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12th April 2012, 10:01pm

Aintree Betting: Darlan respected but opposed at short odds in Friday opener

Aintree 2.00pm – Grade 2 Novices Hurdle – 2m 110yds

Darlan heads here after a fine 2nd in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham and is currently a 6-4 favourite with William Hill. It wasn’t beaten far and had previously looked a smart sort when falling late on against Zarkandar at Newbury. McCoy once again takes to the saddle for this Henderson trained horse and these famous gold and green hoops were a success at Cheltenham in several races. It is the top rated on 148 and should be involved at the finish but looks short enough at 6-4.

Prospect Wells can be expected to go better on this flatter track and it was a group 2 and listed winner on the flat before going hurdling. Nicholls has started the week in fair form and can be expected to be visiting the winners enclosure again this week. His horses had been in poor form just before Cheltenham and it could be that any problems within the yard have passed and we will see the true form of his horses this week. Expect to see this held up and delivered late by Ruby Walsh.

Agent Archie led the way at Cheltenham for most of the race but then weakened and dropped away, finishing 12th in the Supreme Novices and was beaten just over 16 lengths. It had used these tactics to good effect in a maiden hurdle and a novice hurdle but could not get away with them in a better class race. It also raced prominently on the flat and managed 4 wins from 9 races and is 2 from 3 over hurdles. Jason Maguire takes over from Henry Brooke and should be able to judge the pace better. I can see this running a big race at a big price.

Captain Conan is already a grade 1 hurdle winner but has been beaten on its last 2 starts and looks like we will see its potential next season over fences. Geraghty takes the ride for Henderson and was on board for the grade 1 win when finishing in front of Colour Squadron and Prospect Wells. Its last 2 races were over 18f and it takes a slight drop in trip here.

Oscara Dara is another Henderson runner and David Bass takes the ride. It is 7 years old but only has 3 starts and has recorded 2 wins and a 2nd place. Bass was on board last time out in a class 4 novice hurdle and he steered it home for a very impressive 20 length win. Although it looks the 3rd choice of the Henderso runners it certainly looks progressive and is both lightly raced and inexperienced, depending on how you interpret the 3 career starts.

Vulcanite progressed through handicaps on the flat and won 4 in a row at class 4 to class 2 level. It was also a close 3rd in a listed race at Pontefract but went backwards from July to October. It was 2nd to Tetlami at Christmas and that one was poor at Cheltenham. It has a 7 length win over Spiekeroog and a 9 length defeat to Montbazon and finished 10th in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the festival. It looked like it would throw down a challenge to the winner but faded badly and was beaten 14 ½ lengths.

Right Step has had 1 start over hurdles and won at Kempton in March. It has a series of 2nd places in class 2 handicaps on various grounds from good to firm and good to soft. Aintree was always the plan and it comes here fresh, having avoided the festival. It steps up from novice company to grade 2 class here but is potentially a smart sort.

The other runners vary from 20-1 to 100-1 and the most likely of those to spring a shock would be Theatre Guide, a 20-1 chance that won a class 4 novice hurdle last time out.

Keep a close eye on Agent Archie before the race as it sweated badly at Cheltenham. It would be interesting to see if they took it to the start early or tried ear plugs on the horse to keep it calm in the parade ring.


1pt EW – Agent Archie 20-1 Stan James

1pt EW – Right Step 12-1Boylesports


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