Our top tipster runs his eye over the card at Aintree
Shutthefrontdoor is likely to be Tony McCoy’s last ride in the Grand National and last season’s Irish Grand National winner has to be on the shortlist. Impressive on his sole start this term, the eight-year-old looks tight enough around the 10-1 mark, however, and he is likely to be over-bet on the day, due to the ‘AP’ factor. That aside, the horse looks the ideal type for the race and he won on the Mildmay course on his chasing debut at the start of last season.
Cheltenham winner The Druids Nephew is certainly potentially well treated and has the class to win a Grand National, though the slight concern with him being he does tend to hit the odd fence. If Barry Geraghty is booked again, that will be a huge positive, as he gets on well with Neil Mulholland’s eight-year-old.
Last year’s third Balthazar King is just 3lb higher but arrives here much fresher, with connections opting to sacrifice another crack at the Cross Country race in order to get their 11-year-old to Aintree in the best possible order. Philip Hobbs’ runner looks sure to run another big race, granted luck in running.
Rocky Creek is the other towards the head of the market, thanks to his impressive success in the Betbright Chase in February, a race in which former Scottish National winner Godsmejudge finished fifth for Alan King.
Rocky Creek finished fifth last year and will be back for another crack, while the latter looks nicely weighted.You can read more about the Grand National elsewhere in this month’s edition of Racing Ahead and I will have finalised my own views on the race by the time the meeting comes around – be sure to check out my daily column online at www.betrescue.com for my selections on each day of the meeting.
THURSDAY ANNIVERSARY 4YO HURDLE
Nicky Henderson is fancied to get the Grand National meeting off to the best possible start in the Grade 1 Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle, a race he won in 2008 with subsequent Champion Hurdler, Binocular.
The Lambourn-based trainer saddled the first three home in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and could rely on either winner Peace And Co or third home Hargam is the curtain-raiser to the threeday fixture.
Peace And Co has plenty of pace and the smooth traveller should have little trouble coping with the sharper track despite his size, though there is probably a chance he will now be put away with next season in mind.
I think it more likely that Hargam will be the stable’s representative, given he showed his liking for a speed track when winning impressively at Musselburgh on his penultimate start. Crucially, the grey proved on that occasion that he handles decent ground and, in fact, connections have been adamant since he made his debut at Cheltenham in November that he will improve significantly once racing on a quicker surface.
Triumph fourth and sixth, Devilment and Beltor, should also be suited by this speed test and should also be considered. The former will appreciate the probable ground, while Beltor looked particularly impressive when winning the Adonis at Kempton.
Both could close the gap, but I would be surprised if Henderson wasn’t successful with his chosen runner, unless of course leading French juvenile Bonito Du Berlais was considered for the race, which would, admittedly, seem highly unlikely. The Trempolino gelding returned to action recently when once again sauntering home at Auteuil and the Prix Alain Du Breil is sure to be his main objective in early June. I felt I had to give him a mention, however, in the slim chance that he is given an entry.
The Betfred Bowl is the second race on the card and, unless we have a really wet Easter, it would seem unlikely that Mark Bradstock would risk his fragile Gold Cup winner Coneygree, so it seems likely that Holywell will represent the Gold Cup form.
A winner at both Cheltenham and Ain--
tree last year, he clearly thrives during the spring and will appreciate the sounder surface. He ran a solid race when fourth at Cheltenham and, if he returns in the same form that saw him beat Don Cossack by 10 lengths in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase 12 months ago, he appeals as the most likely winner.
Talking of horses running at both Cheltenham and Aintree, it could well be that more trainers are inclined to send their festival runners to Liverpool this season, given there is a four-week gap between the two meetings.
One place ahead of Holywell in the Gold Cup was Road To Riches and he would warrant utmost respect if being sent over by Noel Meade. Punchestown would be the obvious meeting to spring to mind for the eight-year-old, but he relishes good ground and did run at Aintree as a novice hurdler, albeit disappointingly when eighth of nine behind At Fishers Cross in the Sefton.We also know Gigginstown like to have a runner in the race, with First Lieutenant representing the leading owners in recent years, winning the race in 2013.
Runner-up two years ago Menorah could be another to figure here, with Philip Hobbs deliberately skipping Cheltenham with this race in mind.He did blow out in the contest last season and he can throw the odd bad run in, but he won the 2m4f novice chase here the year before and he was in fine form at the start of this campaign.
The winner of the Charlie Hall, the 10year-old ran well when runner-up on ground softer than ideal in the Betfair Chase and we know he goes both well fresh and at this fixture.
The big races just keep coming on the opening day and next up is the Aintree Hurdle, in which last year’s winner The New One is likely to try and bounce back from his slightly disappointing fifth in the Champion Hurdle.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ stable-star never seemed completely comfortable trying to keep tabs on Faugheen, failing to jump straight and hanging at times. The sevenyear-old finished runner-up in this race as a novice before winning narrowly last year and, assuming nothing comes to light while this feature goes to press, will probably still be the top-rated horse on show here (with Faugheen an unlikely starter).
The one horse I would love to see in the race (and I’m pretty sure I wrote the same thing in last year’s Aintree preview) is Annie Power who was set to storm away from her rivals in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, before taking off way too early at the final flight.
Willie Mullins’ top-class daughter of Shirocco was making her belated seasonal reappearance at the festival, so it had been assumed that she would be considered for Aintree ahead of the Punchestown Festival at the end of the month.
Given the heavy fall she took, Mullins may now decide to give his seven-year-old a little longer to recover, but if she were to take her chance, she would be strongly fancied to make amends.
Last in the Champion Hurdle Vaniteux could go well, with the extra half-mile on good ground sure to help, though I would rather have seen him miss the festival and be arriving here fresh. He has plenty of ground to make up with The New One, who might well have been below-par in the Champion.
Presumably dethroned Champion Jezki will wait for Punchestown, but he has won over 2m4f (last season’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle) and Jessie Harrington’s seven-yearold is another who I suspect would relish
The Druids Nephew