Our racing expert gives his verdict on each of the five Aintree races being shown live on ITV.
2:20 2m½f (2m103y) Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Global Citizen impressed when slamming a good field at Kempton in February and he’s a worthy favourite on that evidence, albeit the runner-up Scarlet Dragon should be all the better for that experience and could finish a lot closer. Alan King’s runner is tempting each-way at 10/1, but it’s 30 years since a maiden won this and a more enticing option at double those odds is IRISH ROE.
The winner of seven of her 12 starts (three bumpers and four hurdles), she was amongst the favourites for the Betfair Hurdle last time, only to get lost in the hurly burly of that fiercely competitive handicap run on atrocious ground and be pulled up. Given a nice break since, she could well bounce back from that poor showing with the help of her mares’ allowance and on a track that should suit given she travels really well when on song. Her small trainer Peter Atkinson went close to landing a big pot at Kelso on Saturday and he’s said all along that a return to Aintree in the spring was on her agenda, having run well in last year’s mares’ bumper, so she’s unlikely to want for fitness.
A 20/1 shot with bet365, she’s worth a few quid each-way at that price and is also worth considering in the same firm’s ‘without Global Citizen’ market at 14/1.
2:50 3m1f (3m210y) (Mildmay) Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Nicky Henderson landed a treble here yesterday and Terrefort, who was runner-up in the JLT at Cheltenham, is possibly his best chance of a winner this afternoon. This will be the grey’s first try over 3m, however, and while his pedigree suggests that won’t be a problem, he looks plenty short enough at 3/1 with some classy rivals boasting strong Cheltenham form in opposition.
Both Elegant Escape, who was a staying on third in the RSA, and Ms Parfois, whose error two out in the National Hunt Chase probably cost her victory, will be doing their best work late on and have to be respected. As does Mia’s Storm, who looked progressive prior to falling in a Kempton Grade 1 last time, although she wants better ground ideally.
But the one that really grabs the eye at a double-digit price (10/1 bet365) is Noel Meade’s SNOW FALCON. A smart hurdler who finished a close third to Yanworth and Supasundae at this meeting last year, he has been running well over fences this term behind some top novices and was still in touch when unseating his rider in the Irish Grand National last time, through no fault of his own. That was just 11 days ago, so this wouldn’t have been the plan for him, but I still reckon he’s worth risking in what looks a weaker Grade 1 to the one he contested 12 months ago and with his stable in cracking form (6-23 in the last fortnight).
3:25 2m4f (2m3f200y) (Mildmay) JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Champion Chase runner-up Min has been put in as favourite at around the 11/8 mark in the absence of his nemesis Altior, who remains the only horse to have finished in front of Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old in nine British starts. He was placed second after interfering with Simply Ned at Leopardstown over Christmas, but subsequent efforts have shown that he was below his best on that occasion and his Cheltenham performance was arguably a career best.
However, for all that I reckon he’s worth taking on here as he’s essentially a two-miler and while his efficient running style gives him every chance of seeing out the extra half mile, favourites lacking winning form at this trip have a poor record, with both Master Minded and Well Chief turned over at odds-on in recent years.
Besides, there is one very obvious stumbling block in Ryanair winner BALKO DES FLOS and he gets my vote at bet365’s 9/4. Henry de Bromhead’s charge could not have won more convincingly at the Festival despite concerns over the soft ground, and that was no fluke judging by his close second in a Grade 1 previously. If in the same form here and unless there is an absolute deluge to turn the ground heavy, he is going to take plety of stopping. Politologue is a big price considering he’s a Grade 1 winner and he can chase home the big two.
4:05 2m5f (2m5f19y) (Grand National) Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Nicky Henderson should be the first port of call in any analysis of this race as he won it three years in a row from 2013-15 (with three different horses) and has had placed horses at 25/1 and 12/1 since. This time around he’s represented by O O Seven, who finished fourth last year and is disputing favouritism, and Kilcrea Vale, whose claims are less obvious but is in with a shout nonetheless.
However, it’s a former Henderson inmate, THEATRE TERRITORY, that will be carrying my cash and for a long way, hopefully, under Sam Waley-Cohen. He won the 2015 version with Rajdhani Express to add to his excellent record over these fences, and his mount this time around looks another likely type in that she’s an excellent jumper who likes to be ridden up with the pace. While she’s 0-5 over fences since joining Warren Greatrex, she has some very solid placed form to her name, including a close second behind subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner Mister Whitaker in January and a third in the old Racing Post Chase at Kempton last time. Off the same mark here, she’s going to be hard to peg back and bet365’s 11/1 seems very fair.
4:40 3m½f (3m149y) Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Nicky Henderson, who saddled Beat That to win in 2014, has three running for him and, according to the betting, they are headed by Santini, who was a staying on third in the Albert Bartlett last time. But I suspect we won’t see the best of him until he goes over fences and stablemate OK CORRAL, who was second in the same Cheltenham race, looks the one to be on at bet365’s 11/4 with Barry Geraghty staying loyal. A year older at eight, he’s lightly-raced for his age and is far from exposed at this trip, with the extra week to get over his exertions another positive.
Chef Des Obeaux, the Henderson third-string, ran too bad to be true when well fancied in the Albert Bartlett and it’s conceivable he could leave that form well behind given he was eased when beaten and had looked progressive previously. He’s got to be worth a small saver at Hills’ 10/1.
Aintree 2.20, Irish Roe each-way @ 20/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, 1.2.3) / ‘without Global Citizen’ each-way @ 14/1 bet365 (1/5 odds, 1.2.3)
Aintree 2.50, Snow Falcon each-way @ 10/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, 1.2.3)
Aintree 3.25, Balko Des Flos @ 9/4 bet365
Aintree 4.05, Theatre Territory @ 11/1 bet365
Aintree 4.40, Ok Corral @ 11/4 bet365
All odds were correct at time of posting.