The team look ahead to all seven races on day one of Aintree's Grand National Festival.
13:45 - Manifesto Novices Chase
The opening race of the three-day Aintree Festival is The Grade 1 Manifesto Novices Chase and although there have only been eleven prior renewals there are a few solid key race trends to consider. Ten of the eleven winners came here on the back of a run in either the Arkle or the Marsh at Cheltenham and all eleven winners came from the top three in the market, although it is worth noting that only one winning favourite has obliged.
Fusil Raffles put in a real battling performance to finish second in the Marsh at Cheltenham and the form has already been franked with Chatham Street Lad, who finished five lengths back in fourth, subsequently winning a Grade 3 at Limerick. He has won three from five all told over fences and is proven on both the ground and over the trip so looks to be a worthy favourite.
Paul Nicholls has sent twelve runners to this race to date and is yet to visit the winners enclosure however in Hitman he looks to have a great chance of finally breaking his duck. His runner was a thirty length winner on chase debut and finished ahead of both Eldorado Allen and Phoenix Way when second to Allmankind in a Grade 1 at Sandown in December, on just his second run over the larger obstacles. Like Fusil Raffles he won't mind the trip or the ground however unlike the favourite he bypassed Cheltenham specifically for this race and didn't have as hard a race as the Nicky Henderson runner last time out so I think will arrive here the fresher of the two.
Another to consider is The Shunter who put in a fantastic performance to win the Plate at Cheltenham last month, staying on strongly to hold off the challenge of Farclas and in doing so took his wining tally to five from eight since joining Emmet Mullins. This will be his toughest test to date and he's had a couple of tough races in recent months but he's progressing well and could still improve further so is respected.
A final mention must also go to Eldorado Allen who has had to play bridesmaid to Shishkin the last twice but in truth never looked like winning either race and was always towards the rear in the Arkle, before rallying up the Cheltenham hill to pass a weakening Allmankind to take second. Trainer Colin Tizzard has suffered a torrid season, posting just 16 winners from over 230 runners since the beginning of December, and although this step up in trip looks likely to suit I simply cannot back any of his runners with any confidence given ongoing stable form.
14:20 - 4YO Anniversary Hurdle
A poor race this year and a Grade One in name only. We have just two possible Grade One horses in the field Monmiral and Adagio. Monmiral is unbeaten in 3 races winning by an aggregate of 24 lengths. Last time out he beat Nassalam who did not do much for the form at Cheltenham. The manner of his wins marks him out as a graded performer although he must prove himself at this level. The drying ground is another unknown for him but that will be said about several winners over the three days. He is fresher than most and Aintree should suit but there will be better chances this week at the same price.
His main rival is Adagio who was second in the Triumph Hurdle to Quixillios which was one of the better British trained performances of the festival. Ten of the last 15 winners of this race finished in the first three in the Triumph Hurdle and Adagio can enhance that. He has proven top class form and should be favourite over the promise of Monmiral. The winner of the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow has won this three times in the last six years and Adagio was this year’s winner.
Of the rest there would need to be huge improvement to land a Grade One, Paros is trained by Nicky Henderson who has won this for the last two years. His form has been more out than in this year until last time when he won at Mussleburgh, he seemed well suited by a right-handed track that day so Aintree may not suit. John Locke is the second string of Paul Nicholls, he was rated 86 on the flat and has only run once over hurdles when thrown on at the deep end in the Grade 2 Adonis Hurdle at Kempton. Predictably he was well beaten that day but showed promise. Connections are risking losing his novice status for the whole of next season if they win here, Nicholls has a better chance with Monmiral. Fiveandtwenty has won three soft races in a row at Musselbugh but again his form falls well short of the front two in the market.
10 of the last 15 winners have come from the Triumph and Adagio can make that 11 from 16. He has the best form and is surprisingly a bigger price that Monmiral.
14:50 - Betway Bowl Chase
Native River is a fan favourite and comes off the back of a 4th placed finish in the Gold Cup, there’s no doubt that he is a class horse. However, that race in the Gold Cup was gruelling and there’s every chance that he could feel the bounce effect from that. Moreover, the ground will be fast and there’s a chance he could be under pressure coming into the home straight.
Clan Des Obeaux is a dual King George winner and connections decided against running at Cheltenham to pursue this race. However, there are some caveats. He’s been uncharacteristically out of form this year, being well held at Haydock, finishing 3rd in the King George and having an almighty dual with Secret Investor in the Denman. Additionally, he’s not got the greatest record at Aintree either, just nabbing second off the 11lb inferior Balko Des Flos in 2019 and was well held the year before by Might Bite and Bristol De Mai. All this suggests that he could be worth taking on.
The conundrum that is Tiger Roll. It’s clear that connections would have him ready for the race, having switched from the Grand National to the Betway Bowl, and it is evident that he adores the track. He looked back to his best at Cheltenham when making a mockery of the field and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is on the bridal coming into the home straight. The only factor that concerns me, is whether the ground turns good, as he doesn’t have much form on good ground.
