Day 2 got off to a flying start with Josses Hill justifying favouritism with a solid performance in the opener and I was more than happy with the 2/1 I took yesterday afternoon as he was sent off at 6/4. It was 2 from 2 on Day 2 after Hollywell put in a brilliant round of jumping and galloped the legs of his rivals to win @7/2. Module was a late withdrawal in the Melling Chase and Wishfull Thinking ran a stinker. Boston Bob won a thrilling finish, produced very late by Paul Townend in what could well turn out to be ride of the week.
The Topham Chase was won impressively by Ma Filleule, further dispelling the myth that horses that run well at Cheltenham do not follow up at Aintree. Tatenen ran another huge race in 4th @25/1 and fair play if you backed him given his Aintree record. Big Fella Thanks was tapped for toe about three out and faded into midfield, ahead of my other fancy Rebel Rebellion who never featured. Seeyouatmidnight was beaten out of sight by Nicky Henderson’s Beat That in the Novice Hurdle that followed and it was looking like the two early winners would be the sole return on Day 2. Indeed it was as Attaglance and Like Minded finished out of the places in the final race.
And so to the third and final day of the meeting and we kick off with another Novice Hurdle at 1.30pm over 2 ½ miles. Sea Lord is an obvious starting point with form figures 1111112, but he has a 139 day absence to overcome and has done all his winning around the 2 mile mark and I’ll take him on. Of those that have proven form over 2 ½ miles, Kayf Moss is interesting for his latest win in a Grade 2 and if he still has improvement in him then he should go close. Lac Fontana and Volnay De Thaix represent two powerful yards and both could improve for the step up in trip. Lac Fontana won the County Hurdle while Volnay De Thaix’s sole defeat was at the hands of Irving. Oscar Hoof is interesting for Nicky Henderson on only his 4th start over hurdles and Geraghty takes the ride after his treble on Day 2. Given the form of the stable this week and the jockey arrangements I have backed Oscar Hoof @6/1 and Kayf Moss @14/1.
Seven go to post in the Maghull Novice Chase. Again a case can be made for all seven runners so I am going to play on the cautious side. Hinterland was thought good enough to run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase but unseated his rider that day, whilst Ted Veale (fell) and Trifolium (3rd) contested the Arkle. Balder Success @7/2 is the one I have backed as his prominent racing style and decent speed seems ideal for this race and fits the profile of previous winners. It’s only a tentative selection in an ultra-competitive race where all seven runners hold solid chances.
With World Hurdle winner More Of That absent from the Stayer’s Hurdle this looks like a good opportunity for At Fishers Cross or Zarkander to finally break their duck this season. I do not rate the chances of the others that highly except for Coral Cup winner Whisper, but it’s a guess as to whether he gets the extra 3 furlongs. I have backed At Fishers Cross @7/4 to uphold the form and beat Zarkander again.
Next up is the 18 runner Listed Handicap Chase at 3.25pm and again I will be pretty cautious. This is hardly a race to boost the coffers prior to the “Big One” at 4.15pm but it does look like a cracking each-way race. With all firms paying 4 places I have had a few quid on a slightly risky proposition. Johns Spirit ran a cracker at Cheltenham but the handicapper may have his measure and he might need to come down a few pounds before winning again. He looks sure to run his race though. Unioniste is another sure to go well and he lugs top weight of 11st 12lbs. He might well defy that but I will give him a miss. The one I have backed requires a bit of a leap of faith. Duke Of Lucca @16/1 is really well handicapped off 134 when you consider he was winning races off 10lbs higher 18 months ago and his 4th in the Cheltenham Cross Country race this year was not a bad effort. I’m hoping for place money rather than anything else as I will be surprised if he wins.
On to the Grand National itself and this is truly one of the highlights of the sporting year, irrespective of whether you are a racing fan or not. I could spend the next 20 minutes going through the pluses and minuses of each and every runner, together with the trends and profiles of previous winners, but instead I will cut to the chase and go straight into my (many) selections for the main event. I have opted to place all my bets with Bet365 using their amazing offer of giving you half your stake back for every each-way bet you place. From the top of the market I have backed Teaforthree @8/1. Hardly original but he is primed to run a big race and even if he gives way on the run in like last year, with a clean round of jumping he should be in the first 5 home. At bigger prices I have backed Pineau De Re @20/1 and Chance Du Roy @33/1. Both have a nice weight of 10st 6lb and a great chance of finishing the race, which in itself is no mean feat. Hawkes Point must put a disappointing run in the Haydock trial behind him. If fit and well and back to his best then the 40/1 looks great value. Big Shu @25/1 is interesting as he stays all day and may plod into the place money. Finally I have backed another dour stayer and sound jumper in Mountainous @40/1 although his chances would be even better were it to rain buckets overnight. Those are my six (!) and hopefully the winner is lurking in there somewhere!
The Handicap Hurdle for amateurs and conditionals is the next race and only one favourite has won in the seven runnings to date. With a field of 22 set to go to post this looks like another each-way race. Having backed half the field in the Grand National I have just backed one here and that is top weight Court Minstrel @16/1 .He has some decent form in the book and has a had a 3 month break since finishing 4th to The New One in the Stan James Hurdle at Cheltenham in December. The final race is a bumper and I never really bet in these races so, having backed six in the Grand National it makes sense to sit this one out.
Aintree Day 3 selections:
1.30pm Oscar Hoof @6/1 and Kayf Moss @14/1
2.05pm Balder Success @7/2
2.50pm At Fishers Cross @7/4
3.25pm Duke Of Lucca @16/1 (each-way, 4 places)
4.15pm Teaforthree @8/1, Pineau De Re @20/1, Big Shu @25/1, Chance Du Roy @33/1, Hawkes Point @40/1 and Mountainous @40/1 (all each-way, 5 places)
5.10pm Court Minstrel 16/1 (each-way, 4 places)
5.45pm No Bet