The jumps have returned in style and focus now moves to the North for a fantastic Aintree Countryside Day card – buy tickets for Aintree Racecourse and other Jockey Club Racecourses. With that in mind, it might seem strange to dedicate the opening paragraphs of today’s preview to a flat achievement, but the magnificence of Aidan O’Brien’s 26 Group/Grade 1 wins, the most on the flat in a calendar year – for the anoraks, Willie Mullins holds the numerical record with 32 – cannot be ignored.
The maestro of Ballydoyle has not only matched, but beaten Bobby Frankel’s mark of 25 in 2003, but done it with every tool available to him that one could imagine. The brilliant statistician James Willoughby went through the 26 wins on Twitter, and thanks to him we can see that he had Multiple Group 1 winners in the shape of Winter (4), Roly Poly (3), U S Navy Flag (2), Hydrangea (2) Highland Reel (2), Happily (2) Churchill (2) and Capri (2) – along with seven individual Group 1 winners. His successes at the top level came from 6 furlongs to 1m6f, and ground from good to firm to heavy, a feat achieved despite a year which has been marred by injury with Alice Springs, Minding, Seventh Heaven, Promise To Be True, Somehow, Brave Anna, Gustav Klimt, Wings Of Eagles, Yucatan, missing part or all of this season thanks to injury.
Bobby Frankel’s record stood for an incredible 14 years and O’Brien’s could prove yet harder to pass with two Juvenile Group 1’s and then the small matter of the Breeders’ Cup to come before Hong Kong’s Internationals at the end of the year.
Back over the bigger obstacles, Aintree’s Old Roan Chase (3.00) is arguably the race of the weekend and the highlight of an excellent card in Liverpool for northern racing fans. It is understandable that Ayr Grade 2 winner, Arkle and Aintree second Cloudy Stream is favourite, and thanks to the class of this race he has a very handy racing weight indeed of 10-13. However, he and many others must give the benefit of a run to Old Grangewood, who was third at Ayr behind Cloudy Dream in the Future Champions Novice’ Chase. He was beaten 5 & ¾ lengths that day, and now returns here 8lbs better off with Cloudy Dream whilst having had the benefit of a good pipe opener when he ran well enough to be third in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow over hurdles. That run ought to have put him spot on and he can take the beating here even in what is a very deep renewal and is worthy of each/way support.
Another recent runner from that race is of interest too at Aintree. Bags Groove was eigth at Chepstow in the Silver Trophy, but can strip fitter for that run and we could still see the best of him handicapping. The Free Spins At 188Bet Casino Handicap Hurdle (2.25) is a tough contest where a number of horses make significant appeal, but he looks as unexposed as any of them and he can keep improving here.
The Veterans Chase (1.50) is another fiendish contest, but Potters Cross looks an ideal type. He struggled after a very good start to last season with an inflated handicap rating but by the end of the season he’d dropped back to something like his last winning mark and then he made a very eye-catching reappearance at Chepstow when fifth. That effort was even more creditable when it emerges that he broke a blood vessel that day, and if he can avoid that this time around then off a mark that’s just 1lb higher than when he last won, he makes appeal to go well.
The Bet £10 Get £20 At 188Bet Maiden Hurdle (12.40) is a race that is not to be missed, with several horses taking the eye on the racecard. The impressive maiden hurdle winner Global Citizen faces off against the taking point winner On The Blind Side, fellow point winner New Quay, and decent bumper horses Enniscoffey Oscar and Perfect Harmony.
Make sure to look closely at the closing bumper, with a number of decent last time out winners in the shape of Posh Trish, Grageelagh Girl, Posh Trish, Schiaparannie, Jet Set, Cangodemayo and Secret Escape.
3.00 Aintree – 1 pt each/way Old Grangewood (10/1 general)
2.25 Aintree – 1 pt each/way Bags Groove (13/2 general)
1.50 Aintree – 1 pt each/way Potters Cross (10/1 general)