changer finished a place behind. The latter didn’t quite stay up the hill and made a mistake when tired. It was Fox Norton who got hampered two out but managed to stay on to take his final position and might snatch second if Alisier D’Irlande tried to take Douvan on earlier.
15:40 – Stayers Hurdle
This is another race that looks uncompetitive on paper with Thistlecrack being another star on show. He put good rivals to the sword in the World Hurdle and if he remains in this sphere he could dominate it for some time. He’ll have no problems at this venue after winning the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle last year and looks hard to get away from.
Different Gravey has looked different class compared to his rivals on both of his last two starts when winning by a combined total of 24l. This is a step up in grade but he looked as if he’d be able to handle it. He won a point-to-point over 3m and has shaped like this extra trip would suit. This Nicky Henderson trained runner skipped Cheltenham, so comes here fresh. Prince Of Scars was last seen win in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown but the drying ground looks to be a big concern for his chances.
16:20 – Handicap Chase
Mystifiable has been progressive this season for Fergal O’Brien having won three of his four starts this campaign. He has won only two starts over fences by 7l at Leicester and Newbury respectively. The assessor has put him up 22lb for those successes and has a big job on his hands to win this. He is still unexposed over these larger obstacles, so that’s why the handicapper hasn’t taken any chances with him.
Charlie Longsdon’s Coologue has been knocking on the door of late and hasn’t finished the top three this term. A second to Ziga Boy in the Sky Bet Chase in January was followed by another close second down in trip. His four most recent starts have all been at Doncaster, so he should take to this track.
Thomas Brown won in January at Doncaster over this trip in a Novice Chase but hasn’t been as good in his last two starts. He was a respectable seventh at Cheltenham behind Ballyalton and should give his running here. This track should play to his strengths and he could still be on a good mark. Harry Fry’s seven-year-old could be the one to resume winning ways in this open handicap.
Roc D’Apsis is the one that looks the danger. He was a good third at Kempton last time out when running over this trip for the first time. If his jumping has improved in the 42-days since then he could be a threat off his current mark. Tom George and Paddy Brennan have teamed up already with success this week and we could see them in the winners enclosure once more.
Advice: Thomas Brown (9/1 Each-Way)
17:15 – Grand National
18:10 – Handicap Hurdle (Conditional/Amateur Jockeys)
This is another race I wouldn’t be getting too stuck into. Ivan Grozny won a Grade 3 at Leopardstown in April but hasn’t replicated any form since then in big field handicaps. David Mullins takes the ride and claims 3lb but this six-year-old has something to prove.
Thunder Sheik has won his last two races under Ryan Hatch, so he knows how to get the best out of his mount. He wouldn’t want the ground too soft but despite the rise in the weights could still be ahead of the handicapper.
I’m a fan of Harry Whittington’s Bigmartre but his mark doesn’t look the best for what he has achieved. He was able to dictate when winning in deep ground at Haydock in December and is likely to get pestered up front here. Harry Teal claims 10lb and this inexperienced pilot has ridden a career winner. If he can get this horse to switch off he could have a good chance.
Boite ran well enough on his return to the track last month in soft conditions at Newbury. That race should have got him in tip-top condition for this and he was a decent flat horse. At Ayr in April he was second to Different Gravey, who we see earlier on in the day. He’ll be prominently ridden and should be kept out of trouble by Harry Bannister.
The interesting contender is Madfuninthewest. He has his first run for David Dennis since switching from Robert Tyner. He has followed home the likes of Bello Conti, runs in a Grade 1 earlier on the card, and Bleu Et Rouge, who is rated 149. On handicap and slightly better ground he could make his presence felt.
Advice: Boite (14/1 Each-Way)