13:45 - EFT Systems Handicap Hurdle
Given their respective third and fifth placed finishes in the Pertemps at Cheltenham, Come On Teddy and Champagne Platinum look to be the obvious starting points. Both are progressive horses who have had decent seasons and should be capable of continued progression, however if you look back at The Bosses Oscar (2nd in the Pertemps) he looked a tired horse when contesting a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse just a few days ago and finished tailed off in last place. Obviously it is dangerous to tarnish every runner with the same brush and it is entirely possible that both the above have come out of Cheltenham fresh and ready for another run – the problem is we won't really know until today's race unfolds.
J'ai Froid has won his last four, all over trips of around three miles, however all those victories came in lower grades, on softer ground than he will encounter today and he has gone up a further 13lbs for his win at Warwick last time out so he will definitely find this tougher.
Tea Clipper and Janika finished third and fifth in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham and although similar comments r.e. the quick turnaround also apply, Janika in-particular has proved that he is capable of putting a run together given he won three races over a six week period when trained in France so shouldn't be dismissed.
The two that interest me most are Polish and BallyBeg. The former has contested some decent races this season and improved for the step up to three miles when winning a decent-looking handicap at Newbury in February, while the latter makes his handicap debut but has progressed at a rate of knots throughout the season and has experience over three miles having raced in point-to-points prior to moving to Kerry Lee.
14:25 - Betway Mersey Novices' Hurdle
The Betway Mersey Novices Hurdle is run over 2 miles 4 furlongs and currently 12 go to post.
This one looks like a proper shoot-out here between Ballyadam and My Drogo.
Ballyadam brings the fantastic form of Irish trained horses winning in Britain not only at Cheltenham, but also at this week's Grand National Festival. There are potential question marks for Ballyadam being extra 4 furlongs, as well as his jumping which can be unfluent to say the least. Rachael Blackmore is jocked up on Ballyadam here and I believe he's got a great chance if he stays the trip.
My Drogo is one of Britain's best novice hurdlers this year and unfortunately we couldn't see him in the Supreme at Cheltenham and I think he missed that race as he's been targeted at this race. He's beaten some good horses this season in the likes of Soaring Glory and Do Your Job. The latter finished a creditable 2nd behind the County Hurdle winner Belfast Banter on Friday of the Grand National Festival, which backs the form up nicely.
Adrimel could be the outsider to back as an each way shout. He's won over 2 miles, 2 miles 5 furlongs but unfortunately didn't stay the 3 miles at Cheltenham. If he puts in a similar performance to earlier this season, he could be there in the frame.
I can see this being a battle between Ballyadam and My Drogo and I think when push comes to shove, Ballyadam's jumping may let him down. For that reason, My Drogo is my selection for the Betway Mersey Novices Hurdle
MY DROGO (WIN)
15:00 - Doom Bar Maghull Novices' Chase
How far? Shiskin bids to follow up his facile victory in the Arkle three weeks ago.
To put this into perspective he has nineteen pounds in hand to his nearest rival.
There is no such thing as a certainty in racing, but barring accidents, Shiskin wins this as he likes.
Funambule Sivola is in good form and can follow Shiskin home.
SHISKIN to beat FUNAMBULE SIVOLA (ST. FCAST)
15:35 - Ryanair Stayers Hurdle
The Stayers Hurdle features the highly anticipated rematch between Paisley Park and Thyme Hill, but I don’t think that it is as much as a two horse race as it may seem.
Thyme Hill missed the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham due to a setback, which means that if the injury isn’t still niggling at him, he could have fitness on his side. This, combined with his age, could give him an advantage over Paisley Park who had quite a difficult race at Cheltenham. However, the latter could benefit from a fast paced race and be very prominent towards the end of the race.
Diol Ker once beat Monkfish and seemed to enjoy being stepped up to 3m, where he was unlucky not to win. Connections had an 80/1 success at Cheltenham and they could enjoy some success here. He is unexposed though this is a tough ask compared to his Grade 2 second.
Lisnagar Oscar won the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham last year and seems to be slightly overlooked in this race. He wasn’t at his best at the beginning of the season but he’s since had wind surgery and was travelling very well when he came down in the Cheltenham Stayers Hurdle this year. He’s an 8 Year Old and the superstar jockey booking of Rachael Blackmore is very eye-catching.
I have always been a fan of Vinndication and he was a pleasing 6th in the Stayers at Cheltenham this year, off a bit of a break and returning to hurdles. If he can refine his jumping and if he’s at peak fitness, he could run a very nice race. David Bass and Kim Bailey are enjoying a nice Aintree Festival and Vinndication wears blinkers for the first time, which could straighten out his jumping and make him concentrate more.
16:15 - Betway Handicap Chase
This meeting has proved rather difficult so far, with the UK based runners who ran at the Festival, in the main, proving bitterly disappointing so far. Happygolucky has taken well to fences and ran a cracking race when second at the aforementioned Cheltenham Festival, he would be high on most people's shortlist although there is a sense this meeting might come too soon.
Spiritofthegames is more known for his exploits over timber and he hasn't been seen over fences since flopping at both Wetherby and Warwick. Prior to that he had performed with plenty of credit however and this mark should be well within range if considering his hurdles mark. Often dropped out of the back, Harry Skelton will have to weave his magic to get into a challenging position but there is every chance he will get a decent pace to aim at.
Sam Brown might have been saved for this and his effort at Carlisle was promising, still very lightly raced you suspect he has a race of this nature in him and plenty of respect is afforded. Hold The Note looks hard to place and often runs well without winning, he has something to find with Cloudy Glen although both have fair claims.
Both Lalor and Top Notch have something to prove at the trip, either or could run a big race but the vote is handed to Spiritofthegames in the hope that he can at least run on to grab a place.
18:20 - Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race
After the Lord Mayors show but we still have a race left and a chance to recoup those National losses or play up some winnings. The market for this race revolves around the Nicky Henderson trained Balco Coastal who is favourite and top-rated horse here after just one run under rules. He was all the rage in the betting ahead of his debut at Kempton where he travelled strongly and finished impressively beating a next time winner of Dan Skelton’s. That performance on debut is the best form in the field and he can be expected to improve from that initial run, he must be on any shortlist for this race.
It’s interesting that Harry Cobden has kept faith with Stage Star after they were beaten by stablemate Knappers Hill at Ascot last time. I think Aintree will be better suited for Stage Star and he ranks as a danger.
In recent years winners of this have been priced at 25/1, 33/1, 14/1 & 20/1 so do not rule out the supposed outsiders. One that can run well at a price is Harry Whittington’s Brave Kingdom who like the favourite won his only race under rules. He won well that day and would be a fraction of his current price if trained by a big-name trainer.
Others that can go well at big prices are Ben Paulings Fine Casting and the Philip Hobbs trained Luttrell Lad.
Emmet Mullins has trained The Shunter to win at Cheltenham and run well at Aintree this week. He has to be respected with anything he runs on these shores, so his The Gossiper has to be considered. He ran 2nd in a Point to Point to Killer Kane who was an expensive purchase for the Tizzard team. He is another with only one run under rules when very confidently ridden to win at Wexford. Mullins does well with his Bumper horses and he too is a danger, although he will improve for his first run he has to improve just to match the favourites debut run.
This is no gimme for a short priced favourite and there are definite dangers but the debut of Balco Coastal stamped him out as a horse for the future with improvement likely from a run already the best in the field he has to be the selection. Will go for Brave Kingdom as an Each Way pick.
BALCO COASTAL (WIN)
BRAVE KINGDOM (E/W)