A top week is in prospect for horse racing fans as the three day Aintree Grand National Meeting kicks-off on Thursday 6th April 2017.
The Bowl, Aintree Hurdle, and the Randox Health Foxhunters’ Chase are some of the key Day 1 highlights.
As always with the big meetings, Matchbook’s horse racing trends expert Andy Newton gives you the low-down on the trends worth noting for Aintree Day 1.
2.20 – Doombar Anniversary 4YO Juvenile Hurdle Grade 1 (Class 1) 21f
- 13/14 – Ran at the Cheltenham Festival last time out
- 11/14 – Placed in the top three last time out
- 10/14 – Raced in the Triumph Hurdle (Cheltenham) last time out
- 8/14 – Returned 3/1 or shorter in the betting
- 6/14 – Winning favourites
- 4/14 – Won by trainer Alan King (4 of the last 10)
- 3/14 – Won last time out
- 3/14 – Won by trainer Paul Nicholls
- 2/14 – Ridden by Ruby Walsh
- 2/14 – Irish-trained winners
- French-bred horses have won 9 of the last 18 (50%) runnings
- 12 of the last 17 winners raced in that season’s Triumph Hurdle
- Just 5 of the last 27 winners didn’t win at least twice over hurdles before
- Apple’s Jade (3/1 fav) won the 2016 running
Let’s cut to the chase here – it will be a major shock if this year’s Triumph Hurdle winner – Defi Du Seuil – isn’t winning this! He dotted-up at Cheltenham last time out to make it 6-from-6 over hurdles and there could be even more to come. 10 of the last 14 winners ran in the Triumph last time out and since 1979 four horses have completed the double – most recently, Detroit City (2006), Katchit (2007) and Zarkandar (2011).
We know trainer Philip Hobbs thinks the world of this 4 year-old and barring accidents he should be adding this decent Juvenile Hurdle to his CV and remain unbeaten over hurdles. Those against him might cling to the fact he’s never raced here at Aintree, but that’s hardly a negative for a horse that’s won at Chepstow, Cheltenham and Ffos Las – he’s got plenty of experience, plus with winning form on both a good and a soft surface then he’s no issues on that score either. Favourite backers should get off to the perfect start here.
Of the rest, Divin Bere is certainly no back number and we think he can make the favourite pull out all the stops here. This Nicky Henderson-trained 4 year-old was only just touched off in the Fred Winter last time out, but the reports are that he’s thrived since that race and there should be a lot more to come from this lightly-raced sort. Flying Tiger, who got the better of Divin Bere, also lines-up, but we expect that form to be reversed this time.
2.50 – Bowl Chase Grade 1 (Class 1)(5yo+) 3m1f
- 11/14 – Ran at the Cheltenham Festival last time out
- 8/14 – Placed in the top 4 last time out
- 8/14 – Ran in the Gold Cup (Cheltenham) last time out
- 6/14 – Aged in double-figures
- 4/14 – Won by the Pipe stable
- 3/14 – Winning favourites
- 2/14 – Won last time out
- 15 of the last 33 (45%) winners were aged 10 or older
- 22 of the last 33 (67%) winners ran in that season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup
- 11 of the last 20 (55%) winners were placed fourth or better in that season’s King George VI Chase
- 2nd or 3rd favourites have won 13 of the last 24 (54%) renewals
- 4 of the last 6 winners ran in this race 12 months ago
- 3 of the last 8 winners finished in the top 3 in that season’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury
- Cue Card (6/5 fav) won the 2016 running
Probably not the best renewal of this Grade One, but at least it gives us a chance to see some old faces back on show. Silviniaco Conti did the double in 2014/2015 so will be trying for a famous third win in the race. At 11 years-old he’s not getting any younger and is clearly on a slight decline, but he was only beaten 3 ¼ lengths in the King George back on Boxing Day and having missed Cheltenham again will head here fresher than most.
He attempted the Grand National last year, but had plenty of weight and was eventually pulled-up. We know the track suits though and there are reports coming out of the Nicholls yard that he’s been showing a bit of his old sparkle – we’ll see.
Cue Card will be all the rage though as he bids to do what he did last season and mop-up this race after falling in the Gold Cup. He’s another that is getting a bit long in the tooth at 11, so we should enjoy him while we can.
