13:45 - Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle
The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle is quite a wide open race and claims can be made for many participants. This Grade 3 has not been kind to favourite backers in recent years, throwing up some nice priced horses.
Jacamar has won at Aintree over 2m 4f, last October, where he beat a few of his competitors in this race, albeit, he was receiving a nice amount of weight. He receives some weight off a few in this race, which is a bonus, but he had to fight hard for his win at Wincanton and was below par in a Jumpers’ Bumper at Kempton last time out. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine he’ll be ready for this race and he fits the trends for the last 13 victors of this race. I would be surprised if he didn’t outrun his current odds of 25/1.
The Neil Mulholland trained Solwara One has never been out of the top two in all of his 5 starts and he’s ridden by Robbie Dunne, who won this race aboard Jester Jet three years ago. He relishes the ground and the trip should suit him as well. The only concern is that he isn’t as experienced as his counterparts and hasn’t raced in a field of this size and calibre before. He’s currently the second favourite in the betting and I should think he may run a very big race.
I am very surprised to see Kateson currently at 20/1, granted he may want the ground to soften up going into the race, which it might as it is forecast to rain overnight. He wasn’t his best at Ascot last time out but his form around Aintree is solid. He won at Aintree over 2m 4f earlier this season, beating Mint Condition and three years ago he was 2nd of 20 in the Grade 2 NHF race at this meeting, with horses like Al Dancer, Pym and Mister Fisher behind him. Moreover, he finished 3rd, beaten 3 lengths by Champ at Newbury. If he can rediscover that form, at a track he clearly enjoys, with the possibility the ground may become even softer, I think he has a major chance.
14:20 - Betway Top Novices Hurdle
After complaining about the quality of a Grade One Novice Hurdle yesterday, this race is the opposite and is full of quality. Third Time Lucki is an admirable horse, and he was 6th to Irish horse Belfast Bomber in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham only being beaten on the run in up the hill. He is a stone better off with the winner here and can reverse that form. It worries me that he could be going to the well too often as this is his seventh race this season a lot for a young horse.
Ajero skipped Cheltenham and has rattled off a 4 timer either side of a midwinter break. He is improving with every race and hasn’t’ reached his peak yet and he rates a huge danger here.
Houx Gris is another improving horse who has yet to reach his peak I just feel he may prefer a stiffer test than a speed race on decent ground at Aintree. Horses coming here from the Supreme Novices have a decent record in this and that form is represented by For Pleasure who led the Supreme field for most of the way but still finished over 20L behind impressive winner Appreciate It, there is nothing of that calibre here and the same tactics could make him hard to catch around here.
Dusart is the unknown quantity here, he has had just one run in his career running out an impressive winner at Newbury in November. He jumped well that day and found plenty to beat subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory. He is open to any amount of improvement and has been saved for this he could be a possible future superstar.
In Summary my three here is Ajero, For Pleasure and Dusart. I feel Ajero is underrated here but Dusart has tremendous potential, and I am going to side with him to give Nicky Henderson a 6th win in this in recent years.
14:50 - Betway Mildmay Novices' Chase
The Grade 1 Betway Mildmay Novices Chase sees 8 go to post here over 3m 1f.
Chantry House is coming off the back of winning the Marsh Novices Chase at Cheltenham, albeit he may have been lucky with Envoi Allen falling early in the race. Chantry House has failed to win just twice in his 8 races under Rules. I think longer trips are the aim for Chantry House over his career and this race, over the 3 miles trip, is a perfect stepping stone for him.
Fiddlerontheroof is starting to become the new Melon at the moment. He's finished second in 5 of the last 6 races and he has a good chance to keep that record up. The longer trip, I believe, will suit him. It is a good each way play if all 8 go to post on the day.
Shan Blue was given a strange ride by Harry Skelton at Cheltenham last time out, going for home very early. My impression is that Harry panicked on the day and I think he'll have to be much more composed now, especially with the end of the Jockeys Championship so close in sight.
I think over his career, Chantry House will be the superior horse of this field and I'm hoping that he'll continue his fine record of wins and extend it to 7 wins in 9 races.
CHANTRY HOUSE (WIN)
15:25 - Marsh Chase
Fakir D'oudairies had a tough race just a few weeks ago at Cheltenham and showed his class however to be one of very few that could handle the pace set by Allaho. He's become a bridesmaid rather than a bride however at such a short price he comes with risks.
Politologue was very disappointing last time but Paul Nicholls has started this festival very well. Politologue won this race in 2018 but with a different jockey on and Harry Cobden has never seemed to truly gel with this gelding.
Notebook could appreciate the step up in trip and this flatter track. The combination could help him settle better as that seems to be his problem and looks a risky each way option.
