Our tremendous recent run continued on Wednesday with Seasett landing a gamble at Nottingham.
Having waxed lyrical about the quality of the Thursday card at Aintree I must admit to being slightly underwhelmed with the declarations with the opening Novice Chase over two-and-a-half miles a Grade 1 in name only. Conditions were given as a mix of good and good to soft at the time of writing on Wednesday morning.
That sad it is a fascinating race. Henry De Bromhead has not saddled a winner since A Plus Tard ran away with the Gold Cup last month and it will be fascinating to see how Gin On Lime performs. The mare has been off the track since she took advantage of My Drogo’s fall at the second last at Cheltenham in a match back in November. She jumped out to the right on that occasion, and she did well to survive her own blunder at the same obstacle when she slithered on landing and Rachel Blackmore performed miracles to remain in the saddle.
Pic D’Orhy heads the market and should confirm recent Kempton form with Millers Bank on 5lbs better terms. He looks sure to run a big race and heads the market, but WAR LORD (1.45) ran a terrific race in the Arkle last time and the hope is that he can find a bit of improvement stepped up in trip. The grey jumped and travelled well before he got outpaced on the run to two out at the Festival before staying on up the hill.
The Tizzard yard remain a bit hit and miss, but they had a couple of winners at the weekend, and I remember the selection winning a valuable handicap hurdle at Haydock over a trip just shy of today’s a couple of seasons ago.
Recommendation: War Lord 1.45 Aintree at 11/4 with Paddy Power
There are showers forecast for Merseyside on Thursday and the more rain the better for PIED PIPER (2.20) who was put in at 13/8 with William Hill at the six-day stage although that price did not last long. The selection finished third in the Triumph Hurdle, despite a significant mistake at the first, behind Vauban and stablemate Fil Dor and that is by far the best form on offer despite the success of fellow Irish raider Brazil in the Boodles on the opening day.
This flat track should suit the selection and he ticks all the boxes although some have suggested that the stable are out of form despite a winner at Ayr last weekend. With Elliot due to saddle no fewer than eight in the National on Saturday the form of the yard will be closely monitored in the build up to the big one.
Hills seem keen to take on the market leader and are a standout 11/10 at the time of writing – they, too, it would appear are concerned about the form of the yard.
Recommendation: Pied Piper 2.20 Aintree at 11/10 with William Hill
The Betway Bowl is an absolute cracker with the last two winners of the race Kemboy (2019) and Clan Des Obeaux (2021) again facing the starter. Both missed the Festival to wait for Aintree but the last 10-year-old to win the race was Cue Card in 2016 and I was disappointed with the Nicholls’ trained runner at Kempton in the King George when he failed to pick up after having the race run to suit. He is fitted with blinkers for the first time today and could easily bounce back, especially if the rain stays away.
Conflated was taken off his feet in the Ryanair last time but would have finished second to Allaho had he not come down at the second last. The Irish Gold Cup winner should appreciate the return to this extended three-mile trip.
I am going to stick with the Gold Cup form, however, and preference for PROTEKTORAT (2.55) over Royal Pagaille is marginal. Both would appreciate any significant rain that hits the track, but the Dan Skelton trained runner ran a cracker at Cheltenham, despite not getting a great ride, and may have finished runner up had he not clouted the last. Royale Pagaille made an early mistake in the Gold Cup but jumped and travelled well under the excellent Charlie Deutsch and only has half a length to find on the recommendation.
Apart from the National this is the race of the Festival, and you could give a realistic chance to the first six in the betting.
Recommendation: Protektorat 2.55 Aintree at 7/2 with Betfred
The Aintree Hurdle sees the second and third in the Champion Hurdle EPATANTE (3.30) and Zanahiyr face-off again and the mare gets the nod although I appreciate both have to prove their stamina for this additional half-mile although the Elliot gelding has already won over 2m 2f as a juvenile.
The selection is a half-sister to a couple of winners at this trip and in her last five races she has only finished behind Honeysuckle and Sharjah both multiple Grade 1 winners. She only finished a length in front of Zanahiyr at Cheltenham, but she missed out the last in the Champion Hurdle and would have at least double that advantage but for that mistake.
Monmiral was hugely impressive at that meeting 12 months ago and I did believe he would be a realistic Champion Hurdle contender, but he was a huge disappointment at Fontwell last time – well punted but went out like a light between the last two – and he has a bit to prove.
The admirable Brewin’upastorm is fitted with cheekpieces after he somehow threw away the Fontwell race last time, and he has always fell short at the top table. I have always thought the was a big race in McFabulous, but I am sure I thought much the same 12 months ago and he was beaten more than ten lengths.
Recommendation: Epatante 3.30 Cheltenham at 2/1 with William Hill
We previewed the Foxhunter a couple of weeks ago when I favoured Jett over Winged Leader at the top of the market and the latter has not made the journey across the Irish Sea.
The market leader has jumped 51 fences on the National course without mishap and led them all a merry dance in last year’s National before tiring after crossing the Melling Road a second time. He was trained by Jessica Harrington 12 months ago and is now in the care of his owner-trainer Robert Waley-Cohen who saddled the winner of the corresponding race back in 2006 with Katarino who was an 11-y-old at the time.
Jett is the same age, and he looks sure to have been primed for the day although his form so far this term has been patchy, and he is reluctantly overlooked in favour of LATENIGHTPASS (4.05) who finished runner up 12 months ago but is taken to reverse form with winner Cousin Pascal.
The each way selection followed Golden Tobouggan at the Canal Turn last year and must have lost four or five lengths as a result. The hope is that jockey Gina Andrews is wise to that this year and jumps the obstacle at a better angle. The 9-y-old finished fourth in the Cheltenham Foxhunter 12 months ago but has been kept fresh for today this season. He has had a wind procedure since a facile win between the flags last month.
Recommendation: Latenightpass 4.05 Aintree EW at 5/1 with Boylesports 5 places
The shortlist for the Red Rum consists of King D’argent, Shakem Up’Arry and GUNSIGHT RIDGE (4.40) with the latter getting the each way nod for Olly Murphy although I have backed all three.
King D’Argent may not want significant rain although he ran a terrific race at Doncaster last time on soft ground from a 1lb lower mark. He can reverse that firm with winner Bun Doran on 2lbs better terms.
I like the booking of Kevin Brogan for Shakem Up’Arry and I am sure he will win a big race over fences going forward but the pin has come down on Gunsight Ridge who has been off the track since fading close home at Sandown two months ago. Today’s better ground should suit, and I hope to see him race more prominently than was the case over today’s C&D on his chase debut back in November.
Olly Murphy’s 7-y-old has yet to finish out of the first three in his four chase starts and I hope to see him maintain that sequence carrying a lovely racing weight of 10st 7lbs.
Recommendation: Gunsight Ridge 4.40 Aintree EW 10/1 at William Hill