Our racing expert gives his verdict on the five Aintree races being shown live on ITV.
2:20 2m1f (2m209y) Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo)
If the betting can be believed, this is between the Nicky Henderson-trained pair of We Have A Dream and Apple’s Shakira, with bet365 going 15/8 and 2/1 respectively. The latter horse has won four on the spin and has the fresher legs, having missed the Cheltenham Festival due to a setback, whereas his stablemate was a disappointing fourth as favourite in the Triumph Hurdle 27 days ago. Connections blamed that defeat on her reluctance to settle and are reaching for a hood, but even so she makes little appeal at current odds. Nor am I interested in taking a skinny price on We Have A Dream, whose form has hardly been franked, and I smell an upset.
Paul Nicholls’ Malaya is next in the betting and she has to be be respected, having chased home Redicean in a Grade 2 at Kempton before going one better at Ascot last time. She seems to be improving and that is because she is now settling better and simply ran too free when beaten into second here in December, having looked all over the winner turning in before running out of puff.
She’s tempting at around 8/1 but I’m going to take a flyer instead on French raider BEAU GOSSE at bet365’s 16/1. While he could only finish third in the aforementioned Kempton race, he would have found the ground too lively as he’s done all his winning (three times in all) on a very soft surface. He’s owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, who are also represented by We Have A Dream, and I can’t believe Guillaume Macaire and James Reveley (a rare visitor to the UK these days) are just coming over to keep that one company.
2:50 3m1f (3m210y) (Mildmay) Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)
There are so many reasons to take on the odds-on favourite Might Bite and not least the fact he had a hard race when second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Granted, he has had 27 days to get over that, which is a whole week longer than the corresponding gap last year, but he still finished cream-crackered in the testing conditions and it’s asking him a lot to peak again for this, while he could also have done with better ground.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit even money before the off, but I’d still want to swerve him and would much rather have small interest on last year’s winner TEA FOR TWO. You can ignore his last two runs at Cheltenham – he was never a factor in the Gold Cup after an early mistake and wasn’t given a hard time – as he is best on flatter tracks like this, with his King George third further evidence of that. He has three lengths to find with Might Bite on that running and I’m hopeful of that for the reasons already given, with his bet365 price tag of 14/1 meaning we can back him each-way.
Double Shuffle finished just in front of the selection in the King George and is worth considering, as is the sixth horse home Bristol De Mai. Sent off a solid 3/1 second favourite, he really should have done better and at the time I was inclined to blame the right-handed track as he had done most of his winning going the other way round. But he didn’t run much better on his next outing in the Cotswold Chase, when he had his conditions, and it could be that he was struggling to breathe properly as he’s undergone wind surgery since. If that has done the trick, he will be a threat to all.
3:25 2m4f Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)
This is a fairly weak renewal and at first glance it looks a golden opportunity for Stayers’ Hurdle runner-up SUPASUNDAE to go one better. Dropping back half a mile is certainly in his favour as he was simply outstayed by Penhill at Cheltenham and is not short of speed, having lowered the colours of Faugheen in the 2m Irish Champion Hurdle previously. Indeed, this could be his ideal trip and having had the extra week off to recover from his exertions, it’s going to take a big performance from one of his eight rivals to stop him.
The New One will be doing his best, as he always does in this race – second, first, fell and third in four attempts – and he too didn’t stay 3m at Cheltenham. But a bigger threat to the favourite looks to be My Tent Or Yours, who has finished second in the last two runnings behind Annie Power and Buveur D’Air. It can be argued that he was ridden for a place on each occasion, but the difference this year is that he was forced to skip Cheltenham due to a setback and he always goes best fresh. However, the form of Supasundae is hard to ignore and, as I think it’s more likely he’ll win than lose, I’m all over Unibet’s 11/10.
4:05 2m5f (2m5f19y) (Grand National) Randox Health Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 2) (6yo+)
The form of the Cheltenham version of this race is represented by Grand Vision and Balnaslow, who finished sixth and seventh respectively, while Wonderful Charm is surely better than he showed there (pulled up after a negative ride) and now has the services of Sam Waley-Cohen, whose record over these fences is phenomenal.
That trio all look beatable again, however, and I’d rather take a chance on BARRAKILLA at the 12/1 on offer at bet365, who are one quarter the odds instead of the standard fifth. A decent handicap chaser when with Evan Williams, he landed a gamble for his new connections when reappearing after two years off in a hunters’ chase at Bangor in February. He could only finish second in a three-runner affair he was expected to win on his next outing, but he quite possibly ‘bounced’ on what was his second run back after a long layoff and will have been freshened since by his trainer Fergal O’Brien.
He should give Zac Baker a great ride and his blue silks will be familiar to many of you as his owners, the Ruckers, have enjoyed plenty of success over these fences down the years, with State Of Play, Cappa Bleu and Alvarado all placed in the Grand National.
4:40 2m (1m7f176y) (Mildmay) Zut Media Red Rum Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5yo+)
This is sure to be run at a helter-skelter gallop and that is again likely to bring out the best in Theinval, who was second in this last year off a 3lb lower mark and is coming off a fine fourth in the Grand Annual, another strongly-run 2m handicap. He has to be near the top of any shortlist along with Tommy Silver, who has taken well to fences and is another who will be suited by the way this race is run.
However, I’m going to give another chance to David Pipe’s KING’S SOCKS on what is just his third British start. His first at Kempton was promising enough but that was clearly a prep for Cheltenham and I’m convinced he would have won the Festival Plate (2m5f) on better ground. He travelled well for much of that race and was still going strongly two out, only to run out of steam after the last and finish fifth. The ground won’t be that much better for him here, but the drop back in trip compensates for that and he looks well handicapped on a mark of 140 based on some seriously good French form, including a second to Footpad. Of course, none of that has been lost on bookmakers and bet365’s 9/2 is the best available, but I’m not going to turn my nose up at that.
Aintree 2.20, Beau Gosse each-way @ 16/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, 1.2.3)
Aintree, 2.50, Tea For Two each-way @ 14/1 bet365
Aintree 3.25, Supasundae @ 11/10 Unibet
Aintree 4.05, Barrakilla each-way @ 12/1 bet365
Aintree 4.40, King’s Socks @ 9/2 bet365
All odds were correct at time of posting.