AINTREE FESTIVAL (FRIDAY – DAY 2)
A tough grade three handicap hurdle to start Ladies Day at the Grand National festival. Knights Parade is the current market leader for Gordon Elliot. He won the charity race at the Cheltenham festival and then followed up in rated hurdle at Downpatrick. He is unbeaten in his last five starts and would not be at all surprising if proved ahead of his rating. That said given the nature of this handicap he is very short in the betting and there appears to be more value on offer.
The Saint James was a massive price at the start of the Fred Winter handicap and ran on from the back to finish a never nearer third. That the he was given a classic Carberry ride to and picked up the pieces. He gave the impression he could be ahead of his mark and while won’t be as big a price today could still run well with The Champ taking over. Having only had two runs in the UK you would imagine there is still more to come from this four year old and should go close.
The booking of Paul Townend is eye-catching on Nexius for Keith Dalgliesh but the German import would need to step up on anything he has shown and does not look to be weighted to win. Snake Eyes is very lightly raced for his age and if he could reproduce his Listed win would be dangerous however the Henderson yard remain below their high standards.
Dell Arca is another interesting contender from a yard who do well in these types of races, however he has shown no level of form this season and is best watched.
Some Buckle takes only his second step into handicap company after a finishing four length sixth in the Imperial Cup, this is similarly competitive but could improve. While one that seems to be missed by both the handicapper and market is Mile House, he was last seen in the Persian War at Chepstow. He is very unexposed and this may have been targeted from a long way and with hurdle form wins all coming on good ground he may go close.
The Saint James (E/W if 5/1+)
Mile House (E/W)
Eleven go to post for the second race of the day at Aintree, with hot favourite Glingerburn looking to maintain a 100% win record over hurdles. The seven year old was last seen finishing over three lengths ahead of Bristol De Mai at Kelso in February, a horse who ran a great race in defeat here yesterday.
Qewy was no match for Douvan in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham but ran a respectable fifth, finishing ahead of high profile horses such as Tell Us More and Jollyallan. Renewing the partnership with A P McCoy today is likely to draw support as when they last teamed up at Newbury in February they ran out six length winners, beating the re-opposing Cardinal Walter in to second.
Cyrus Darius could prove to be a smart performer based on his wide margin successes at Newcastle and Hexham last month, winning by twelve and twenty three lengths respectively without coming off the bridle. He is likely to find todays’ opposition tougher but could well run in to a place at least.
This is probably one of the worst Grade One novices chase ever ran, nine are declared and not much confidence could be put behind any of them for win purposes. Rawnaq is going to be the selection here. He ran a cracker when making mistakes in a Cheltenham handicap and probably would’ve been at lot closer than the three lengths beaten last time. He previously beat Gilgamboa who went on to win a grade one and while that may not be a true reflection on Gilgamboa it was over a shorter than ideal distance and with three places on offer he looks overpriced.
I can’t have Saphir Du Rheu as the favourite and the weakness of this race has probably pushed Paul Nichols to running here instead of over hurdles. He is suspect to a dodgy jump and for that reason and his price he is overlooked.
Irish Cavalier did well to win a handicap at the festival and Townend keeps up the ride. He is worthy of his place and should run his race. While Ainsi Fideles may find this trip too sharp after winning the Renyoldstown over three miles and will not have competed in this level over the shorter trip. Irish Saint seems to always find a couple too good and Close Touch has been awful disappointing this season. Carrig Mor was disappointing on good ground last time he was seen.
So by process of elimination Rawnaq looks a big price to at least run into a place.
The second Grade 1 race of the day, of which I think the two at the head of the market bill battle it out to land the spoils.
Don Cossack didn’t travel well in the Ryanair at Cheltenham but stayed on well to finish third and with four wins from five over todays’ trip has to enter calculations. The Gigginstown eight year old had a 100% win rate for the season before Cheltenham and has A P McCoy in the saddle today who will no doubt be looking for a winner or two in what is his final year racing at this festival.
Champagne Fever was seen as a possible winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase but missed the race due to injuries sustained on the trip to the racecourse and will be looking to make up for lost time here. He fell at the last fence at Thurles when being challenged for the lead by the aforementioned Don Cossack before going on to win at Gowran Park in February. With an overall 60% win rate over todays’ trip he will no doubt be on many peoples’ shortlist and is my selection.
One horse I feel I have to mention is multiple group one winner Sire De Grugy. He has had a difficult season and wasn’t seen to his best at Cheltenham but could still be a big player if returning to form.
Champagne Fever (WIN)
We head over the national fences next for the hotly competitive Topham chase over two mile five. Nicky Henderson has won the last two renewals of this race and has the top two in the weights. They are both hardy sorts but are vulnerable to a well handicapped improver. Monetaire is that likely sort, and has run very well in three major handicaps this season. He is the market leader and will need to improve to get involved here.
Again I am attacking this handicap with two selections. The first of which is Eastlake. He finished third in this race last year and showed himself to be in good form when placing in the Grand Annual behind Next Sensation at Cheltenham. He should come on for that and offers good e/w value for a horse who has key experiences over the fences.
The second selection is a horse who has done nothing wrong in his previous starts and represents an astute trainer. Montoyas Son is unbeaten since returning from Ireland to the North of England and is worthy of his place in this field. He is at the right end of the handicap and may just have more to come based on his previous couple of runs.
Darna could be the biggest danger as while his Festival win was by a narrow margin he seemed to be idling in front. A seven pound hike however is enough to put me off.
Montoya’s Son (E/W)
Early favourite Minella Rocco steps up in both grade and distance for todays’ race and despite only tackling hurdles twice he was very impressive in both races, winning both without coming off the bridle. He looks to have a bright future ahead of him but doesn’t represent much value considering the better opposition and extra distance to cover.
Vyta Du Roc would have placed in the Neptune at Cheltenham but for a mistake at the last hurdle yet still finished a respectable fourth. Prior to Cheltenham he finished second to Parlour Games at Newbury in December but had the beating of the re-opposing Blaklion and won four in a row over shorter distances before that.
One For Arthur takes on better opposition today but has so far only failed to place in one out of six races and could hardly be in better form with three wins in a row since the turn of the year, two over todays’ race distance.
Roi Des Francs has won twice and placed twice since going over hurdles and rates as another of Willie Mullins possible stars of the future. Partnered by Ruby Walsh for todays’ race he looks sure to prove popular with punters and has a real chance of a placed finish.
Blaklion has been a horse I have followed all season and has three wins and two seconds to show from seven races. However, he was pulled up before the last in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and has had a hard season so may be best watched today.
Vyta Du Roc (WIN)
One a For Arthur (E/W)
We finish with a Grade Two bumper over two miles and again it is a wide open contest. Persian Delight and Bellshill both represent powerful connections and must be respected. However based on what they have shown they appear very short in the market. We have two to go to war with here. In Brain Power and Archive.
The former won a run of the mill Newcastle bumper, but there was a lot to like about that as he was picked up by Michael Buckley soon after, he had a couple of today’s rivals behind that day and with his weight allowance should confirm them placing’s and I wouldn’t be surprised if he improved for the move to Nicky Henderson yard.
Archive is a rare UK bumper runner for Gigginstown. He won on his second start under rules but the form is rock solid in both of them. Eoin Griffen is a small trainer in Ireland but he does well with his string. David Mullins is also a valuable claimer and has ridden him on both starts. His Leopardstown win looks above average and there has been a winner and short head loser come out since. He should improve from that and they wouldn’t be sending him to make up the numbers.
Brain Power (E/W if 5/1+)