As we move into the second day of the Aintree Grand National Meeting on Friday 13th April 2018 the ITV cameras are on-hand to take in five more LIVE races for us.
The Mildmay Novices’ Chase, JLT Melling Chase and the Randox Health Topham Chase are three of the highlights as the top-notch action from Liverpool’s premier track continues.
We’ve got all the key stats for all the main LIVE ITV races – these will help build-up a better profile of horses that have done well in each race over the years.
Let’s crack on!
14:20 – Betway Top Novices´ Hurdle Grade 2 Cl1 2m110y ITV
The exciting GLOBAL CITIZEN will be all the rage here after impressing last time out in the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton back in February. This 6 year-old bypassed Cheltenham in favour of coming here fresh and we’ll see if that pays off – I think it will! The flat Aintree track will suit and the way he beat another of today’s runners – Scarlet Dragon – last time by 9 lengths certainly caught the eye – I expect him to have the measure of the Alan King runner again here.
He’s now 2-from-2 since joining Ben Pauling from Jonjo O’Neill and with just four starts over hurdles then we can expect more to come too – he’s hard to overlook. Those against him might look to the trends as we’ve see ALL of the last 15 winners of this race on the track within the last 31 days – he last ran 48 days ago.
While the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is often a good guide ahead of this race with last year’s winner – Pingshou – running 10th in that Cheltenham race before taking this. Style de Garde is certainly a contender against the hot favourite too. He ran well to be second in the Fred Winter at the Festival last time and this flatter track and big home straight look right up his street. He’s a horse the yard has made no secret they like and despite not quite hitting the heights expected just yet there is still plenty of time for this 4 year-old. His trainer Nicky Henderson also has a fine record in this race – winning it five times in the last 15 years, so he certainly rates a big threat to the favourite.
Of the rest, with the Colin Tizzard camp having done well at this meeting in recent years and having also won this race 12 months ago then Slate House – who fell last time in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, might be interesting if putting that last run behind him, while they also have VISION DES FLOS who ran a blinder in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle to finish 6th and was only 9 ¼ lengths of the mighty Samcro that day. He represents last year’s winning connections too and with proven stamina then that will be a big help in conditions – he looks another decent alternative if you are looking away from the favourite.
14:50 – Betway Mildmay Novices´ Chase Grade 2 Cl1 3m1f ITV
The RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival has often been a good guide ahead of this race – backed-up 12 months ago with Might Bite landing both races. Therefore, this season’s RSA 3rd, 4th and 5th – ELEGANT ESCAPE, Ballyoptic and Black Corton are a good place to start. We can expect prolific winner this season – Black Corton – to take them along at a fair lick and you get the feeling the flat Aintree track will be right up his street. He’s had another 4 weeks to get over that last run, when fading in the final two or three furlongs to be 17 lengths off the winner – Presenting Percy. That was still a solid effort and he’s hard to rule out in a race the Nicholls team have targeted with success four times in the last 15 years. However, I’ve just got this niggling feeling that having been on the go since October and running 7 times now this season then was that last run an indication that his long season is starting to catch up with him – we’ll see.
Okay, the same could be said for Elegant Escape, who was third in the RSA as he’s also been on the go since October. He has raced just once less though and this year has only been out twice so I think this consistent 6 year-old is worth sticking with. He ticks a lot of the key trends with 12 of the last 15 winners having raced in the last 33 days, aged 7 or younger and were also placed in the first three last time out – three ticks for this Colin Tizzard runner. His yard also loves to target this meeting and really based on the RSA form, when he had Ballyoptic and Black Corton in behind, then there is every reason to think he can uphold that form – from 6 starts over fences he’s won two and yet to finish out of the first three.
Terrefort was second in the JLT Novices’ Chase – beaten 7 lengths – and this Nicky Henderson-trained runner looks sure to be involved too. He does, however, step up to 3m1f here – from 2m4f – so although there is no obvious reason why it won’t suit I’d still prefer to have seen him run over the trip before – the furthest he’s gone is 2m6f on very soft ground in France and was beaten that day. Mia’s Storm is another that is sure to be popular. We’ve not seen her since falling on Boxing Day at Kempton in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase – a race won by Black Corton.
She gets a handy 7lbs mares’ allowance from most of the others and prior to that tumble had won twice over fences, including a 3 ¼ length beating of Elegant Escape back in October. She’s gone well fresh but with ALL of the last 15 winners having raced in the last 55 days that would still be a worry, while with 12 of the last 15 winners aged 7 or younger, this 8 year-old also has this stat to overcome.
Coo Star Sivola landed the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last time and looks a player too. However, I do feel that this 6 year-old is becoming a bit of a course specialist at Prestbury Park so it remains to be seen if he can translate that form to the much flatter Aintree track.