Dashel Drasher however has won his last 3 and been impressive each time. Especially in his last outing when up against classy opposition. He loves a flat track and has won several times on good to soft so ground isn't an issue either. The yard are still going along nicely and until this gelding loses I will be happy to keep backing him at a nice price. It may also be worth noting that 3 of the last 5 winners of this have been 8 years of age.
DASHEL DRASHER (E/W)
16:05 - Topham Handicap Chase
It's safe to say that any race over the National fences is ultra-competitive but this years Topham looks harder to decipher than ever. I could easily make a case for nearly half the field in this one but punting wise I can't argue that backing half the field would make for a wise decision.
It's wise to search for horses at a bigger price despite some of those at the head of the market holding obvious claims. I couldn't discredit the likes of Irish raiders Livelovelaugh and Visioman or any of the quartet of Nicky Henderson trained entries but value has to be the order of the day in this one.
The ultra consistent Ibleo hails from a yard who know what it takes to win around these fences but the lack of experience over these obstacles go against the eight year old.
Two horses that do have the added bonus of experience here at Aintree's National course are are a duo that are closing in on the latter stages of their careers.
Both eleven year old Modus and ten year old Sir Jack Yeats look very viable options for punters especially considering their record over these fences.
A third in the Grand Sefton at the end of last year should stand Paul Nicholls' runner in good stead returning to this venue off the same mark.
As for Sir Jack Yeats he's completed all three previous course and distance efforts and finished ahead of the Aforementioned Modus last time out. Both have been handle with car and should be fit now they make their 2021 debut.
Also worth mentioning at a massive price is Richard Spencer's other runner Outlander who looks drastically overpriced at 80/1 and Kerry Lee's charge Storm Control who's a consistent sort.
SIR JACK YEATS (E/W)
16:40 – Sefton Novices Chase
Bravemansgame had won three in a row before going up against Bob Olinger and Gaillard Du Mesnil in the Ballymore at Cheltenham and although a third place finish saw his winning run come to an abrupt end it was by no means a poor performance and with due respect to his rivals he faces no-one of the same calibre here today. His prior Grade 1 victory in the Challow Hurdle sets the standard and I expect him to be capable of seeing out this longer trip so the Paul Nicholls runner should take all the beating.
Oscar Elite and Streets Of Doyen occupied second and third spots in the Albert Bartlett, with Alaphilippe a further five lengths back in fifth. Both Oscar Elite and Alaphilippe would perhaps prefer a slower surface so it is Streets Of Doyen, who won four in a row over three miles on good and good-to-soft ground last Autumn who would be the pick of the trio and the most likely challenger to the favourite.
Both Cape Gentleman and Midnight River won over shorter trips last time out and although need to prove themselves over this longer trip they are both considered for each way purposes, however at slightly bigger odds and if looking for an each way alternative then I would look no further than Champagnesuperover. He outran his 100/1 odds when finishing seventh of sixteen in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last month, ridden cold towards the back of the field before making headway on the run to the final flight. He was never close enough to challenge but it was a run that offered plenty of encouragement and taking on a similar trip on a flat track could see another decent run so with further progression entirely possible he isn't dismissed lightly.
17:15 - Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle (Conditional Jockeys' and Amateur Riders' Race)
This looks typically tricky and most of them are difficult to dismiss with any degree of confidence. Thistimenextyear would probably have won the 2019 renewal of this but for encountering trouble late in the day and rather bungling the last hurdle. Fairly useful on the level and at home on most types of ground, he must have had some sort of issue and has been off for the best part of two year's now. Trainer Richard Spencer has had a winner lately and though it is difficult to confidently select his 7 year old here, he would have every chance if fully revved up at big odds.
Copperless came from last to score in impressive fashion at Taunton last time, building upon an equally impressive performance at Market Rasen the time before. Penalised 6lbs for that latest success would appear fairly lenient given the manner of victory and his yard have begun to hit form of late. Lewis Stones 7lbs claim could prove valuable here and with the going conditions likely to suit, a chance is taken on this lightly type landing the hat-trick.
Tomorrow Mystery represents owner JP McManus and champion trainer Paul Nicholls, her costly defeat when odds on at Taunton is hard to forgive although she did win a mares jumpers bumper at Kempton last time. Further encouragement could also be drawn from the likely drying conditions though for me, she is trading too short.
Camprond is another interesting player and he arrives here looking an ideal type, lightly raced over hurdles and fairly decent on the level in France, he made rather short work of a fairly progressive sort at Taunton and looked firmly on the upgrade. The significant negative with him has to be the yard's form, Philip Hobbs just hasn't really got going this season and with just 1 winner from his last 34 runners. Ultimately I feel he could well be the correct horse on the wrong day, my advice would be to place the horse in your tracker as I couldn't advise betting him today.
The Widdow Maker, Bold Enough and The Grey Falco are selected others with chances although Copperless gets the vote.