2.00 – Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1)
A muddling sort of race to open the meeting for me. A lot of horses with no stand out piece of form and all of whom finished a similar distance behind the seasons top juvenile, Our Conor. For me, I don’t feel that Rolling Star is going to be quick enough and might come up short at the business end of the race especially with the drying ground. Irish Saint is another who might get outpaced turning for home on the evidence of his Kempton run in February. I always find Fred Winter winners hard to assess as the form is so blurred by handicap plots etc. Flaxen Flare was a good winner of the aforementioned race, but his form ties with Diakali and Our Conor leaves him with a bit to find. The likely winner, in my eyes, is Vasco De Ronceray. His form ties in with most in this race (1/2 length behind Irish Saint and fifth in the Triumph) and I feel he is crying out for the better ground and will be better suited to it than others.
SELECTION – VASCO DE RONCERAY (8/1 Stan James)
2.30 Betfred Bowl (Grade 1)
Simply enough, this a two horse race between the principles in the market, Silviniaco Conti and First Lieutenant. Both are horses, who, in my eyes, want good ground and a flat track. They will get both at Aintree, and with both being sound jumpers, I can easily see these two filling the first two spots in the winners enclosure. So long as Silviniaco Conti is over is fall when still travelling strongly in the Gold Cup, then he would be my selection. As a massive each way alternative in the race, Wayward Prince may sneak 3rd at 40/1+ as he is a horse who has run well twice here previously.
SELECTION – SILVINIACO CONTI (10/11 Generally)
3.05 Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1)
The third Grade 1 of the day, and without doubt the most puzzling of them all as cases can be made for and against all the principles. The New One is favourite on he back of an impressive display in the Neptune at Cheltenham, sprinting away from his rivals up the hill. But, he is still a novice, and his he experienced enough to be taking on his elders in a race like this? Countrywide Flame won the Fighting Fifth earlier in the season and was a good third in the Champion Hurdle but is he really good enough to be winning top class Grade 1’s like this? Grandouet is a very strong traveler with a high cruising speed but is surely a doubtful stayer over 2m4f. Will he find anything of the bridle? Zarkandar looks like he has been crying out for a step up in trip and is 4-0 against Grandouet. But will he get tapped for toe at the top of the straight like in previous Champion Hurdles? Oscar Whisky and Thousand Stars have both ran well in the last two renewals of this but neither can be backed with any confidence after their last runs. There could be a horse blanket covering all of theses, but when push comes to shove, my selection would be Zarkandar, who I think could come into his own over the intermediate trip.
SELECTION – ZARKANDAR (11/2 Coral)
3.40 Foxhunter Chase
Our first view of the new national fences this week, and all eyes will be on how well the horses jump them. I don’t see too much point in going too in depth in a race like this and personally can’t see past either of the front two in the market, Bold Addition and Gwanako. Bold Addition is potentially the class horse in the race, as he looked a promising horse in his younger days with Paul Nicholls and has continued to do so in Hunter Chases. Gwanako has run well over the fences before and was going to go close before falling last year. An outsider to keep an eye on is Gentle George. A brute of a horse, he might just be made for the national fences.
SELECTIONS – BOLD ADDITION (11/2 Stan James), GWANAKO (11/2 Coral) & GENTLE GEORGE (50/1 Generally)
4.15 2m Handicap Chase
A tricky handicap in which I like a few at bigger prices who I am hoping will run well now that good ground has returned. Anquetta has run well in big handicaps at festivals before and good ground is essential. The Mildmay course at Aintree should bring out the best in him and I am hopeful of a big run. The same applies to Tanks For That, he dangerously slipping down the weights and despite some uninspiring for figures, he is encountering his favoured good ground again. The third is Viva Colonia, who has hampered early in the Grand Annual and never had much hope after that. Good ground and a high tempo will see him to good affect.
SELECTIONS – ANQUETTA (14/1 Ladbrokes) & VIVA COLONIA (18/1 Bet365)
4.50 Manifesto Novices Chase (Grade 1)
Although not the biggest fan of the horse, you would have to think that Captain Conan will take a lot of beating in this race. I think flat tracks suit him best, and his best hurdles performance to date was when chasing home Darlan at this meeting 12 months ago. Fago hasn’t been the most convincing since coming over from France and I would be surprised if Changing Times was as effective at Aintree. Carlito Brigante could well be the biggest danger.
SELECTION – CAPTAIN CONAN (13/8 Paddy Power)
5.25 3m Handicap Hurdle
A difficult ‘getting out stakes’ but the 2 I like against the field are Jetson, who ran well in the Pertemps Final and is another who will be better suited to Aintree. AP McCoy is on board, which looks significant as Jetson wasn’t stopping at Cheltenham last time. The other horse is Lienosus. Evan Williams’ charge ran good races behind the potentially top class Wonderful Charm and Clondaw Kaempfer early in the season before winning his maiden hurdle at Fontwell. He remains unexposed and full of promise. I think the Paul Nicholls’ pair of Easter Day and Wilton Milan have to be respected as does Lucy Wadhams Baby Shine.
SELECTIONS – JETSON (7/1 Generally) LIENOSUS (9/1 Paddy Power)
NAP – SILVINIACO CONTI
NB – BOLD ADDITION
LONGSHOT – ANQUETTA
Best of Luck!!