Matt Tombs / Wednesday 2nd April 2014 / 20:00
The Grand National meeting kicks off tomorrow at Aintree, with the ground currently good to soft on the hurdles and National courses and good on the chase course. There are showers forecast and at this stage I’m assuming Thursday’s card will be run on spring, good to soft ground.
The excellent decision last year to move the Aintree Hurdle to the Thursday means we’ve got a good card to start off. The big race lacks depth but there’s one top class horse on show, and the race should lead to some deserved Grade 1 compensation for unlucky Champion Hurdle 3rd The New One (4/9).
Unfortunate as he looked, its possible he lacked the pace to go with the principles coming down the hill. He was a close 2nd to Zarkandar in this as a novice last season and the sharp 2m4f should suit ideally. With nothing possessing the speed of Jezki or My Tent Or Yours lining up, that might get him out of his comfort zone, it’s hard to see him being beaten.
There are a few in here who look on the downgrade. Rock On Ruby (11/1) was thrashed by The New One at Kempton in October. He was then kept to calm waters in 2 novice chases, which left him underprepared for the Arkle. Grandouet (14/1) was another disappointment over fences and has always looked a 2miler. Both look very opposable.
If there is to be a surprise, it may come from Diakali (12/1). He was only 2¼l behind Jezki in the Hatton’s Grace over similar trip and ground, having set a cut-throat gallop in order to try to run the finish out of the now Champion Hurdler. He was a fine 3rd off top weight (154) in the County and he looks better suited by 2m4f. He beat Ptit Zig (20/1) 7l at this trip in a testing ground 4 year olds Grade 1 at Auteuil in the summer and looks the one for the forecast.
With only 7 declared it doesn’t look an obvious race to bet in each-way as I’m struggling to see Diakali actually beating The New One. There are plenty of other good betting opportunities on the card so it’s best to just enjoy watching The New One land the odds.
The 3m Grade 1 Chase features a couple of horses I’m keen to take on. Silviniaco Conti (5/2) looked as if he might win the Gold Cup coming into the straight, but went sideways under pressure after the last. He was well below his best in this last year, and this time he’s had a much harder race in the Gold Cup. The poor record of Gold Cup horses in this is well touted and I’m keen to oppose him.
First Lieutenant (3/1) bypassed Cheltenham to try and repeat his win in this last year. I’m still not convinced he really stays this trip and he was beating another suspect stayer Menorah (11/1) and a below par Silviniaco Conti last season. This is a stronger race, and I think on the likely dead ground, both First Lieutenant and Menorah will get outstayed.
Argocat (20/1) is interesting. He’s looked a hard ride but once he got going at Gowran he stayed on strongly over 2m4f in a decent race. This step up in trip should suit ideally. He has plenty to find on the book and doesn’t look straight forward, but if he puts his best foot forward he’s capable of running well at a big price.
Given that I’ve put him up for next season’s Gold Cup at 25/1, I’m clearly hoping for a big run from Dynaste (15/8). He looked to win the Ryanair despite the trip, staying on powerfully, and this 3m1f looks much more up his street. I think he boasts the best piece of form this season - his 2nd to the race fit Cue Card in the Betfair Chase, (Silviniaco Conti behind in what looked a better race than the King George). Having won the novice chase over course and distance last season and not had so hard a race at the Festival, I think he’s much the most likely winner.
1pt Dynaste to win the Betfred Bowl (2.30) @ 15/8
The Red Rum handicap chase (2m) is often the handicap chase they go quickest in all season. Over this sharp track over arguably the stiffest park fences in Britain, jumping at speed is at a premium.
I’d been hoping Kid Cassidy would run to keep the weights down but he doesn’t and that’s counted against my original fancy Arnaud (7/1). He looked set to beat Arkle 5th Valdez convincingly in the Lightning before tiring late on, and this sharper test should suit. The quicker the ground the better his chances but he’s rated 148 and has 11-10 before Ger Fox’s 7lb claim - I suspect there may be one or two at the foot of the weights who are better handicapped.
With the ground likely to be riding quickest on the chase course, the vote goes to maiden Turn Over Sivola (8/1). He bustled up smart pair Dodging Bullets and Hinterland on his first two runs, before not getting home over 2½m when beaten by the useful Baby Mix. Alan King’s yard was about to shut down when he was a decent 10½l 3rd to Next Sensation in a hot handicap after Christmas, which if stable form is anything to go by, probably wasn’t his true running.
Returning last month from a break he jumped and travelled well despite not looking fully wound up, when ½l 2nd to Doeslessthanme at Doncaster. He’s up 4lb to 134 and there looks a stack of improvement to come. He jumps and travels well so appears the ideal type for this, and gets in nicely off 10-10.
1pt Turn Over Sivola to win the Red Rum Chase (4.15) @ 8/1
It was always going to be fascinating to see how the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices Chase (2m4f) was priced up. The key is to take a view on Western Warhorse’s (9/4) shock 33/1 Arkle win. The right horses followed him home and the way he got outpaced, before showing a good turn of foot in the straight, suggests this trip might improve him. He jumped really well in the Arkle and, having had only one chase run before that, is entitled to improve more than most.
The flip side is that he’s clearly quirky, (described as a ‘fruit loop’ by Tom Scudamore and had to be withdrawn on his intended fencing debut when unshipping Scudamore and bolting.) His Arkle win might have been a fluke and even if it wasn’t he might well not repeat it, so isn’t one I’d want to take a short price about.
Dodging Bullets (11/2) was 5l 4th in the Arkle, looking to be exposed as a bit below the top novices. He was keen there and had previously shaped as a pure 2miler so it’s interesting to see him stepped up in trip here. If he settles, gets home and improves for the extra 4f, he has a chance but that’s plenty of ifs.
Uxizandre and Oscar Whisky contested the JLT with contrasting fortunes. Uxizandre (9/2) went off an unfancied 33/1 chance having been well beaten off 150 in a handicap the previous time. The reapplication of cheekpieces and an aggressive ride worked really well and he was just edged out by Taquin Du Seuil. If the headgear works again then he’s every chance. Given that Western Warhorse won without making all last time, its possible he’ll get his own way out front but if they take each other on that would be a concern for both.
Oscar Whisky (9/4) went off only 9/2 for the JLT, but his jumping has got worse as the season has gone on and he fell at the first. He’s 9 now so it’s understandable that connections want to give him a go here rather than build his confidence in calmer waters, but he looks very short.
Time may show the Arkle form isn’t stronger than the JLT form as the market is assuming, and at the odds clear preference is for Uxizandre.
1pt Uxizandre to win the Manifesto Novices Chase (4.50) @ 9/2
The Fox Hunters revolves around Mossey Joe (13/8). He’s miles clear on form, jumps well enough for the revised obstacles and this 2m5f trip should be no problem. Decent ground suits ideally and his front running tactics are well suited to this track.
Given the historic unpredictability over the National fences there was an effective minimum price that the proverbial good thing could go off. With the fences now a brush through style, class should out and it’s arguable he should be odds-on for this.
Plausible contenders include my fancy from last year Warne (9/2), the Jamie Codd ridden Supreme Doc (10/1) and last year’s winner, 14 year old Tartan Snow (16/1) who has Derek O’Connor’s assistance. Supreme Doc’s 5th in the Galway Plate off 135 reads well in the context of this and if fit after 200 days off he rates the main danger, but Mossey Joe really should win.
1pt Mossey Joe to win the Fox Hunters’ (3.40) @ 13/8