Of those at bigger prices, Hogan’s Height has been winning well, albeit in lesser races, and could still on the up, while Testify won’t mind if there is any more rain and could be interesting for the Don McCain yard.
Snow Falcon is the only Irish runner and is certainly no back number either based on his 5 ½ length fifth at Leopardstown to the classy Monalee, who went onto be runner-up in the RSA Chase.
Captain Chaos is the only proven course and distance winner in the field so commands respect based on that but on these terms does have upwards off 5-9lbs to find with most of the others.
However, the other mare in the race – MS PARFOIS – also looks worth having an interest on. This 7 year-old also receives a handy 7lbs from most of the others and after running a close second in the 4m race at Cheltenham then we know stamina over this 3m1f trip is not an issue. Yes, she’s got 8 lengths to find with Black Corton based on her run at Ascot back in February but I expect Noel Fehily to make full use of her proven stamina and she could get her revenge here. Fehily is also 2-from-2 when riding her, while from 6 starts over fences she’s another consistent sort that has won 50% of those and is also yet to finish out of the top three!
15:25 – JLT Melling Chase Grade 1 Cl1 2m4f ITV
No Altior, with connections preferring another tilt at Sandown’s Celebration Chase in a few weeks, but we’ve still a cracking race in prospect and having seen the back of Altior many times in the past, one horse that will be glad he’s not running here is MIN. Willie Mullins is not bringing many horses over for this meeting but the fact he’s sending one of his star chasers across the Irish Sea speaks volumes. Yes, he was firmly put in his place by Altior in the Champion Chase last time but he still did best of the rest to be second. Let’s make one thing clear – that was still a very decent performance.
The main talking point here though will be the step up in trip to 2m4f (from 2m). However, many Champion Chase horses have made the transition, while 13 of the last 23 winners of this race finished third or better in the Champion Chase at the Festival. Oh, Min has also already won over this 2m4f trip this season when bolting-up by 36 lengths at Gowran Park. It will be his first run at Aintree but I think it will bring out the best in him and we seem to forget he’s only raced 6 times over fences – winning 4 times and been second twice. In another era and without a certain Altior we’d be looking at a Supreme Novice Hurdle and Champion Chase winner! With Ruby still on the sidelines Paul Townend rides but he’s had the leg-up in all of Min’s races this season anyway.
Of the rest, Cloudy Dream is often never far away and is still to finish out of the top three from 12 chase starts so is a contender for the forecast, while the easy Grand Annual winner – Le Prezien – makes the step up in grade for the Paul Nicholls yard. He could go well at a price but the oppo here will be a lot harder than last time and is still rated 11lbs inferior to Min.
The Tingle Creek winner – Politologue – was well-and-truly put in his place in the Champion Chase last time out – beaten 23 lengths into fourth. He fell as a Novice at this meeting 12 months ago too and although a decent chaser that has good form over this trip his last two runs suggest he’s got a bit to prove at the moment – he’s not for me.
So, that leaves the Ryanair Chase winner – Balko Des Flos – as the main danger to Min. This improving 7 year-old did me a favour at Cheltenham so it’s going to be hard to desert him. He simply had too much pace for Un De Scueax last time at Cheltenham and with the runner-up having since franked the form by winning next time then he’s a big, big player. He’s a horse that stays further than this 2m4f trip so we can expect connections to make full use of that but the way he travelled into the race last time suggests things could be set up perfectly again for him here. Off a mark of 169 he’s the highest-rated in the field so based on that is the one to beat – it’s a tough call. So – even without Altior – it’s a fascinating clash and you really could make a case for both the top two in the betting.
I’d be shocked if one of them isn’t taking this but for the purpose of sticking my neck out I just feel Min might have too much pace for Balko. I’m at the thinking that Un De Sceaux – despite a grand old servant – is on a slight decline so the form of Balko’s Ryanair Chase win might have some small holes in, whereas it’s hard to knock Min’s second in the Champion Chase to the mighty Altior – we’ll see! Sizing Granite, who represents last year’s winning connections, makes up the six runners.
16:05 – Randox Health Topham Chase Handicap (Grade 3) Cl1 2m5f110y ITV
Another spectacle in prospect here as we get a chance to see the horses in action over the Grand National-style fences. A big field, and just like the National plenty of risks attached to this race, so certainly not one to go mad in.
Some decent trends though as 14 of the last 15 winners had raced within the last 34 days and were aged 10 or younger, while 10 of the last 15 carried 10-7 or less in weight. Trainers Peter Bowen and Nicky Henderson have the best recent records – winning 7 of the last 15 renewals between them! We’ve also only seen two Irish-trained winners since 1979, plus horses aged 11+ are a staggering 1 from 109 since 1994!
