14.20 – Mersey Novices´ Hurdle (Grade 1) Cl1 2m4f ITV
Some very promising sorts on show here but it looks like trainer Nicky Henderson, who has won this race twice in the last 7 years, could hold the key again.
The Seven Barrows maestro has already fired in many winners at this meeting and has the unbeaten ON THE BLIND SIDE running here. This 6 year-old missed Cheltenham so we’ve not seen him since winning at Sandown in December. He’s 3-from-3 over hurdles and is also a course and distance winner here at Aintree. Yes, a bit has to be taken on trust with such a lay-off but he’s a horse held in high regard at Seven Barrows and looks set to go to the very top.
His running style has often seen him off the bridle and chivvied along at times but he’s been ending his races in the style of a horse that might even need further very soon. He’s the highest-rated runner in the field at 153 and, really, it’s only a lack of a recent run that could be deemed as a negative – 13 of the last 15 winners of this had raced in the last 39 days.
On a plus, we’ve seen 13 of the last 15 winners aged 5 or 6 so this 6 year-old ticks this stat – something, however, another leading fancy – Black Op – doesn’t. This 7 year-old still sets a fair standard though after running Samcro to 2 ¾ lengths last time at Cheltenham in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Before that, however, he was only ¾ of a length second to another Henderson runner – Santini – so you would feel the Seven Barrows yard would know where they stand with this one.
Of the rest, Euxton Lane has caught the eye in winning his last two for the Oliver Sherwood yard and shouldn’t be under estimated, while the former useful flat performer – Silver Concorde – has done little wrong in winning 3 of his 4 hurdles starts since joining the Keith Dalgleish yard but this opposition will be much, much harder.
The consistent Momella, from the Dan Skelton yard is another one with a lively and if fully fit after a break should be involved too. She also gets a 7lb mares’ allowance and was only 2 ¼ lengths behind On The Blind Side at Cheltenham back in November. Yes, she’s got a 119 day break to overcome but has gone well fresh in the past, while with just 4 career runs we’ve probably not seen the best of her just yet.
15.00 – Doom Bar Maghull Novices´ Chase (Grade 1) Cl1 2m ITV
With Brain Power having swerved this race for one earlier in the week then this has paved the way for PETIT MOUCHOIR and really barring accidents it’s hard to see beyond the Arkle third not taking this in what looks a weak renewal with little depth. Yes, Petit Mouchoir got into a cat-and-mouse battle with Saint Calvados at Cheltenham last time to set the race up nicely for Footpad – but he should have that problem here.
A decent hurdler, that was third in the 2017 Champion Hurdle, and despite not quite looking top-class over fences he’s still run three fairly solid races over the bigger obstacles. He jumps well and the Aintree track will suit him well – he was a close second to Buveur D’ Air at this meeting a few years ago over hurdles. Rated 157, he’s the top-rated in the field by some way and his trainer Henry de Bromhead has also landed this race twice in the last 5 years – he looks very likely to get back to winning ways here.
Of the rest, trainer Paul Nicholls has a good record in the race – winning 4 of the last 15 – so his Diego Du Charmil can do best of the rest. Yes, he fell last time out and will need to jump better here but was in the process of running a big race that day at Ascot. Delegate is closely-rated with Diego Du Charmil but might be better over further, while the 140-rated Lady Buttons can’t be totally ruled-out getting a 7lbs mares allowance from all the others. She won well at Newcastle over fences last time and is actually 2-from-2 over fences.
15.40 – Betway Handicap Chase (Listed Race) Cl1 3m1f ITV
A tough handicap to solve here but there are some decent trends to apply to the race. A massive 13 of the last 15 winners carried 11-1 or less in weight and last ran 35 days or less ago – so these will help knock a fair few out. 12 of the last 15 winners were also aged 8 or older, plus 9 of the last 15 ran at Cheltenham last time out. Don’t be too concerned if your fancy didn’t run well last time as 60% of the last 15 winners were also unplaced in their most recent race.
Last year’s winner – Sizing Codelco – was 15th in the Brown Advisory at Cheltenham so this is another example that recent form can’t be taken too seriously in this race.
Viconte Du Noyer was pulled-up in their Cheltenham race and also represents last year’s winning connections and with 11-1 in weight and being a 9 year-old does fit a few of the few trends – of those at a bigger price he can’t be ruled out of a mark of 144, which is 4lbs lower than when he last won.
