Day 1 got off to a spectacular start with Guitar Pete being delivered from nowhere to first by Paul Carberry in a sensational ride. My picks Activial and Hawk High finished down the field. Clarcam was given an honourable mention in this column and ran a blinder to finish second. With hindsight he was probably the each-way bet of the race. In the Betfred Bowl, First Lieutenant had every chance heading to the last flight but was beaten by better horses on the day, so no complaints from me and hats off to Paul Nicholls and the connections of Silviniaco Conti.
The Aintree Hurdle was a no-bet race but what a race it was! The prices said this would be a procession and it certainly looked that way as The New One cruised into the lead on the bridle. Rock On Ruby and Diakali had other ideas and it turned into a three-way head bobber at the finish with The New One just prevailing. For the record, Irish Saint did not outrun his price. Warne provided me with a first winner of the festival @9/2 in the Foxhunters. Sam Whaley-Cohen and his mount were pestered constantly by loose horses all the way round and on more than one occasion I thought it would cost them the race. Sam did a great steering job to be fair and it was nice to be off the mark. Island Life finished 12th at 100/1, but at least he made it over the line.
Claret Cloak ran a good race in third in the Red Rum Handicap Chase, whilst Oiseau De Nuit finished a never nearer 6th and I think I’ve backed the old boy for the last time. Uxizandre did exactly what I hoped he would do and held on well from the front to land the spoils. Sometimes taking an early price is a good thing and the 5/1 on Thursday night was a cracking price as he was sent off 11/4. Two winners on the board on Day 1 are more than I could have hoped for and things were rounded off nicely with Jetson yet again performing admirably in a big field handicap to grab some place money. Day 2 looks nigh on impossible so I’m glad we are off to a decent start. Here goes anyway………..
On to Day 2 and we kick off with Novice Hurdle at 2.00pm, a race won last year by My Tent Or Yours. Those horses that placed in the Supreme Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham have a good record in this and that leads us straight to Josses Hill and Sgt Reckless who ran 2nd and 4th respectively in that race. With Henderson winning 3 of the last 4 renewals I am more than happy to back Josses Hill @2/1 with William Hill’s money back second place concession. The interesting runner is Baltimore Rock who won the Imperial Cup at Sandown, beating a useful one in Gassin Golf. He races here off 6lb higher and could make the step up into Graded races with ease. There again he might not and I will stick with Josses Hill as my only bet in the race.
The Novice Chase at 2.30pm has a small, but fascinating, field of six going to post. All six ran at Cheltenham. O’Faolains Boy won the RSA Chase, the same race in which Many Clouds was brought down by Don Cossack (and you may remember I had backed both of those!) with Just A Par back in 7th. Wonderful Charm ran 5th in the JLT at the festival and Hollywell won the 3m 1f Handicap Chase on the opening day. All of that makes this race difficult to assess. Only 2lbs separate Hollywell, O’Faolains Boy and Wonderful Charm in the official ratings which further adds spice to proceedings. At a bigger price, Many Clouds only has 2 ½ lengths to make up on O’Faolains Boy on their Ascot running. However, gut feeling is that O’Faolains Boy has improved considerably. One interesting statistic is that 20 of the last 23 winners had already won at the 3 mile trip or higher. That leaves three in Hollywell, O’Faolains Boy and Just A Par. I think this is more of a race to watch than get heavily involved in and Holywell @10/3 is a tentative selection.
Next we have the Grade 1 Melling Chase. This has been a punters race for sure in the last few years with the first or second favourite winning 14 of the last 19 renewals. I thought Module ran a good race in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham and that race has been a good pointer in the past. I’ve taken the 9/2. Wishfull Thinking has Aintree form figures of 0F1226 and also ran well in the Champion Chase and he should be there or thereabouts. Module @9/2 and Wishfull Thinking @7/1 are my 2 against the field.
Thirty go to post for the Topham Chase. In a race like this it is probably more about getting a run for my money than genuine expectations of finding the winner. One who fits the bill on that score is Big Fella Thanks @20/1 (PaddyPower, 5 places) who has completed the course in 5 of 6 attempts over these fences. Another who should run well at a price is Rebel Rebellion @20/1 (BetVictor, 5 places), winner of the Grand Sefton Chase in December. He has run 2 solid races since that win and I’m hopeful of a big run. Tatenen ran a cracker at the festival but has a poor completion rate around Aintree whilst Champion Court, You Must Know Me and Your Busy could all go well at a big price (all three around 25/1 to 20/1).
Eighteen line-up for The Sefton Novices Hurdle and things do not get any easier from a betting perspective. It’s a 3 miler (won last year by At Fishers Cross) so I’m looking for a proven stayer here rather than an improver who may or may not stay. That may be foolish but I will find out at around 4.25pm on Friday. Seeyouatmidnight is a worthy favourite, has the best form on offer and stays well. What’s not to like? 9/2 is a short price but it’s one I’ve taken as it is my only bet of the race. Honourable mentions go to Walk On Al @33/1 who could run well at a huge price if the headgear sparks the necessary required improvement and Tagrita @12/1 could also be involved, receiving a 7lb mare’s allowance. I have thought about backing them both but I will just stick with Seeyouatmidnight @9/2.
Just to make things even harder, the next race is the 22 runner Alder Hey Charity Handicap Hurdle run over 2 ½ miles. Attaglance must have a good chance despite top weight. He won the Martin Pipe in 2012 as well as taking this race in that same year. Campaigned over the larger obstacles since then he was very unlucky not to have won at the Cheltenham festival this year. I think he’s a cracking each-way bet. At a bigger price, Like Minded could go well if he bounces back from his last poor effort. I am always prepared to forgive a horse one bad run and this horse ran third in the Lanzaraote, beating Spirit Of Shankly who was a heavily backed into near favouritism for the 3 mile handicap hurdle that brought proceedings to close on Day 1 of this meeting. Attaglance @12/1 and Like Minded @25/1 are my selections.
To finish we have the 20 runner Mares Only NH Flat race. If ever there was a no-bet race it is this one. I really would be wasting my time and yours trying to get to the bottom of this race and I would much rather skip this and have an extra bet on the Grand National.
Aintree Day 2 selections:
2.00pm Josses Hill @2/1
2.30pm Hollywell @10/3
3.05pm Module @9/2 and Wishfull Thinking @7/1
3.40pm Big Fella Thanks @20/1 & Rebel Rebellion @20/1 (both each-way, 5 places)
4.15pm Seeyouatmidnight @9/2
4.50pm Attaglance @12/1 and Like Minded @25/1 (both each-way, 5 places)
5.25pm No Bet