The final day of three of the Grand National meeting of 2023 and it’s time for the big one with the forty-runner Grand National due off at 17:15. The ground is likely to ride on the slow side with the official call as good to soft on the Mildmay course and good to soft (soft in places) on the National course. There’s some fine racing to support the big race and here’s my look at the day’s racing.
With the likely absence of Banbridge, we only have five runners for today’s opener and a very warm favourite in the shape of Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon. The grade 1 Maghull Novices’ Chase should be going the way of the Seven Barrows-based favourite. He’s head and shoulders above his opponents on form and will be at very tight odds.
JP McManus’s seven-year-old won three novice chases en route to finishing runner-up in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham to Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo. His main opponent today is Laura Morgan’s Notlongtillmay who himself ran a stormer at Cheltenham in finishing runner-up in the Turners Novices’ Chase. That puts him within 7lb of the favourite but it will be a big surprise if Jonbon doesn’t win well here under regular rider Aidan Coleman.
Too short to back but one for accumulative bets if that’s the way you want to go.
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A bumper maximum field of twenty-two runners assembles for this valuable 3M class 1 handicap hurdle. Tony Martin’s top weight Good Time Jonny ran out a cosy winner of the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Final at Cheltenham having four of these behind him and if none the worse for that effort 30 days ago, under just a 5lb rise, should be competitive again today with Liam McKenna claiming 5lb retaining the ride. Mill Green was back in 3rd at Cheltenham and also filled that same place in this last year. Nicky Henderson’s charge would hold each-way claims but is the oldest in the field here and surely will have no improvement to come.
Paul Nicholls’ Outlaw Peter is an interesting runner now stepping back up to three miles. The stable are in good form and he should be competitive here. The Skelton’s West Balboa hasn’t been seen since winning the Lanzarote at Kempton in February under Bridget Andrews and is trying three miles for the first time, another with a chance.
Last year’s victor Party Business is back to defend his title off of a 5lb higher mark and shouldn’t be ruled out also. A wide-open and competitive renewal with maybe the top weight Good Time Jonny still a bit ahead of the handicapper and I’ll chance him.
GOOD TIME JONNY 1 point each way @ 13/2 1/5th 12345 with William Hill
The grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle is up next and has attracted fifteen useful novices. It may be worth giving Paul Nicholls’s promising six-year-old Hermes Allen another chance after flopping at Cheltenham 31 days ago. He was a well-backed favourite for the Ballymore that day but was soundly beaten back in 6th place some 21L behind the winner Impaire Et Passe. His trainer said he thought the horse was unsuited by the tacky soft ground that day. He looked like a horse with immense talent when cantering through the mud to beat You Wear It Well (Cheltenham Festival winner since and re-opposes today) at Newbury in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury on New Year’s Eve.
He’s taking on some useful novices here as one would expect including the Willie Mullins-trained Dark Raven who runs in the double green silks of Munir and Souede. He was a fine 6th in the Supreme at Cheltenham and is stepping up in distance today. Only 2lb officially behind Hermes Allen is one of the two Gordon Elliott runners, Irish Point. He stayed away from Cheltenham but is a definite player on his best form. If Hermes Allen was coming here straight from his Newbury win he would be pretty short so let’s forgive his one moderate effort and back him to bounce back under Harry Cobden
HERMES ALLEN 1 point win @ 4/1 with BetVictor
Next up is the 3M 149 yards Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle where we have ten runners facing the starter. This year’s crop of staying hurdlers seem much of a muchness with just under four lengths covering the first five home in the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham last month with Sire Du Berlais a shock 33/1 winner from Dashel Drasher (beaten 3/4L) with Flooring Porter (3 1/2L) and Home By The Lee (3 3/4L) close up behind. Sire Du Berlais also took this prize a year ago at 16/1 and has to be a serious contender again this time around for Gordon Elliott and JP McManus.
In the same ownership is Nicky Henderson’s Champ who missed Cheltenham and as one who has a very good record fresh has to be taken very seriously although he was very disappointing in this contest last year having run at Cheltenham previously. I expect a better run from him this time around coming here a fresher horse.
Henderson also has a major player in the only mare in the field in Marie’s Rock whose connections skipped the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham to run instead in the Mares Hurdle where in a race where there was no early pace took a keen hold and ended up well beaten. She’s stepping up in distance to three miles for the first time today and that may well bring about improvement. She receives the valuable 7lb mares allowance and I’ll take her to take this competitive hurdle contest with a small saver on Henderson’s other runner Champ.
MARIE’S ROCK 1 point win @ 4/1 with William Hill
CHAMP 1/2 point win 8/1 with Bet365
Fifteen face the starter for this valuable class 1 3m 1F William Hill Handicap Chase. It actually doesn’t look as strong as in previous years with four horses racing from out of the handicap. Karl Philippe ran ok at Cheltenham in the Ultima and steps up in trip here which may suit Harry Redknapp’s gelding. Others in which a chance include the first-time tongue-tied Skelton runner Midnight River who was a bit disappointing at Cheltenham and still has the stamina to prove likewise Gary Moore’s Nassalam.
One horse I do like is the prolific winner Kinondo Kwetu trained by Sam England and who ran up a sequence of six victories last year rising some 32lb in the process. Following a break he re-appeared in the three-runner Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot in February where he was bitterly disappointing finishing a well-beaten last of three. He’s better than that and the fact that he’s had a wind operation and races with his tongue tied down here points to the fact that something wind related was probably the issue at Ascot. He’s won on this Mildmay course before and I’ll chance him here each way with enhanced places.
KINONDO KWETU 1 point each way @ 12/1 with Betfred 1/5th 1234
The big one. This year’s Grand National looks as open as ever and my original ante-post fancy The Big Dog still stands as having a decent each-way chance as an out-and-out stayer. Last year’s third Delta Work also makes my shortlist having won the X-Country at Cheltenham last time out. The third member of my staking plan rests with Irish challenger Vanillier who ran so well last time. For a fully comprehensive look at every runner check out my Grand National preview.
The final race of the exhilarating three-day Grand National Festival is the twenty-runner 2M 209 yards Grade 2 NH Flat Race. A tough contest with plenty of promising young horses on show. The level is set by the Willie Mullins-trained Captain Cody who ran a fine 6th in the Cheltenham bumper (Fiercely Proud well held). Mullins also saddles Blizzard Of Oz for Messrs Souede and Munir who will be ridden by Patrick Mullins following his Cork win last month.
Paul Nicholls has had a blinding season with his bumper horses and his representative here Centara is of interest. He scooted up on his racecourse debut winning by 5L at Taunton and could be useful. Harry Cobden takes the ride. Gordon Elliott sets a poser by saddling a brace of promising unbeaten geldings in the four-year-old Samui who won at Naas in February and Pour Les Filles a winner of an Irish point-to-point as well as a Leopardstown bumper on Boxing Day.
The race looks wide-open with so many unknowns and I suggest stakes be kept to a minimum with maybe a small each-way bet on one of the Elliott runners in Pour Les Filles.
POURLES FILLES 1 point each way @ 15/2 1/5th 1234 with 888 Sport
All odds are accurate at the time of writing.
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