Henderson’s O O Seven is sure to be popular and was a decent fourth in the race last year. He’s 2lbs lower this time and also a year older at 8 so with proven experience of the fences must be one for the shortlist.
ULTRAGOLD was the horse that won the race last year for the Colin Tizzard camp and despite being 5lbs higher this time is another to consider with proven form over these fences – in the last 7 runnings this race has been won by a past winner of the race. He’s not shone this season yet but simply loves these fences and that was backed up again when a close second here in the Grand Sefton back in December – he’s certainly one to have on your side.
The 2016 winner – Eastlake – is also worth a mention being another past winner of the race. He’s only a pound lower than that victory though but at the age of 12 isn’t getting any younger. Highland Lodge is another proven performer over these fences and can be expected to go well too but he’s another of the older brigade at 12 years-old and will probably get found out by some younger legs in the closing stages.
RATHLIN ROSE has been in great form of late for the Pipe’s and a 5lb rise for a recent 2 ¼ length win at Ascot looks fair. He stays a bit further than this trip and is generally a sound jumper that certainly looks the type to go well here at a fair price and with a low-weight. Shantou Flyer has finished second in his last four starts and can be expected to go well if taking to the fences but with 11-12 it won’t be easy.
TOP GAMBLE will love the ground and was an excellent third in the Grand Annual last time out. He was hampered at various stages that day so did well to get as close as he did and providing he can stay out of trouble is one I like. He’s won over this trip in the past and should find this company a bit easier than what he’s been tackling of late – he’s never fallen over fences so I’m hopeful his first attempt at these obstacles will be fine.
Art Mauresque, from the Paul Nicholls yard, is another to consider, while the Jamie Snowden yard are having a great season so his Double Treasure, who will head here fresher than most after 5 months off, can’t be ruled out either.
Theatre Territory, with Sam Waley-Cohen will be very popular too with SWC having a great record riding over these fences and also having won this race twice in the past. With a very light weight this consistent Warren Greatrex-trained 8 year-old has been placed in all five of his chase starts and looks to have been laid out for this race. However, he’s sure to be over-bet and no real value in the betting, while I’m not sure I can back a horse in a race like this that is yet to win over fences and tasted victory just once in his career from 14 starts!
KILCREA VALE is the other I’ll be having a small interest in though. From the Nicky Henderson yard, this 8 year-old ran ok to be 5th (of 10) at Kempton last time out but was eased when all chance was lost. He’s down a few more pounds in the ratings and will be a lot more at home with his light weight – he carried 11-10 last time. Prior to that Kempton run he ran the promising Acting Lass to 2 ¼ lengths at Ascot and that’s not too shabby form. He’s raced 10 times over fences, winning twice and finishing in the top three 6 times which is a decent 60% place return when running over the bigger obstacles.
16:40 – Doom Bar Sefton Novices´ Hurdle Grade 1 Cl1 3m110y ITV
The Albert Bartlett, at the Cheltenham Festival, has been a fair guide ahead of this race in recent years – with 5 of the last 15 winners having run in that race. We’ve not got the winner – but we do have the second and third – Ok Corral and Santini. Tower Bridge was also 5th, while Poetic Rhythm was 10th, while Chef Des Obeaux was pulled up in the race. 10 of the last 11 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old so despite most fitting the bill here it does put a line through the 8 year-old Ok Corral, who will be well-fancied for this race.
Henderson trains that JP McManus runner along with SANTINI, but of the pair it’s the last-named 6 year-old I’m more interested in. As mentioned, he was a close third in the Albert Bartlett last time out but over a similar trip I think the easier Aintree track will suit him much better. He just got a bit tired up the hill last time but with just three career runs he’s still learning the game so we can expect that last run to have taught him a lot more. He beat Chef Des Obeaux well by 4 ½ lengths earlier in the season at Newbury and has shown he handles a bit of cut. All being well he should be going close here.
His stablemate, Ok Corral has done little wrong from 4 starts over hurdles too (2 wins, 2 seconds) and can be expected to go well too – both are extremely closely-matched but with Santini rated 4lbs higher and possibly having the more improvement to come then I’m happy to side with him reversing that Cheltenham form. Of the rest, Point Of Principle, Sam’s Gunner and Good Man Pat looks progressive sorts that are stepping up in grade and could easily go better than their odds suggest.
ROKSANA does look a danger to the selection though as this mare gets a handy 7lbs mares’ allowance. Trained by Dan Skelton this 6 year-old has won her last three in taking fashion, including a decent Grade Two at Newbury last time, and there could be even more to come now upped in trip for the first time. Cut underfoot is fine and with the weight she receives then this brings her mark a lot closer to the main players – Harry Skelton rides.