14.25 Aintree

Without doubt, the best pound-for-pound novice hurdle run at the Cheltenham Festival was the Ballymore and having been the only horse capable of going with the mighty Samcro in the final half mile, BLACK OP (best price 5-2) looks very much the one to be with here. Unlucky not to land a Grade 2 over the same course back in January when he was eventually cut down by the top-class Santini after a mistake at the last, Tom George’s gelding went back to Prestbury Park last month with plenty of stable confidence that he could shake up the big guns. Although he couldn’t quite go with Gordon Elliot’s superstar when he kicked at a crucial stage rounding the home turn, the long-striding seven-year-old did keep on stoically all the way to the line and with the pair pulling well clear of the rest, his performance has to go down as one of the highest class. Clearly well suited by Cheltenham, today’s flatter terrain shouldn’t pose to many problems and the son of Sandmason is strongly fancied to take this prize before embarking on what should turn out to be a lucrative career over fences next season.

If there is to be a fly in the ointment, it may turn out to be WESTERN RYDER (best price 8-1), and with the Warren Greatrex team buoyed by the success of Portrush Ted in the concluding bumper yesterday, confidence will be high this useful novice can go close to emulating his stable companion. Unable to cope with the really bad ground in the Tolworth behind subsequent Supreme winner Summerville Boy, the six-year-old finished a good deal closer to his old rival when last seen in that aforementioned Cheltenham Festival and if it wasn’t for meeting severe interference at a crucial stage two out, there’s no doubt he would have finished in the money that day given the way he powered his way on up the hill. Let’s not forget either, that the Westerner gelding had beaten yesterday’s Grade 1 hero, Lalor, in a smart contest at Cheltenham earlier in the season, so he certainly has the qualities to figure in a race of this nature on the pick of his best form.

Black Op - 1pt @ 5/2
Western Ryder - 0.5pts e/w @ 8/1

14.45 Leopardstown

DIANTHUS (best price 25-1), should, in theory, be totally outclassed with a rating of just 86 going into this listed prize against some big names, but fitness and the ability to handle the ground is a big leveller at this time of season and bearing mind, Jett Setting had a very similar profile before dismantling her opposition in this race two years ago, it wouldn’t come as the biggest shock in the world to this writer if she was to punch well above her weight. Although she only won a handicap at Naas on her first start of the campaign, the time figure and particularly her closing sectionals stacked up favourable against the likes of Grade 3 winner, Making Light, and Irish Lincoln scorer, On The Go Again. Having apparently turned down some big offers in the interim, hopefully the daughter of Epaulette can justify the connections’ decision to keep her and she can pick up some valuable black type.

Dianthus - 0.5pts e/w @ 25/1

15.55 Newcastle

Wind surgery and a first-time tongue-tie made a huge difference to the performance levels of RANDY PIKE (best price 15-2) at Haydock last time out and providing he manages to run to a similar standard again this afternoon, there’s decent chance he can supplement those gains. In what turned out to be a strongly-run race at the Lancashire track three weeks ago, the eight-year-old gelding saw out the trip under testing conditions really well and with the third and fifth both going on top boost the form with victories subsequently, confidence is fairly high that an 8lb hike in the ratings won’t be enough to prevent Tim Easterby’s charge giving those ahead of him in the betting a huge fright.

Randy Pike - 1pt @ 15/2

16.20 Aintree

The defeat of SAM SPINNER (best price 6-4) in this year’s Stayers Hurdle was universally put down to the fact that his jockey, Joe Colliver, failed to make it a sufficient enough test to draw the sting out of most of his market rivals and with virtually all the big guns that lined up at the Festival out of the way, this provides the perfect opportunity for his young pilot to make amends. Some extremely odd excuses were made by connections after the race, but the crux of the matter lies in the fact that the entire field was covered by no less than five lengths as the field turned for home lending to the argument that the pace was a particularly pedestrian one for a 3m championship contest. Having showed bottomless stamina when routing his field at Haydock earlier in the season, he exhibited similar traits to fend off and outstay the classy L’Ami Serge at Ascot, so hopefully the game six-year-old will be given the sort of ride which has been his calling card in his career so far to date and if so, it’ll take a good horse to go by him once in full cry.

Sam Spinner - 2pts @ 6/4

18.20 Aintree

WILLIAM OF ORANGE (best price 10-1) has been called some rude names in the past, but there was nothing wrong with his attitude when winning at Haydock recently and with that improved performance coming off the back of a wind operation, it might well be that Donald McCain’s inmate can be relied upon a bit more wholeheartedly. Useful on his day, but sometimes a proper mickey taker, the seven-year-old looked a totally different position by the way he travelled at the Lancashire track and with his stable mate and front-running Chti Balko a devil to get past at his happy hunting, the fact that he managed to breeze my him and run hard all the way top the line signifies his current wellbeing. Moreover, the time figure he posted was also very creditable and with ground conditions ideal for the Duke Of Marmalade gelding, double figure quotes for him could end up being some way wide of the mark.

William Of Orange - 0.5pts e/w @ 10/1