TIGER ROLL (WIN)
15:25 - Aintree Hurdle
Tough race and could make a case for plenty.
Mcfabulous is the favourite but worries me after his showing last time. Clearly not in a good head space and looks as if he requires plenty of space on the track, which could cause problems.
Abracadabras should enjoy the fast pace set by Not So Sleepy but that fall last time was heavy and when you factor in yard form I am worried.
Buzz is a horse I like a lot but he lives up to his name. Longer trip now and a fast pace should suit him. Huge future, great form this season in the Betfair hurdle and he beat Belfast Banter on unsuitable ground at Ascot. An each way player for a yard who have won this 4 of the last 9 times.
The ground worries me for Jason The Militant.
The vote goes to Silver Streak who looks overpriced considering we know he needs good ground and gets that ground. He's won a Grade 1 this season, beating Epatante and could have beaten Song For Someone at Cheltenham if all the hurdles in the home straight were jumped. Clear of the field on official ratings by at least 5lbs and runs off level weights. I don't think the trip will be a problem on this ground and another stat in his favour is that 2 of the last 4 running's have been won by 8yo's.
SILVER STREAK (E/W)
16:05 - Foxhunters Chase
A chance for amateur riders moment of glory after they return from an imposed ban due to recent restrictions.
Billaway will be popular in this after his gallant effort to finish runner up in the fox hunters at Cheltenham. Reunited with Patrick Mullins he looks sure to go well, but there maybe some value elsewhere.
An issue for this meeting is usually how horses follow up after their exploits after Cheltenham. The truth is you never really know until they run.
Latenightpass also contested the fox hunters, where he led the field a merry dance, only to tire late on.
This trip of two mile five furlongs looks ideal for him. If he can get into an early rhythm, which is crucial over these fences, he could take some catching.
Of the others, veteran Tango De Juilley is generally a safe conveyance. The trip is perfect for him and he is ridden by a talented amateur. I could see him running into a place.
TANGO DE JUILLEY (E/W)
16:40 - Red Rum Handicap Chase
Moon Over Germany landed this race in 2019 and has attracted strong market support today, as he bids to retain the prize. Capable claimer, Jordan Gainford takes off a handy 7lbs though the horse has presumably had a few issues and his effort last time was very disappointing. Advising him would appear a thankless task though his trainer could do no wrong at Cheltenham and respect must be afforded despite there being something of a question mark over him.
Destrier finished third in a Novice Grade 1 here a few seasons ago and ran a cracking race when third at Exeter the time after. Since then he has become increasingly disappointing and one feels, perhaps frustrating for his connections. Clearly useful, one would have to be interested in him off a mark of 136 although you do sense that the horse rather does as he pleases.
On The Slopes often goes from the front and should be suited by this track, his fourth placed finish behind Sky Pirate at Cheltenham was a terrific effort all things considered and that form looks rock solid.
Getaway Trump hasn't always impressed with his attitude although he had every chance to throw victory away at Doncaster last time, instead he buckled down in taking fashion and was a decisive winner. Judged on his hurdling mark, he should be competitive here and is feared if arriving in the same sort of form.
Zanza was impressive a few starts ago but has failed to complete the last twice, he could go well if on better terms with himself. Sully Doc AA is usually seen over further and is another to consider although a tentative vote is handed to Destrier, in the hope that he finally consents to go through with it, off what looks a very tempting mark for the in-form Skelton's.
17:15 - Mares Open National Hunt Flat Race
The last race of the opening day of the Aintree festival and it looks quite an interesting looking race to finish off in the Mares bumper race.
Eileendover is currently the favourite and what can you say about Pam Sly wonder mare has looked visually impressive every time out this season. Winning on good to heavy ground and a combined over 50 lengths in her 3 victories and a worthy favourite. Pam opted not to go to Cheltenham for the bumper and has targeted this race. Whatever happens she has an exciting Flat campaign ahead of her unfortunately I don't think will be seeing her over Hurdles.
Pam is convinced this track and good ground will bring the best out of Eileendover and she is my pick not the most exciting price but the form reads well Grangee finished 6th in the champion bumper who Eileendover beat last time out at Market Rasen which is a good line of form
However, Elle Est Belle of Dan Skelton is a serious contender to Eileendover finishing 3rd in the champion bumper at Cheltenham. behind Sir Gerhard & Kilcruit which is a serious line of good form. My only concern is to see her back out again so soon as it is only a 3-week gap since the Cheltenham festival. But back against her own sex is a serious contender. I wouldn't put people of doing a reverse forecast between these two.
An outsider which looks interesting is Wheres Maud Gone. The well-bred mare is unbeaten and tounge-tied for the first time will hopefully gain some more improvement and the booking of Derek O Connor is interesting I'm sure will outrun her odds on the day and could be in the mix for places at an attractive each way price
EILEENDOVER - ELLE EST BELLE (REVERSE FORECAST)