Day two of the Grand National meeting starts with a 22-runner two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle.
Langer Dan only got as far as the second when brought down in the Martin Pipe last month, but he is only 2lbs higher than when runner up to the great Galopin Des Champs in that same Cheltenham race in 2021. He looks sure to run well but the opening price of 3/1 with William Hill – backed from 7/2 – is too short given it is such a competitive heat.
Fences have been the making of Mackenburg, but he reverts to hurdles from a 10lbs lower mark this afternoon. The McCain name will always be synonymous with Aintree and Donald saddled the winner of this race back in 2014 with Clondaw Kaempfer.
The Elliot yard have won the last two renewals of this race including with Tronador off an 8lbs lower mark last year. My two against the field, however, are Solwara One – 40/1 with Betfred, Bet365 & Corals – and SPEECH BUBBLE (1.45) and I have supported the pair.
Solwara One was backed off the boards when running poorly at Kempton last time having not taken to fences earlier in the season. He can jump slightly out to his right and did come down back over timber on his penultimate start, but he is 12lbs better off with Tronador for the 7L he was behind the winner in this corresponding race last year.
The each way vote, however, goes to the Noel Williams trained mare who was last seen finishing runner up to Love Envoi at Sandown in a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle on heavy ground.
That form was franked when the winner landed the mares’ novices hurdle at Cheltenham last month and, as long as there is enough cut in the ground, I will be disappointed if she doesn’t run a big race. She will be one to follow over fences next season irrespective of the result this afternoon.
Recommendation: Speech Bubble 1.45 Aintree at 12/1 with Bet365 5 places
The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month was run in a time 5.78 seconds quicker than that recorded by Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle a couple of hours later. That was largely because Jonbon took on the Willie Mullins trained Dysart Dynamo from the start and the pair helped set the race up perfectly for the brilliant Constitution Hill.
One could argue in the circumstances Jonbon ran a cracker in second, despite being beaten 22L, but he had a very hard race and Willie Mullins should know where he stands with Jonbon given he had Dysart Dynamo, came down three out when still going well enough, and Kilcruit, never firing said jockey Patrick Mullins but still only finished a couple of lengths behind Jonbon, in the field.
Mullins saddles EL FABIOLO (2.20) who must be keen at home as he is fitted with a hood for the first time having made a winning debut for the yard when coming home 13L clear at Tramore on New Year’s Day. Mullins compared the horse favourably post race with some other inmates – including Saint Roi and Laurina – who have had their first start for the stable at Tramore and he will be fresher than most.
His inexperience could find him out but the fact that he is pitched in to Grade 1 company after just one Tramore maiden, suggests he is another smart recruit for this outstanding yard.
Recommendation: El Fabiolo 2.20 Aintree at 3/1 with Paddy Power
Only four to post for the G1 Novices’ Chase over 3m 1f and I am surprised that L’HOMME PRESSE (2.55) does not head the market over Bravemansgame such was the manner of his Festival success in the Brown Advisory last month.
The Venetia Williams trained 7-y-old has been a revelation over fences so far this term and took his form to a new level when stepped up to three miles for the first-time last time out. Yes, he had a hard race at Cheltenham, but Bravemansgame was thrashed by Ahoy Senor over hurdles here last year and L’Homme Presse was too good for the latter at Cheltenham.
Bravemansgame is another fast fluent jumper, but I am not convinced Ahoy Senor brought his A-game to Kempton on Boxing Day, and he didn’t impress everyone at Newbury. I would have fancied the Nicolls runner more in the Manifesto Chase over 2m 4f on Thursday. Only four to post but a cracking little race.
Recommendation: L’Homme Presse 2.55 Aintree at 6/4 with BetVictor
It is hard to get away from the prospects of FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES (3.30) in his quest to follow up his success in the G1 Melling Chase 12 months ago. To my mind he is a Grade 1 chaser ideally suited by today’s track and underfoot conditions running against inferior rivals.
The selection came home 11L clear in the corresponding race last year and he has been better than ever so far this season although all four of his runs have been right-handed.
Mister Fisher and Saint Calvados are two to consider for the frame at a big price, but I do think it is a race that is the Joseph O’Brien’s gelding to lose, and the stable have been in excellent form under both codes of late having had a winner at Cheltenham last month.
Recommendation: Fakir D’Oudairies 3.30 Aintree at 13/8 with William Hill
Ofalltheginjoints missed the cut for the Topham by two and, in his absence, I am drawn to Senior Citizen and SPIRITOFTHEGAMES 4.05) with preference for the latter who has always threatened to win a big handicap and may find this intermediate 2m 5f+ trip ideal although he has no experience of these unique fences.
The selection finished third in a competitive handicap over 3m 1f on the Mildmay course 12 months ago from an 8lbs higher mark and ran a terrific race in the Plate at last month’s Cheltenham Festival when he did best of those held up. The hope is that they go quick enough up front and Harry Skelton’s 10-y-old will think he is let loose carrying just 10st 1lb.
Senior Citizen has an excellent record around the National course but is 6lbs higher than when third in the corresponding race last year and 4lbs higher than when finishing runner up in the Grand Sefton here back in November. I’m not convinced the rain that hit the track on Thursday morning was a help although he represents the stable of Alan King who couldn’t be in better form.
There is a strong Irish challenge and Foxy Jacks travelled very well for a long time in the Ultima last time. Batcio is another who made the shortlist, but I hope the prize stays in Britain courtesy of Spiritofthegames who gets the each way nod.
Recommendation: Spiritofthegames EW 4.05 Aintree at 16/1 with Bet365 7 places
The final Grade 1 on the card the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle doesn’t float my boat and the concluding conditional jockeys’ event makes more appeal although the two horses I have supported have both been well found in the market.
WASHINGTON has long been on my radar for a big handicap and his third behind Barichello and Good Risk At All at Warwick back in January is excellent form. Trainer Olly Murphy would have won this race 12 months ago had Copperless – who went on to land the Swinton Hurdle on his next start – not come down two out when running away with Lewis Stone.
I would recommend splitting stakes, however, as I have also thrown a couple of bob each way on WHIZZ KID (5.15) trained by Dr Richard Newland and ridden by Cillian Leonard who can claim 5lbs while Fergus Gregory – the jockey on Washington – is one of only two conditionals’ who cannot claim. That might prove pivotal.
Whizz Kind impressed when scoring at Catterick and Ludlow in his last couple of starts having been pitched in at the deep end when beaten out of sight behind Constitution Hill on his hurdles debut in the G1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.
A winner on the flat in both his native Germany and France, Whizz Kid does lack experience of these big field handicaps, but he is likely to race prominently, and the hope is that carrying just 10st 3lbs – including Leonard’s claim – he is a hard nut to pass around this tight track.
Recommendation: Washington EW 5.15 Aintree at 6/1 Betfred and Whizz Kid 5.15 Aintree EW 7/1 at Bet365 – both 5 places.