Aintree Day 3 Preview
After two stellar days of action, the meeting comes to end with the Randox Grand National at 5:15. One of the most prestigious and well-known races in existence, it is a race that has families gathered around the television up and down the country. Having tipped up Cloth Cap at 25/1 in my antepost calendar, hopefully a few readers have some nice value as he currently heads the betting at 4/1. We also have three Grade 1’s on the card where we will get to see Shishkin strut his stuff in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase. Paisley Park and Thyme Hill clash for a third time in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle, whilst My Drogo will look to enhance his growing reputation in the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle.
Crack open the Champagne, it’s Grand National day
The opening contest of the day is the EFT Systems Handicap Hurdle over 3 miles where a very competitive field of 22 go to post. Plenty of these will bring Cheltenham Festival form into play from either The Coral Cup or The Pertemps. Champagne Platinum 17/2 ran a good race in the Pertemps and remains on a mark of 139. I believe he can win off this mark and hope the switch to a flat track like Aintree may bring about further improvement. The last two years have seen Champagne Platinum run big races at the Cheltenham Festival, finishing seventh in the Kim Muir two years ago and as mentioned earlier, fifth in this years Pertemps. Both times he travelled into the contest well and failed to finish off his race. I am hoping this is where an easy three miles around Aintree, on a track with a greater emphasis on speed, will really suit him. With plenty of experience in big field handicaps and ground conditions to suit, I think De Boinville can sneak him into contention and pounce late on.
Are we about to see Dreal Deal?
The first Grade 1 of the day is the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle over the intermediate trip. My Drogo heads the betting for the Skelton’s and has looked extremely useful, notching up three wins in his last three starts. I wouldn’t be completely convinced about his form though and he’s short enough at the current prices. Ballyadam has long had a lofty reputation and was running a big race in the Supreme before clattering the second last. I do not think he’d have got close to Appreciate It, but he did stay on well up the hill and this step up in trip could suit. His jumping is a major concern though and I would worry about a costly mistake late on in the race. Dreal Deal 6/1 has been one of the stories of the season, progressing though the ranks and rising over 50lbs on Official Ratings! He drifted like a barge before the off on his last start but powered home to win in cosy enough fashion. He had Echoes In Rain back in fourth that day, for all she probably didn’t run to form, but Magic Tricks has come out and run a very good race in a competitive handicap hurdle and he was well beaten in sixth. Interestingly, he has come in for a bit of antepost support and the intermediate trip around Aintree should really suit. I can see him sitting off the pace and pouncing late on.
Sit back, Relax and enjoy Shishkin
The Grade 1 Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase over 2 miles is next on the card and brilliant Arkle winner, Shishkin 1/6, has scared off his rivals. Just the four horses will take him on and Shishkin finds himself 19lbs clear on Official Ratings from the second top rated Gumball. I am lucky enough to be sat on some antepost slips for Shishkin to have an unbeaten season at 7/1 so I will be cheering them on. From a betting perspective it may be worth looking at the distance markets. If Shishkin turns up and performs to how we know he can, he should stroll to fifth chase success.
Thyme Hill vs Paisley Park, who takes the decider?
The final Grade 1 of the meeting is the three-mile Ryanair Stayers Hurdle where we are set to see the third meeting between two star stayers. The score currently reads 1-1 between Paisley Park and Thyme Hill 9/4 and I would favour the latter. I have long been a huge Paisley Park fan, but I’ve abandoned him here in favour of the younger improving horse. Paisley Park ran a gutsy race at Cheltenham but didn’t look like the force of old and a sharper test like Aintree wouldn’t appear to be what he wants at this stage in his career. Thyme Hill will now be ridden by Tom O’Brien after the retirement of Richard Johnson and I am hoping he can sneak Thyme Hill into contention and burst clear after the last. The same tactics will likely be employed on Roksana but she needs to improve to bridge the gap between herself and the front two on their Ascot form. The ground may also be on the quick side for her. If Diol Kier manages to put in a clean round of jumping, he has the engine to get involved at 20/1 but I must stress his jumping is a major worry. Thyme Hill gets the vote.
