Day 2 of the Aintree Grand National Meeting heads our way with another six quality races on the Mildmay course plus the Topham Chase run over 2m 5F of the Grand National course. The ground remains on the soft side with the official going description calling it good to soft on both courses with soft places on the National course. Here are my thoughts on the card.
Six have declared for this 3M 1F Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase. The favourite and clearly the likeliest winner is the Gordon Elliott-trained Gerri Colombe who lost his unbeaten record when going down by the shortest of short heads to The Real Whacker at Cheltenham in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. That was a fine effort and he should confirm form with rivals Bronn (4 1/4L back in 3rd) and Galia Des Liteaux (16 1/2L, 5th).
The biggest threat to Gerri Colombe may well come from Paul Nicholls’s Complete Unknown who took a competitive 3M handicap apart at Kempton last time and a 10lb rise puts him within 7lb of the Elliott favourite today. Thomas Darby is 0 from 3 at the track and has a bit to find along with outsider Sholokjack. This should be Gerri Colombes for the taking and warrants a good bet under Davy Russell who’s replacing Jordan Gainford who’s been on board for his last three starts.
GERRI COLOMBE 2 points win @ 10/11 with Bet365
A wide-open renewal of the 2m 4F class 1 William Hill Handicap Hurdle with a maximum field of twenty-two facing the starter. 12 of the 22 were last seen contesting one of the handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival with Campround who ran 3rd in the Coral Cup maybe the best of them. He is a better horse on good ground but surprisingly coped with soft last time so is a player here despite a 5lb rise in the weights. Under the same ownership of JP McManus is Nicky Henderson’s No Ordinary Joe who ran 2nd in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham and despite a 4lb rise in the weights can be competitive here under Nico De Boinville. Just behind that day was Irish challenger Buddy One who is another possibility.
A runner that is worth keeping an eye on and one that I’m interested in is the John McConnell-trained novice Fennor Cross who enters handicaps off of a reasonable-looking mark. Last seen when outclassed in running 11th in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham where he would have been closer but for a mistake three out. His trainer stated recently that a mark of 135 ‘looks workable’ and he could well be overpriced.
Lucy Wadham’s mare Martello Sky is an outsider I want on my side as well. She’s kept decent mares company this season and has fallen 5lb surprisingly which means she’s now 3lb lower than her last handicap win which came at Cheltenham in December 2021 with the booking of Rachael Blackmore very much taking the eye. I can’t resist a small each-way wager on her with the Irish novice Fennor Cross my other play in a race where we could quite easily see an upset.
MARTELLO SKY 1 point each way @ 25/1 with Bet365 1/5th 123456
FENNOR CROSS 1 point each way @ 12/1 with Bet365 1/5th 123456
An excellent renewal of the Grade 1 Poundland Top Novices’ Hurdle run over 2M 103 yards of the Mildmay course. Fourteen will face the starter with Henry De Bromhead’s Inthepocket bringing the best piece of form to the table with his last time out fourth (beaten 6 1/4L) in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham where he had Strong Leader (9th), Tahmuras (10th) and Rare Edition (pulled up) in rear. With Rachael Blackmore on board, he has to be on one’s shortlist. I’ve always been a fan of Harry Fry’s Altobelli who’s won all three of his starts in the style of a decent performer but this is a big step up in grade and it may just find him out although I am expecting him to run well.
Gordon Elliott’s representative Found A Fifty is an improver who could be in the shake-up whilst maybe the most interesting runner is the only mare in the race in the shape of Nicky Henderson’s Luccia. She went off a warm favourite for the Mares Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham but appeared to do too much early on, racing too keen under Nico De Boinville. If Nico can settle her better she could be a player here. A tough contest with many holding chances but I’ll stick with the form book and play Inthepocket.
INTHEPOCKET 1 point each way @ 9/2 with BetVictor
The 2M 4F Marsh Chase is next up, formerly known as the Melling Chase we have a field of seven this time around. Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies has won this race for the last two years and has no doubt been trained for this. He sports first-time cheek pieces and should run well although the trainer’s race planner Kevin Blake was hardly brimming with confidence when asked about his chances earlier this week and having finished behind his main threat here Pic D’Orhy last time out looks poor value to me.
