With eight races on ITV this afternoon we kick off proceedings with a trip to Liverpool to take on the National fences in the Becher Chase.
Blaklion looks the likely red-hot favourite and after finishing fourth in the Grand National last season. If he hits anything like his best in which he scooped Grade 1 success he’ll find this easy enough but without a win in his last seven races he seems to be somewhat of a proverbial bridesmaid and at such a short price he can’t be backed.
Highland Lodge is a former course and distance winner who is pretty consistent and certainly has enough in the locker to trouble the main protagonists but hasn’t run in nearly 250 days so fitness may not be on his side.
Jockey Sam Whaley-Cohen is a master around these fences and he’s jumping aboard The Young Master. A winner of the Bet365 Chase in his day he’s contested some of the top chases previously but despite being eight years old is a shadow of his former self. He may have enough to grab a place but without completing any race over this course in two starts it’s a tough ask.
There’s a former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner lining up in this race and despite it not being the most prestigious running of Cheltenham’s showpiece race that year Lord Windermere showed that he still retains some of his ability after finishing seventh in the Grand National last year and with the booking of multiple national winning jockey Leighton Aspell his chances certainly look much better than his current huge odds suggest. By no means a guaranteed winner but definitely worth an each way punt at the prices.
LORD WINDERMERE (E/W)
There’s just the five competitors set to lineup in this race but what a competitive affair it is. A case can easily be made for any of the quintet. Now if someone wanted to just pin the race card to a wall and throw a dart to pick the winner of this then they’d end up getting a decent horse to go to battle with. Never the less I’m going to try my upmost to decipher this tricky affair.
A whopping 28 length victory last time shows just how dominant Brain Power can be and hailing from the in-form Nicky Henderson yard looks to tick a multitude of boxes but how good that form was is open to debate. Finian’s Oscar may never have won a race by such a distance but always does enough to ensure he finishes with his head in front and the only time he hasn’t it was by a short head. With six victories from seven starts I cannot look past Colin Tizzard’s runner who continues to progress race after race and compared to today’s rivals doesn’t have as many miles on the clock.
However this race ends I’d guarantee that the victor will see them come close to favourite for one of the big novice chases at next years Cheltenham Festival.
FINIANS OSCAR (WIN)
It may be cruel to say it but this race looks pretty much a two horse affair. There’s no doubt the remaining five runners will have enough to claim victory after this race but just not today as Malaya and Grey Waters are the most likely victors.
Young trainer Joseph O’Brien sends Grey Waters over here after a victory on the all-weather at Kempton. There’s no doubt she’ll be fit and ready to go but the form of her successes pales into insignificance compared to what the favourite has shown to date. There’s no reason that Grey Waters can’t improve further but this looks a race that Malaya will win and dominate once again.
A horse that contests the previous race here at Sandown (North Hill Harvey) finished ahead of A Hare Breath who takes his spot here. That form looks very promising now and despite the fact Daryll Jacobs mount hasn’t run in a while his form suggests the nine year old can go well after a lengthy absence. The weight he has to carry may be an issue but at a current price of around 10/1 he looks a decent bet for place terms.
Jenkins was a horse with a big following going into the start of this season but disappointed when finishing way down the field on his reappearance run. If he can put that race behind him he’ll have a great chance. This being said I’m on the hunt for value and I hope to have found it with A Hare Breath.
A HARE BREATH (E/W)
Named after top class chaser Many Clouds who sadly passed away last season this Grade 2 race may only have four runners but it looks pretty competitive. It’d be great to see Many Clouds owner Trevor Hemmings claim victory with Cloudy Dream and despite it perhaps being somewhat of a fairytale ending it’s a serious possibility. The seven year old was dominated by Tingle Creek favourite Fox Norton but there’s no shame in that and a step up in trip looks to be a positive move for Malcom Jefferson’s very consistent runner who can go one better today.
The likely danger looks to be Alpha Des Obeaux who won over in Ireland last time out when winning a decent contest at Clonmel. He may well improve on that effort but I’m just siding with Cloudy Dreams who looks to have more scope for progress.
CLOUDY DREAM (WIN) - NAP
Unfortunately there’s only seven runners that take their place with the two Willie Mullins runners Douvan and Un De Sceaux unfortunately pulled from the race.
If punters got eight or more runners and were in turn offered that third place then I’d be telling you all to grab a great each way bet on Ordinary World who has enough to bag a place despite the bookmakers thinking otherwise. Sadly with just the seven lining up and the fact this looks far from a competitive renewal of this great race I just cannot see the favourite being passed. Fox Norton has won four times since changing to Colin Tizzard’s yard and unbeaten under jockey Robbie Power who takes the ride again today. Second in the Queen Mother chase at the festival and only behind Altior prior to that he’s barely put a foot wrong and in this disappointing renewal can dominate from start to finish.
FOX NORTON (WIN)
The final race from Aintree sees us return to the big fences on the national course with the Grand Sefton handicap.
At a big price Dresden may run better than his odds suggest especially with national winning jockey Liam Tredwell booked for the ride but the likelihood he has better opposition to deal with this afternoon.
Sametegal is the most likely favourite and after an encouraging second placed finish in a listed event last time probably deserves his spot at the head of the market but having to carry such a hefty weight around this course is no mean feat and although likely to be in the mix up has a big task on his hands.
Jumping prowess is a must around these stiff obstacles so to see Mystifiable display questionable jumping in his return race at Chepstow may be off putting but prior to that his jumping has been pretty decent without a fall on his record. He’s pretty lightly raced and his trainer Fergal O’Brien is on fire at the moment. A chance is taken that he’s put his jumping errors behind him and can topple his rivals here.
We’ve made it to the final of eight races where the previously consistent Fletchers Flyer aims to get back to winning ways. He undoubtedly has a hatful of talent but after pulling up in his last two races leaves confidence low. If the addition of blinkers can bring about some improvement then he certainly has enough talent to be in the mix but that’s a lot to take on trust so is hard to back convincingly.
A horse that has found the winners enclosure on numerous occasions is The Happy Chappy but certainly not in this class. He continues to improve and with man of the moment Harry Cobden in the saddle has to run better than his big price suggests but unfortunately I doubt the six year old has the class to hang at this level.
Houblon Des Obeaux looks a rejuvenated horse after claiming a long awaited victory on his recent reappearance. It was great to see this well loved horse back with his head in front but if truth be told he’s far from a consistent performer and although he’d garner an almighty cheer from the crowd if he were to win I’m afraid he’s likely to find one or two too good.
The horse that gets the nod is Cresswell Breeze. A winner on his return to action in what now looks a pretty decent field. A seven pound rise in weight for that victory will make this a tougher test but Anthony Honeyball has his runners going great guns of late. At the age of seven he looks a horse with room to improve and if he puts in a good showing today (you’ve heard it here first) could be one for the Grand National come April.
CRESSWELL BREEZE (E/W)
written by Rory Paddock
Have you heard the latest Turf Talk Podcast? We preview three of today's big races including one we haven't previewed above and earmark a 12/1 shot worth backing at Chepstow today.
HAVE YOU SEEN TODAY’S EXCLUSIVE TIP?