Take a chance on Lalor at a big price
The penultimate race before the Grand National is Grade 3 handicap chase over 3 miles. Happygolucky and Cloudy Glen head the betting after fine runner up efforts in the Ultima and Kim Muir. If those efforts haven’t taken their toll, I can see both of them going well. This looks a very competitive race though and I am going to take a chance on Kayley Woollacott’s Lalor 18/1 who hasn’t been seen for 14 months. He has run extremely well when fresh in the past though, notably bolting up on his first chase start at Cheltenham in 2017. He hasn’t won a race since but has some seriously good efforts in defeat, with form tied in against the likes of Cepage, Oldgrangewood and Saint Calvados. He appears to love Aintree too having visited the course twice at this meeting, recording wins in both the Grade 2 Bumper and the Grade 1 Top Novices Hurdle. His mark has fallen to just 2lbs above his latest winning mark and I believe the step up to a sharp 3 miles could bring about more improvement. Whether he is fit enough on his first start is a gamble in itself but at odds of 18/1 I am willing to find out.
Cloth Cap the antepost play but I’ve got three against him in Jumps Racing’s most famous race
This year’s Grand National looks a top-quality renewal highlighted by the fact a mark of 144 hasn’t guaranteed you a run! As mentioned earlier, I tipped up Cloth Cap at 25/1 in my antepost calendar but I wouldn’t be touching him at his current price of 4/1. Yes, he is about a stone well in on Official Ratings and he’s a brilliant jumper but this race is an entirely different kettle of fish. It’s a race I always like to look for a bit of value in and my first each way play is a horse that finished in behind Cloth Cap last time out. Definitly Red 50/1 was around 11 lengths behind Cloth Cap at Kelso last time out but shaped to me like a horse who may relish the marathon trip. Fourth in the 2019 Beecher, we know he handles the National fences, and this is a horse with some seriously classy form to his name. He won the 2018 Cotswold Chase before going on to place sixth in the Gold Cup. He is a 12-year-old now but remains in good from and has a big pull at the weights with the well fancied Kimberlite Candy. He can outrun his current odds of 50/1.
I wouldn’t usually go near the top weight in a race like the Grand National but as is the compressed nature of this year’s renewal, I think Bristol De Mai 28/1 can go well for Grand National winning jockey Daryl Jacob. Now a 10-year-old, he still possesses all his natural ability and has had a fine season to date. He won his third Betfair Chase back in November before finishing second to Native River in the rearranged Cotswold Chase. Reports are the National has been the long-term plan and he duly skipped engagements at The Cheltenham Festival. I’ve always been keen to see him over a marathon trip and expect him to race prominently and get into a jumping rhythm. If he takes to the National fences, I think he’s in with a chance.
My final play in this year’s National will be Ted Walsh’ Any Second now 11/1. I believe this horse possesses plenty of natural ability, highlighted by winning a Grade 2, two-mile chase on his prep run. He looked in serious form that day and has high-class form over staying trips, having won the Kim Muir back in 2019. He stayed on powerfully that day on good to soft ground and shaped as though he’d be suited by the demands of a National. The plan would’ve been to go for the race last year but still only a 9-year-old, the extra year of experience won’t have done him any harm and I’d be hopeful of a very big run.
High quality Grade 2 Bumper can throw up another name to follow
The New One, Barters Hill and Mcfabulous have all won Aintree’s closing Bumper in recent times and this year’s renewal looks a hot one. Nicky Henderson’s Balco Coastal is likely to go off a warm favourite after absolutely bolting up in a Jumpers Bumper at Kempton in February. Get Sky High was 17 lengths back in second that day and has come out and won since so you would have to think Balco Coastal is a serious horse. His price isn’t a great one though and in a race full of quality, I would be inclined to take him on. The Nicholls pair, Knappers Hill and Stage Star are well matched on form and both looks smart prospects for the future. On a form line through Wonderwall, they look to be closely matched with Super Six 8/1 who ran a cracker in the Champion Bumper, staying on to finish fifth. Still only a four-year-old he showed signs of inexperience early on but came up the hill like a horse with a decent engine. He is entitled to both improve and learn from that experience and looks a nice price at 8/1, receiving weight all round.I will also give a mention to Harry Whittington’s Brave Kingdom 40/1, who was visually very impressive when cruising to success in a Fontwell bumper. The form wouldn’t amount to a great deal, but he travelled through the race like a very useful horse and could be worth chancing at a massive price.
By Sam Rideout
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