Matt Tombs / Friday 10th April 2015 / 21:17
It’s Grand National Day and the weather is set fair, with the ground just on the slow side of good. If you’re looking for a winner to give you some betting money for the National, the bet of the week is Cole Harden (11/4) in the Liverpool Hurdle, over an extended 3m.
I’m astonished that he’s not favourite. He won the World Hurdle comfortably by 3¼l showing a fantastic attitude, (and the benefit of a wind operation.) He’s only 6, an uncomplicated ride from the front and has the sound surface that he thrives on. Other than having to show he goes on soft ground, he looks to have the staying hurdle division at his feet.
I often mention that the top 3m hurdles are pretty predictable. It’s the weakest of the four championship divisions, and unless there is a key differentiating factor – eg extremes of ground - the same horses tend to win. This race was introduced in 2004, and on 9 occasions the World Hurdle winner has run, winning 6 times, (though the mighty Big Buck’s accounts for 4 of those 6 wins.)
Of the 3 to be beaten, course specialism played a big part. Triple World Hurdle winner Inglis Drever was never as effective at Aintree, being beaten all four times he ran at this meeting – including twice in this. The other beaten World Hurdle winner was My Way De Solzen who was thumped by dual winner of this race and course specialist Mighty Man.
Cole Harden has run once at Aintree when a fine 2nd to Beat That in last year’s Sefton. With Beat That dogged by problems this season, that form isn’t straightforward to evaluate, but Cole Harden did beat Seeyouatmidnight twice as far in the Sefton as he did in the World Hurdle. I think the course will suit and I think he should be about 11/8 not 11/4 so I’m getting stuck in.
One reason I’m so keen on him is that I’m against Zarkandar (5/2) who is favourite based on Paul Nicholls bullishness and a perception he was unlucky in the World Hurdle. He was travelling well when blundering 2 out, but he usually travels well. However, he doesn’t find that much and he’s not a strong stayer. I would have been very surprised if he’d have beaten Cole Harden there even if he’d flown that 2nd last flight. He’s now been beaten in all 4 graded races over 3m in Britain, and looks one to oppose at short prices in these top contests.
I’m more concerned about Whisper (5/1) who I backed for the World Hurdle. He’d had a troubled preparation, (only one previous run this season when flopping in a novice chase,) and it may be that he’ll come on a ton for that, (went very wide which made his task harder at Cheltenham). He won an ordinary renewal of this last season, despite the occasion looking to get to him in the preliminaries. If he’s back in top form, he’s the main danger.
This isn’t a race for upsets – 11/2 is the biggest price winning SP in its 11 year history – and it’s hard to fancy the others.
1pt Cole Harden to win the Liverpool Hurdle (14:50) @ 11/4
If Cole Harden wins easily again here, the layers might give him the respect he deserves in next season’s World Hurdle market – he’s currently a massive 12/1. Annie Power heads the market at 7/1, but Willie Mullins is almost bound to run her in the mares race. Windsor Park (10/1) won a steadily run Neptune and has both class and stamina to prove. More Of That (12/1) has all sorts of problems and is odds-against to line up. Arctic Fire (12/1) isn’t a 3 miler and Shaneshill (12/1) is going chasing. Jezki (10/1) is bred to get this trip, but ex-Champion Hurdlers have a dire record.
The Albert Bartlett has been a terrible trial, (no World Hurdle winner has ever contested it,) and, as is usually the case, the main protagonists from the Albert Bartlett look to be going chasing. The Irish don’t take this division that seriously, which given how many of the Grade 1s go to Irish trained horses at the moment, weakens the race hugely.
Whilst you do get winners of the World Hurdle that are unfindable at the start of the season, (like More Of That and Solwhit), it’s also a race littered with multiple winners. Cole Harden was a decisive winner this year and I’d be very surprised if any of those behind him turn the tables next season, (unless it comes up testing.)