Before Cheltenham he scooted-up at Ascot, albeit not beating very much, but still heads here as the highest-rated in the field (170). Those looking to take him on will say this race is not a great one for favourites – just 3 of the last 14 market leaders have won! However, with the last two jollies going in, including Cue Card as favourite 12 months ago, then we’ll still stick with the Colin Tizzard-trained runner to get back to winning ways.
Of the rest, Tea For Two got no further than second in the Gold Cup last time, but if none the worse for that could go well at a price, while Bristol De Mai wasn’t disgraced in finishing 7th in the Gold Cup.
However, the main danger to Cue Card looks like coming from Empire Of Dirt. Officially-rated just 4lbs off Cue Card then there might not be much between them. He was last seen running fourth in the Ryanair, but before that was a close second to Sizing John in the Irish Gold Cup – form that has since been given a huge boost. He’s won on a variety of different grounds, but is so far unproven at Aintree.
He’ll be trying to follow in the hoof-prints of the likes of First Lieutenant and Our Vic, who both ran well in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham before taking this, and is certainly a horse that Cue Card needs to fear. Smad Place and Aso make up the field.
3.25 – AINTREE HURDLE GRADE 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) 2m4f
- 14/14 – Aged 8 or younger
- 11/14 – Returned 6/1 or shorter in the betting
- 10/14 – Placed in the top 4 last time out
- 10/14 – Ran at the Cheltenham Festival last time out
- 8/14 – Irish-trained winner, plus 18 of the last 41
- 8/14 – Ran in the Champion Hurdle last time out
- 4/14 – Winning favourites (2 joint)
- 4/14 – Ridden by Ruby Walsh
- 3/14 – Won last time out
- 2/14 – Ridden by Barry Geraghty
- 2/14 – Won by trainer Nicky Henderson
- 8 of the last 16 (50%) winners had won at this meeting before
- 6 of the last 10 Champion Hurdle winners to race have lost
- Just 1 of the last 16 Champion Hurdle runner-ups to race have won
- Annie Power (4/9 fav) won the 2016 running
Another race that should be fairly easy to call with the Champion Hurdle winner – Buveur D’Air – in attendance.
Barry Geragthy has won his injury battle to get back riding for this meeting and takes over from Noel Fehily, who must be secretly a bit gutted! This Henderson-trained 6 year-old will be looking to emulate what Annie Power did last year by landing both the Champion Hurdle and this race, and really it’s hard to look beyond him. Although, if you are looking elsewhere for the winner, then you’ll be happy to hear that 6 of the last 10 Champion Hurdle winners have lost in this race.
Another big question for those looking to take him on will surround the trip – this will be by-far the furthest he’s ever gone in a race, so will he stay the extra 4 furlongs? The way he powered up the Cheltenham Hill last time out suggests he will and on this flatter track it will certainly be a lot easier for him to get it. Yes, until he’s actually tried it then there is a doubt, but Nicky Henderson clearly thinks he’ll be fine and that’s good enough for us! However, if you are taking him on, then with the race lacking depth, there is not a great deal left. Yes, the Champion Hurdle runner-up, My Tent Or Yours, runs and should not be far away, but he’s a perennial placed horse these days and, once again, looks booked for minor honours here – was also second in the race last year.
The Irish challenge will come from Identity Thief, who bypassed Cheltenham, so will be a lot fresher than most. A bit like Buveur D’Air, he’d been running over fences this season but has rather lost his way and is now reverting back to hurdles. Don’t forget he took the Fighting Fifth back in 2015 but he’s still got plenty to prove and it would be a shock if he’s good enough.
So, it could be left for The New One to give the selection most to think about. Now 9 year-old this horse is a proven performer in this race after winning the 2014 running, while one thing we do know is he’ll stay!
We can expect Sam Twiston-Davies to try and make this into a stamina test from the off as he’ll be trying to run the finish out of the favourite. He does, however, have 10 ½ lengths to find with Buveur D’Air based on their Champion Hurdle form (finished 5th), plus it might also be worth noting he took a tumble in this race 12 months ago.
With that in mind, we’ll stick with Buveur D’Air and think his stablemate – My Tent Or Yours – can, once again, follow him home.