We’ve only seen one Irish-trained winner of the race in the last 41 runnings too, while with just 2 winners carrying more than 11st in the last 14 years I’m prepared to overlook those at the head of the weights.
Thomas Patrick has been popular in the betting for the in-form Tom Lacey yard and with 10-10 he gets in here with a nice weight. Upped in class and raised 8lbs for a recent 8 length Newbury win and he’s 2-from-3 over fences. The champion jockey – Richard Johnson – is in the saddle and I expect him to run a big race.
ROCKLANDER falls just outside the key weight trend by only a few pounds but is one I still like. He ran a blinder to be third in the Close Brothers Chase at Cheltenham and despite being 3lbs higher that run still makes him a big player. I expect the flat Aintree track to suit and he’s generally a string traveller in his races. Yes, he’s yet to win over this far but has run some solid races around this trip so on this easier track I can’t see any issues on that front – he’s one for the shortlist.
The 10 year-old ON TOUR is a proven course winner and is the other one I’m going to side with. His last two runs here at the track have seen him finish 1st and 2nd , so it’s clearly a place he saves his best for. The trip is a slight question mark but he’s worth another crack at it on a track we know suits him and he’s only 2lbs higher than when winning here over 2m4f back in November by 3 lengths.
Ibis Du Rheu was 5th in the Close Brothers Chase last time – beaten 15 lengths – so has a bit of ground to make up on Rocklander – but he did stumble in the closing stages that day so probably would have got a lot closer. Casse Tete was 8th in the Ultima Chase at Cheltenham and travelled really well that day but didn’t quite see out the 3m1f trip so that would again be the concern here for this 6 year-old.
16.20 – Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle (Reg as the Liverpool Hurdle) (Grade 1) Cl1 3m110y ITV
All eyes here will be on Sam Spinner, who was well-fancied for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last time out but could only manage fifth. Previous to that he’d landed the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot – beating L’Ami Serge by just over 2 lengths. Off a mark of 164 he’s the highest-rated in the field and should take all the beaten in this slightly easier-looking race. He still had Lil Rockerfeller in 13th, L’Ami Serge back in 8th and backed that form up by winning Thursday’s Aintree Hurdle, while that could also be good news for The World’s End , who was 7th in the Stayers’ Hurdler.
I wasn’t too taken on Sam Spinner’s jumping the last day – he was a bit sloppy at a few hurdles – so it might be that now he’s been pitched at the very highest level in this sphere he’s finding things happening a tad too quick. He’s still a very promising staying hurdler and is only 6 years-old though so has plenty of time to iron that out. However, he’s had a hard season for such a young horse and I think he could be vulnerable again here, plus, for me, is certainly no real value in the betting.
As mentioned THE WORLD’S END was only just behind him last time at Cheltenham but I expect the Aintree track to suit him better – he’s the only proven course and distance winner in the field after winning well at this meeting 12 months ago. Yes, he has been beaten three times already this season by Sam Spinner but got much closer to him last time. He might have liked better ground but has won on soft before so underfoot conditions are not a real concern.
WHOLESTONE is the other one against Sam Spinner. He finished third in the Stayers’ Hurdle last time out – two places ahead of Sam Spinner – yet will be a bigger price here. He’s rated 161, just 3lbs lower than Sam Spinner, but he’s a consistent hurdler at this level that has been placed in the top three in 11 of his 14 races (winning 5).
This will be his first run at Aintree but the long straight will suit and he’s a horse that always sees out this 3m trip well. I feel he looks the value against Sam Spinner – a horse he finished ahead of last time too! Old Guard is also worth a mention and worth a crack up to 3m again. He will be fresher than most and trainer Paul Nicholls has won this race 4 times in the last 14 years. He won last time out at Fontwell – beating Lil Rockerfeller – while 10 of the last 14 winners of this race were aged 6 or 7 and had also been placed 1st of 2nd last time out.
Finally, Coole Cody will catch the eye of punters with a string of wins next to his name. He’s done very well this season, winning all three starts and is still lightly-raced. However, this is a huge step up in grade and he’s got upwards of 10-14lbs to find with the main players there – we’ll find out how good he is after this but it would be a shock if he’s taking this.
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