Following my preview of the Grand Opening Day at Aintree Festival 2017 it’s now time to take a look at Day 2 – Ladies Day.
1.40pm: The Alder Hey Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
This can end up being a mix from the Coral Cup, Martin Pipe and the County, given the complete change in track from undulating to flat. Jonjo O’Neill has a strong record in this of late and Coral Cup second Taquin De Seuil could be a likely contender to come here. Hargam’s mark has fallen through the floor and this course will really help him, but a revival is certainly needed.
Henderson may also send Rather Be, an early unseat in the Martin Pipe, who still looks well handicapped off 136 here. Paul Nicholls might send Modus, sixth in the coral Cup off a giant weight and the Lanzarote winner at Kempton, an excellent omen.
From the County, Air Horse One, a winner over further this season before his excellent fourth in the County, is of interest if he was to turn up here. If trend are your thing, six year olds have done very well in the past decade – there have been six winners in the last decade, and weight ranges plenty too – albeit with only one top weight wining since 2010.
2.20pm: The Crabbie’s Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
This often ends up being a rematch from the Supreme and five of the last seven winners have come directly from the Supreme. The Supreme this year was dominated by Ireland, although at this point it’s hard to know if Labaik, going through the sales ring later, will run, let alone start! Should he consent then he is likely to take the beating with Melon likely to go to Punchestown for the trainers’ title battle. River Wylde, a comprehensive winner of the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, travelled better than he finished in the Supreme and would have a big chance if heading here. Beyond Conceit was a tad outpaced there and might run in the Mersey’ Novices’ at the end of the Festival although if the race cuts up then he would have to be a serious player. Look closely at those who have not run at the Festival, as in the past five years two renewals have had a 1-2 that avoided the Festival altogether.
2.50pm: The Betway Mildmay Novices’ Steeple Chase (Grade 1)
Nicky Henderson is gunning hard for the title and that appears to be defining factor of this Aintree. He has already declared his interest in running Might Bite and Whisper, the 1-2 in a thrilling RSA, there, and on form they are a mile clear of any likely opposition. However both must have had hard races there, so this is as much a battle against the three week break as it is the rest of the field. However a look through the other races and the handicaps at the meeting didn’t provide many likely contenders to come here, the most obvious of them being Singlefarmpayment who is surely too well handicapped. Tiger Roll is interesting from the front but may stay home at Punchestown and Missed Approach would be interesting as a potential frontrunner, having finished second in a decent renewal of the NH Chase to Tiger Roll.
3.25pm: The JLT Melling Steeple Chase (Grade 1)
In recent years, this has been a clash between the principals of the Ryanair and Champion Chasers. Native Upmanship, Moscow Flyer, Voy Por Ustedes (twice), Finian’s’ Rainbow, and Sprinter Sacre have all come here from the Champion Chase. The Ryanair has provided plenty of other winners, so a mix of those two races ought to provide some insight.
The winners of both are likely to be absent here, with Special Tiara headed to Sandown to take on Altior in the Celebration Chase and Un De Sceaux headed to Punchestown. Fox Norton himself might have won the Champion had he been given a more forceful ride, or with a couple more strides, with no disrespect to Special Tiara, so that he is now favourite over this trip is no surprise. Indeed he had an interrupted season coming up to Cheltenham Festival, so perhaps the effects of his run will be lessened.
God’s Own won last year and proved that it was no fluke when taking the Champion Chase at Punchestown afterwards, beating Vautour on the latter occasion. He stepped forward from what could have been seen as moderate effort in the Champion last year and it might well have been that a lack of racing cost him, along with a shuddering second last error in the Champion that led to him fading badly. Better is expected here and the two are sure fire major players. Sub Lieutenant was flattered to get so close when second in the Ryanair but he as a long way ahead of the rest there and would be very interesting against the likely top two.
Uxizandre bounced in the Ryanair but he is a course and distance winner and now over that, he’d have to be considered a serious player, having made plenty of ground on Un De Sceaux when the Clarence House was rearranged in January. This would be a good spot for Bristol De Mai, better than the Bowl perhaps after his Gold Cup run. Kylemore Lough has good form lines with God’s Own but may be an Ascot horse.
4.05pm: The Randox Health Topham Steeple Chase (Grade 3)
This is one of the most enjoyable races of the season, a Calvary charge over half the National’s distance but with just as much fun to boot.
