There was the prospect of a wintry shower overnight at Aintree, but the ground should be as advertised – good to soft – for another wonderful day’s racing on Merseyside.
In the opening 2m 4f handicap hurdle the eye is drawn to Amarillo Sky at the foot of the weights despite a 13lbs rise for a facile win at Exeter last time. When the Colin Tizzard stable had a double on that Devon card over three weeks ago I thought it might be the catalyst for an upturn in their fortunes, but that has not been the case although I shall be watching their runners on Thursday very closely.
Master Debonair was an exciting novice hurdler last season for Tizzard but has left the yard since disappointing in two starts and my two each way selections against the field are Whatsupwithyou and Mister Coffey (1.45) with preference for the Nicky Henderson inmate who is stepping up beyond the minimum trip for the first time having looked ready for the extra distance when tapped for toe in the Betfair Hurdle last time. His pedigree does not scream a step up in trip, but this tight track should suit, and his sole Bumper run was a win on good ground. There was 10s around on Thursday morning but he was into 9s with William Hill at the time of posting.
In the first Grade 1 of the day all eyes will be on the unbeaten Dusart who beat Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory – gave 6lbs – at Newbury on debut back in November but has not seen the track since following a slight setback. He looks short enough in the betting at 2/1.
For Pleasure will ensure the race is run at a good gallop and that should suit the juvenile Houx Gris, Ajero and Third Time Lucki (2.20) with the each way vote going to the Dan Skelton trained runner who is a stone better off with Belfast Banter for the 3L he was behind that rival in the County Hurdle last time. He travelled very well on that occasion and this flat track should suit. The selection is 4/1 with MansionBet.
Shan Blue reverts to 3m having been given a rare poor Harry Skelton ride in the 2m 4f Marsh Chase last time when he set his mount alight at halfway and stood little chance of getting home. His jumping is normally exemplary, but he made a couple of significant mistakes at Cheltenham. It would be no surprise if he bounced back, but I think this rests between Chantry House (2.50) and The Big Breakaway with the vote going to the Nicky Henderson horse who did us a favour at the Festival and looked ready for the step up to 3m when winning the Marsh Chase last month. The selection is 7/4 with Boylesports.
The feature race is the Marsh Chase – formerly known as the Melling Chase – and I am keen on the chances of Fakir D’oudairies (3.25) who was pulled out of a race at Fairyhouse on Sunday on account of the ground – yielding – although conditions are likely to be very similar this afternoon. His second to Allaho in the Ryanair is the best recent form on offer although Politilogue – who won the corresponding race 3 years ago – comes here fresher than most having, reportedly, broke a blood vessel ahead of his proposed run in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham last month. The 3s with BetVictor looks fair.
Looking back at the previous winners of the Topham I have not backed the winner for 15 years since Liberthine landed the prize back in 2006. Despite my lack of success, I love the race and will be throwing at least two more darts this afternoon.
Willie Mullins saddled the winner 12 months ago and he trains the market leader Livelovelaugh who has been knocking on the door in recent starts. He failed to get home when beaten more than 30L in the 2019 Grand National but he jumped and travelled very well for a long time and he is 4lbs lower in the weights today. He is a must for the shortlist.
My two against the field, however, are Ravenhill Road and Senior Citizen (4.05) with marginal preference for the latter who ran a cracker in the Grand Sefton over today’s C&D back in the autumn on ground softer than ideal. The ew selection is 3lbs higher this afternoon courtesy of an excellent run – despite finishing only fourth – at Newbury last time. He needs good ground to be at his most effective and only just gets this 2m 5f trip, but he is an excellent jumper of a fence, and he looks sure to run a big race although the Alan King yard could be in better form. The ew recommendation is 12s with MansionBet.
Ravenhill Road is 9lbs higher than when scoring at Doncaster last month and the Sue Smith stable have been in good form of late. He has always promised to win a big one and is another who needs good ground to be seen at his best. The 20s with BetVictor looks fair.
In the last G1 on the card Bravemansgame steps up to 3m for the first time having been beaten 12L by Bob Olinger in the Ballymore. He looks short enough in the betting and I hope the first time cheekpieces work the oracle for Streets Of Doyen (4.40) who finished third in the Albert Bartlett last time when he lost his position going to two out. He has a bit to find with the second Oscar Elite on Cheltenham running but I believe the Irish raider can reverse the form especially if gets a decent gallop to chase. The 8s with William Hill 4 places looks fair.
Copperless (5.15) circled his field when scoring at Taunton last time and a 6lbs rise looks very fair given his superiority. Including his jockey’s claim, he will carry just the 9st 9lbs and has been my strong fancy for the race since I saw the weights last weekend. It is fair to say that I am not alone in thinking he has a leading chance, however, and the ew selection is 9/2 with BetVictor.
He is the most likely winner, but I might also throw a couple of quid each way on Leoncavallo who ran a terrific race in the Martin Pipe returning from a 5-month absence. He drops back to the minimum trip this afternoon but travelled very well at Cheltenham last month and he should have the race run to suit.