Horse racing expert Andy Holding has three selections for day one of the Aintree Festival, including a NAP running at 16:05.
Monmiral is probably the most promising long-term prospect in this line-up but whether he quite deserves to be such a short-priced favourite against proven Grade 1 performer ADAGIO (best price 6-4) is open to question and at the prices, David Pipe’s gelding rates the value choice.
Already a winner at the very highest level courtesy of his victory at Chepstow earlier in the season, the son of Wiener Waltzer went on to cement himself as one of the best of his generation with a brave effort in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and you could easily argue he should be chalked up as favourite based on those two performances. A slick jumper who stays well and has a fine attitude to match, Adagio should be capable of giving the favourite all the trouble he can handle.
Quite a few ifs and buts about many of the main players, but the same can’t be said about CLONDAW CASTLE (best price 13-2) who has seemingly more in his favour than his morning odds suggest.
A creditable runner-up in the Old Roan Chase on unsuitable soft ground over today’s course earlier in the campaign, Tom George’s gelding has run a series of fine races in victory and defeat subsequently and his latest winning performance at Kempton in a hugely-competitive handicap proved that he stays a well-run three miles. Switched off in midfield at the Sunbury venue, the son of Oscar made steady headway to chase the leaders turning for home before staying on strongly in the quarter half a mile to score with a bit up his sleeve (idled close home). Unexposed over today’s trip and proven over the track on good ground, the nine-year-old has been saved specifically for this race ever since and he makes plenty of each-way appeal around the 6-1 mark – especially with some firms offering four places.
This race over the National fences often falls to a horse who missed the Cheltenham Festival and also has plenty of experience on their side (most winners of this tend to be 10 or over) and SAMETEGAL (NAP) (best price 6-1) is the one who makes the most appeal of those who fit neatly into that category.
A top-class handicapper in his prime, Paul Nicholls’ gelding has still been plying his trade to a high standard in hunter chases of late and that slightly slower tempo which goes hand in hand with those sort of events helped him regain the winning theme at Wincanton two starts when he beat none other than subsequent Cheltenham hero Porlock Bay. Outstayed by a younger rival at Fontwell on his most recent outing, 3m2f on heavy ground isn’t the 12-year-old’s cup of tea nowadays, but give him a well-run affair over half a mile shorter and he should turn out to be in his element and we know he also loves today’s track. Third in the Grand Sefton back in 2017, he ran just as well considering conditions weren’t in his favour back at the Liverpool venue on his most recent visit last year and with the combination of decent ground and a top class pilot on board, the son of Saint Des Saints has all the ingredients to run a massive race with a clear round. If you shop around, you can get five or even six places which seems great value in a race where the cream often rises to the top.