A look through recent history shows clearly that certain trainers do well and Nicky Henderson has mastered this race. He took three renewals in a row (with two for Barry Geraghty) before Eastlake won last year, defying a poor season and a long losing streak which has seen him pulled up in the previous renewal. It’s interesting to note that Eastlake has one once this year and will presumably return just as Jonjo O’Neill’s yard returns to form.
O’Neill has another one with very strong claims in the shape of Go Conquer, whose swashbuckling effort when fifth in the Ultima at the Festival was the perfect trial for this. Having caught a tartar when second to Tenor Nivernais at Ascot in January, the time before he’d bumped into a classy handicapper in Double Shuffle and at the Festival the four horses who finishes ahead of him were Un Temps Pour Tout (rated 155, previous winner of the race), Singlefarmpayment (142 rated at the time), Noble Endeavour (winner of the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas in clear fashion), and Buywise (rated 145). Of 135, Go Conquer could take some catching from the front and whilst the smart money has come he could go off shorter than the 10/1.
Henderson is the race’s master of late so respect must be given to Gold Present, himself second at the Festival in the novices’ handicap, and O O Seven, who was well beaten in the RSA but whose form at this trip is much better. Cocktails At Dawn has struggled for form of late but would be an interesting runner.
As De Mee won the Grand Sefton when Seefood was in second and Henryville third. Better off at the weights would appear to be Seefood, in at the bottom of the weights (26) although the bookmakers know this).
Bouveril was second in the Plate, having faded badly in the December Gold Cup after being well backed and maybe this ground (better than the winter ground) should suit down to the ground. Third Intention appears in the grip of the handicapper. On of potential interest is Bright New Dawn, back to this trip for the first time since moving to England.
4.40pm: The Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
This could be a decidedly British affair as the Irish 1-2 from the Albert Bartlett (not always the best place to look for winners of this event, given that it is such an attritional event and there is a short gap between the two).
Only 4 of the last 10 winners had ran at the Festival, so it pays to look far and wide. The highest rated horse at the current entry stage here who fits that description is Le Breuil, a nine length winner of a Novice Hurdle at Newbury when there was also 15 lengths further back to the third. However, the second was fourth in the Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle, form that links well through Messiere Des Obeaux (entered here, third in the Neptune). He’s had just the two hurdles starts and could be going under the radar. Get On The Yager, upto this trip for the first time, is also of interest – he found Willougby Court and co too strong at Warwick but is twice a winner since.
Moulin A Vent’s fourth to Death Duty now reads well in this contest especially as he got the better of Brelade (sixth in the Neptune) over hurdles earlier in the season and his second at Thurles in the Michael Purcell although the winner Tin Solider was beaten and well beaten off 140 in the Coral Cup.
Of the Cheltenham contenders, once has to give West Approach a big chance on Cleeve Hurdle form, although the form of the World’s End Haydock win, where he gave 7lbs and a beating to No Hassle Hoff, is worthy of him being favourite. No Hassle Hoff was within a head of Constantine Bay when he won a Doncaster Grade 2, and he would have been much closer in the Albert Bartlett had he not been blindsided by The World’s End when he unseated.
Messiere Des Obeaux was third in the Neptune but it was a clear one and the two who dominated were previous Graded winners, and by wide margins too. He shaped as if he is going to get three miles (as he has on many occasions) and he might be the value of those from the Cheltenham Festival.
Keeper Hill will enjoy this trip although he was well behind Messiere Des Obeaux in the Neptune, and Gayebury will be pleased if he’s got the soft ground he relishes. Ballymallin was seventh there but well held off a good mark.
5:15pm: The Weatherbys Champion Standard Open NH Flat (Grade 2)
Claimmantakinforgan will be the likely favourite after his Champion Bumper third but the real unlikely one there was Western Ryder, who came from a position nearly as bad as Fayonagh but ended up coming a hugely creditable fifth there. His from through the season is easily the most consistent of any UK trained bumper horse and if he’s over that race then he has to have a huge chance.
Black Op beat the favourite when getting 6lbs at Doncaster (he was a previous winner of a point by 25 lengths) and he has a big future based on those formlines. If The Cap Fits, a winner by nine lengths at Taunton when last seen, is one of quite a few unexposed horses who has shown the required form to make a mark here – and they include Irish Prophecy, who beat the highly rated Champ at Kempton, and the final field will tell a lot more.
Topham Chase (4.05 PM, Friday 7 April): 1 pt each way Go Conquer (10/1 general)
Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (4.40PM, Friday 7 April); 1 pt each way Le Breuil (16/1 general)
For coverage on every day of Aintree 2017 join our Community by clicking the button below: