The Grand National Meeting is here! With spring now fully into stride, Aintree’s extravaganza provides three days of top class racing with something to enjoy for both the punters and also the racing purists too. Without further ado, let’s get stuck in.
The Devenish Manifesto Novices’ Chase (1.45) kicks us off, and the claims of La Bague Au Roi are are too tempting to pass up and we can start the meeting on the front foot with Warren Greatrex’s mare. She had the option of two targets here – she is a Grade 1 winner over both this trip and 3 miles – but a late switch to avoid a clash with RSA winner Topofthegame looks to be the wise choice.
Her three Grade 1’s, including a defeat of Topofthegame and Santini, the pair who were 1-2 in that race at Cheltenham, looks to be the best form.
Glen Forsa, who unseated in the Arkle, could well be better for a return to this trip – remember when he was so impressive at Kempton over Christmas? – and it’s possible Kalashnikov needs it too now, although he was disappointing in the Kingmaker at Sandown. Mengli Khan travelled well in the JLT and might like this sharper test here, so ought to be involved.
Bags Groove is well suited by flat tracks and a past winner here, although he needs to improve based on his fifth in the Kauto Star, and Spiritofthegames was beaten 21 lengths by La Bague Au Roi when they last met.
The Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (2.20) might provide some sort of comeback for Joseph O’Brien, who had a winner to end Cheltenham but who also didn’t have the Festival that his brilliant season promised. His Fred Winter Hurdle winner Band Of Outlaws is favourite, which would be no surprise to those who saw him quicken up so impressively, but Pentland Hills was also a taking winner of the Triumph despite an early blunder and on face value that form is better.
Normally a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle would be considered better form than both of them, and it would have been fascinating to see how Fakir D’oudairies would have finished in the Triumph.
He appeared to get outpaced at some point in a Supreme which was run at a blistering pace, before flying up the home straight to take fourth at the line. His Trials Day win has worked out poorly but he won by 13 lengths and extending there, beating Adjali by about the same distance Pentland Hills did. This long straight could help him if he gets outpaced again and perhaps he shouldn’t be the biggest of the three at the lead of the market.
It is fascinating that Christopher Wood, who has won both his starts hurdling with ease, is upped in class here, having missed the Triumph. He showed a lot of speed around Newbury and Fontwell, and there’s lots to like about him.
The Bowl (2.50) is a devilishly tricky race to work out. Kemboy is favourite, perhaps on the basis that he unseated early and didn’t have a grueling race in the Gold Cup. His Savills Chase win was very impressive, aided by a sharp piece of race riding by David Mullins that day, although it is a shame that none of the beaten horses ran in the Gold Cup or won the Ryanair for form purposes.
Bristol De Mai (third) and Clan Des Obeaux (fifth) ran fine races in the Gold Cup when Bristol De Mai handled the trip and track better than Clan Des Obeaux, and the two ought to be closer today. It’s so hard to pick between the two but maybe Bristol De Mai, second in this last year when ahead of Clan Des Obeaux.
Elegant Escape was sixth in the Gold Cup and perhaps would have been a better National contender, whilst Balko Des Flos isn’t the same horse as he was last year.
If Buveur D’Air stands up then he’ll take the beating in the Aintree Hurdle (3.25) but his jumping has cost him twice this season, first in the Christmas Hurdle and then in the Champion, and at evens he can be left alone. He makes a cracking each/way market, where Supasundae is of interest. Jessica Harrington’s charge didn’t stay in a more truly run and higher class Stayers’ Hurdle when Faugheen was third, but dropping back to this trip ought to improve his chances and Cheltenham was the first time he didn’t reward each/way backers in over two years. He was a beaten favourite in this last year but is now a value proposition.
In the Foxhunters (4.05) it’ll take a great deal of work to catch Road To Rome, who blazed a trail in the Foxhunters, if he’s over that effort. He’s got a good clutch of contenders snapping at his heels in the market though, and one of the most interesting of them is Kruzhlinin,who runs here for Gordon Elliott.
He was third on Boxing Day in one of the best contests of the Irish Hunting season and has since gone unbeaten with four straight wins. Previously rated 148 with Philip Hobbs, he’s completed the National before and could go well.
The Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase (4.40) is fiercely contested at always but runners who come from the Grand Annual have overperformed in recent years and Brelan D’As should give a strong run for our money. Third in the Grand Annual, he was put up just 2lbs for that here and has winning form around tight speed favouring tracks. He shades the verdict from many.
The Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (5.15) is a very tough one and perhaps best watched.
RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
13:45 – Devenish Manifesto Novices’ Chase
BACK La Bague Au Roi 5 pts win at 13/8 with starsports.bet
14:20 – Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle
BACK Fakir D’oudaries 2 pts at 10/3 with starsports.bet
14:50 Betway Bowl Chase
BACK Bristol De Mai 1 pt at 4/1 with starsports.bet
15:25 Betway Aintree Hurdle
BACK Supasundae 1 pt each/way at 10/1 with starsports.bet
16:05 Randox Health Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase
BACK Kruzhlinin 1 pt each/way at 10/1 with starsports.bet
16:40 Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase
BACK Brelan D’As 1 pt each/way 1 pt each/way at 9/1 with starsports.bet
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