Warren Greatrex is an underestimated rising star of the training ranks, and I’m confident he can peak Cole Harden again for next season’s Festival. I’d have him about 5/1 in the ante-post World Hurdle book, so he’s a must bet to kick off the 2016 Festival portfolio.
1pt Cole Harden to win 2016 World Hurdle @ 12/1
Looking at the big race itself, I put up Saint Are at 33/1 earlier in the week [here]. The race is so unpredictable now that I want at least one more on side – and ideally I want a big price. I still like Portrait King (80/1) and Super Duty (100/1), but so often the National falls to a horse I’ve backed earlier in its career, but given up on.
I’m therefore having a saver on Corrin Wood (100/1) who I backed for last year’s RSA. He went off too quick there and has been out of sorts this winter. It’s absurd to say Donald McCain’s yard has had a quiet season – he’s had 94 winners, but that is well down on the 140+ of the previous couple of campaigns. McCain doesn’t have much ammunition for the big races at the moment, but Starchitect (16/1) was running a blinder on Thursday when coming down at the last and Stonebrook (40/1) was a close 4th in the opener on Friday. McCain targets this meeting more than any other and might just be coming into form at the right time. It’s possible his lower profile is making his horses go under the radar.
Last season there was a debate about whether Corrin Wood should run in the RSA or 4 miler, and I think he’s got a good chance of getting the trip. He jumps brilliantly and likes to be up with the pace, a big advantage at this track. McCain thought he might be a Gold Cup horse at the start of the season but he didn’t get a clear run in the autumn, and he may well have been trained to peak for this. He had a mark of 156 going into last season’s RSA and gets in off 144 here, so looks well handicapped if able to put his best foot forward. He’s worth chancing at a huge price.
1pt Corrin Wood to win the Grand National (16:15) @ 100/1
There will be a few trainers spitting feathers after the late defection of Un De Sceaux from the Grade 1 2m Maghull Novices’ Chase. 5 of the 13 five day entries ran on the opening day rather than take the brilliant Arkle winner on and this has left a desperately weak race for a Grade 1.
On form, God’s Own (7/4) is miles clear. He won the Haldon off 155 before disappointing twice on soft ground over the winter. Back on a sound surface he chased Un De Sceaux home at a respectful distance in the Arkle, (proving he can perform going left-handed,) and if he produces that again he really ought to win this. He’s not the most reliable though and this speedier track won’t play to his strengths.
Court Minstrel (5/1) is a fast ground specialist and the emphasis on speed ought to suit him. I’m not convinced how much he enjoys jumping fences though and he’s one I’m keen to take on.
Traffic Fluide (9/2) is an interesting contender. He’s been running in novice handicaps, winning the last two off 129 and 135. That leaves him plenty to find but the vibes from Gary Moore are that the 5 year old is a potentially top class horse.
Sizing Granite (6/1) is unbeaten over fences except when tipping up. He gave weight and a beating to Fine Rightly and Blood Cotil at Naas in January. Fine Rightly has won both his races since and Blood Cotil hacked up next time, before being backed off the boards for the Grand Annual. The better ground ought to suit him and I think he’s good enough to cause an upset here.
1pt Sizing Granite to win the Maghull Novices Chase (14:05) @ 6/1
We’ve seen any number of masterclasses from Ruby Walsh dictating big races from the front over the last couple of seasons, but I was surprised he wasn’t more positive on Nichols Canyon (7/2) in the Neptune. The horse was very keen and perhaps he felt he couldn’t give him his head, and he was only 3rd there, 1¼l behind Parlour Games (7/2).
I’m convinced he’s much better than that though, and am confidently expecting him to turn round the form with Parlour Games here. There are plenty of unexposed types in here but Nichols Canyon’s Deloitte win sets a big standard and I was pleasantly surprised at his price.
1pt Nichols Canyon to win the Mersey Novices Hurdle (13:30) @ 7/2