4.05 – RANDOX HEALTH FOX HUNTERS´ CHASE (CLASS 2) (6yo+) 2m5f
- 14/14 – Aged 9 or older (Just 2 of the last 32 were younger than 9)
- 12/14 – Returned 13/2 or shorter in the betting
- 11/14 – Aged in double-figures
- 10/14 – Placed in the top 3 last time out
- 7/14 – Won last time out
- 5/14 – Ran in the Cheltenham Foxhunters’ last time out
- 5/14 – Winning favourites (1 joint)
- 2/14 – Irish-trained winner (Just 4 since 1983)
- 2/14 – Ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen
- 22 of the last 24 winners had won a race earlier that season
- Only 2 of the last 33 winners were aged younger than 9
- 21 of the last 24 (88%) winners came from the top 4 in the market
- 8 of the last 12 winners had run over these National-style fences before
- Ex-handicap horses have won 9 of the last 15 (60%) renewals
- On The Fringe (15/8 fav) won the 2016 running
Another great renewal to look forward to, with the Cheltenham Foxhunter hero – Pacha Du Polder – lining up again, while we’ve also got the winner of the last two runnings – On The Fringe – in attendance. It really could turn out to be a straight shoot-out between the two, so take your pick.
The Nicholls-trained Pacha Du Polder got home by just a neck at Cheltenham last time, with On The Fringe a further 2 lengths back in fourth that day. But, Polder looked to have a hard race there and it remains to be seen if that’s left it’s mark, while in this contest 12 months ago Polder could only manage 6th – beaten around 60 lengths.
Yes, in 2015 he was a close second to On The Fringe, but with proven course winning form over these tricky fences then we’ll take On The Fringe to gain his revenge and become the first horse to win this race three times on the spin.
Okay, at 12 years-old many might feel that time is catching up with him – and it probably is, but he looked to be running into contention last time until making a bad mistake two out. He showed enough last time at Cheltenham to indicate he’s still not far off his best and with just two runs this season will head into the race the slightly fresher of the two.
Of the rest, Nicholls also has a lively outsider chance with Rebel Rebellion, who is a past course and distance winner – he landed the 2013 Grand Sefton.
Balnaslow was only 3 lengths behind Pacha Du Polder in 5th at Cheltenham last time out so enters the mix too, but has never tried these fences.
Big Fella Thanks, who is now 15, is still going and has tasted these unique fences many times so a small case can be made for him, while Bear’s Affair, Mr Mercurial and Broken Eagle look best of the rest.
4.40 – RED RUM HANDICAP CHASE GRADE 3 (CLASS 1) (5yo+) 2m
- 13/14 – Aged 9 or younger
- 12/14 – Carried 11-1 or less
- 10/14 – Carried 10-13 or less
- 9/14 – Aged 10/1 or shorter in the betting
- 8/14 – Ran at the Cheltenham Festival last time out
- 8/14 – Aged 7 or younger
- 8/14 – Unplaced last time out
- 4/14 – Winning favourites (1 co)
- 3/14 – Won last time out
- 1/14 – Irish-trained winner
- Only 2 winners older than 9 years-old since 1988
- The top 5 in the betting have won 12 of the last 19 (63%) runnings
- 15 of the last 17 (88%) winners carried 11-2 or less
- A Novice has won 8 of the last 15 (53%) renewals
- 3 of the last 10 winners raced in the previous year’s race
- 7 of the last 18 (39%) winners ran in that season’s Johnny Henderson Grand Annual (Cheltenham)
- Katachenko (9/1) won the 2016 running
A tough race to end the live action, but there are several key trends to note that will help. With a massive 13 of the last 14 winners aged 9 or younger that will help put a line though some – with the 10 year-old Gino Trail one of those.
This consistent Kerry Lee chaser heads here in decent form though after a 5 length win at Ludlow and before that ran a solid second behind Buveur D’Air at Warwick back in December. Looks sure to play a part, but is making the leap from Novice company back into a handicap so a bit more is needed.
8 of the last 14 winners were actually aged 7 or younger so the Tom Symonds-trained 6 year-old Hollywoodien enters calculations based on that. He’s run some solid races this season and the fact he bypassed the Cheltenham Festival means he’s has a month off to freshen-up. Yes, he was well-beaten at Newbury last time, but before that he ran Garde La Victoire to just under 4 lengths two starts ago at Sandown – form that certainly makes him a player.
But the call here is Danbridge. This 8 year-old ticks most of the main trends and heads here off a top effort in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham last time out. He was fourth – only beaten 4 ½ lengths – that day and gets in here off the same mark.
Davy Russell has been booked to ride again and some might remember he was actually second (just ½ a length back) in this race 12 months ago. He also ran in the Grand Annual (2nd) in 2016 before heading here so his preparation has been identical, but being another year older then he will be a much stronger horse this time around.