Paul Nicholls saddles a brace here in Hitman, who chased Fakir D’oudairies home in this race last year to the tune of 5 1/2L and was last seen when 3rd in the Ryanair at Cheltenham (French Dynamite 2 3/4L behind). Nicholls’ number one jockey Cobden has been in the saddle on 4 of his last 5 starts but has opted to ride Nicholls’ other runner Pic D’Orhy here who looks the one to be on. Since wind surgery before the start of this season, he’s won 3 of his 4 starts (twice in grade 2 company) prior to running runner-up to a revitalised Shishkin in the Betfair Chase at Ascot. He had Fakir D’oudairies 7L back in third that day and to these eyes should be a clear favourite. Millers Bank likes this track but was way behind the selection at Ascot whilst Minella Drama and Fugitif will need to step their form up to worry the front ones here.
PIC D’ORHY 2 points win @ 9/4 with Bet365
A maximum field of thirty chasers line up for the 2M 5F Topham Handicap Chase run over the Grand National fences. A true spectacle indeed which has been previewed in depth by my colleague Karl Hedley as he provides his best Topham Handicap Chase tips, trends, and analysis.
A decent-sized field of sixteen staying novices line up for the 3M 149 yards Sefton Novices’ Hurdle. Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle winner at Cheltenham Stay Away Fay is likely to be thereabouts for Paul Nicholls as he stays so well and that victory last time was only his third-ever run under rules so improvement can be expected. Grey Dawning is a horse I like who battled on really well when winning over 2M 5F at Warwick last time and this trip looks ideal for Dan Skelton’s six-year-old.
Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero have had a terrific season including winning the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham with Iroko and he’s back today under the owner’s retained Irish jockey Mark Walsh although he does have to prove his stamina here stepping up half a mile. Official ratings have him just 4lb behind the top-rated Stay Away Fay. Donald McCain’s Maximilian must also get a mention here as he beat Stay Away Fay a length at Doncaster in the River Don in January and can be competitive.
The one I like though is the Irish challenger Absolute Notions who missed Cheltenham to wait for this and Gordon Elliott’s patience can pay off here with Davy Russell in the saddle. He appears to be crying out for this trip of three miles having been placed in grade 2 and 1 company notably last time out when runner-up to Good Land at the Dublin Racing Festival in February with Sandor Clegane 2 3/4L behind that day. That one subsequently ran Stay Away Fay to 1 1/4L at Cheltenham suggesting, on a tentative form line agreed, that Absolute Notions is a better horse than Stay Away Fay. With the extra trip likely to suit he’s a strong fancy.
ABSOLUTE NOTIONS 2 points win @ 7/2 with Bet365
A maximum field of 22 completes day 2 of the Aintree Grand National meeting in a 2m 103-yard conditional jockeys’ and amateur riders’ class 2 handicap hurdle. A wide-open contest with Charlie Longsdon’s Parramount heading my shortlist. He massively impressed me when running away with a valuable handicap hurdle at Fakenham last month, scooting home to win by 13L from Swaffham Bulbeck who’s come out since and won a modest race himself by 14L. He’s been raised 10lb for that success but that is reduced by 7lb by the claim of Bradley Roberts who’s good value for the claim having won 12 of his 50 rides including 4 of his last 6.
There are obviously many dangers including Joe Tizzard’s JPR One and Olly Murphy’s trio of Washington (3rd last year off of a 3lb higher mark), Ukantango and Go Dante who maybe the pick of the three with the booking of Jamie Codd looking eye-catching. Novice Densworth trained by Ben Pauling and ridden by Luca Morgan could also be well handicapped in his first handicap following novice hurdle wins at Southwell and Newcastle and is another possibility. Plenty of others have chances but Parramount is an improving seven-year-old who has conditions to suit and is ridden by an up-and-coming conditional jockey in Bradley Roberts.
PARRAMOUNT 1 1/2 points each way @ 10/1 with Bet365 1/5th 12345
All odds are available at the time of writing.
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