Day one of the three-day Grand National meeting is here with six races on the Mildmay course and the Foxhunters over the Grand National fences. The ground following rain earlier this week is likely to ride on the soft side of good for both tracks with the National course slightly softer. Here are my best Grand National tips on the first day of racing.
Only five line up for the first race of the three-day Aintree Grand National meeting. Run over 2m 4F the Manifesto Novices’ Chase has the big stat that 10 of the last 13 winners contested either the Arkle Chase (5) or Turners Novices’ Chase (5) at the Cheltenham Festival.
Paul Nicholl’s Stage Star has won 4 of his 5 chase starts including the Turners at Cheltenham and is the highest-rated of the quintet. He looks sure to play a hand in the finish. Saint Roi had Straw Fan Jack behind when third in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham and has obvious claims although the biggest danger to Stage Star may well come from Joseph O’Brien’s Banbridge who missed Cheltenham due to the soft ground and should appreciate the better ground here today.
A dual winner over fences and placed in Irish grade one company twice this season he comes here a fresh horse and can take the race from the Nicholls runner. Irish handler Peter Fahey completes the five with his Visionarian who looks well held on Irish Arkle form by the selection.
BANBRIDGE 2 points win @ 7/4 with William Hill
Eleven juveniles face the starter for the Jewson 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle run over 2m 209 yards of the Mildmay course. The clear form horse here is the Willie Mullins-trained Zenta. Owned by JP McManus the mare ran a cracker at Cheltenham in the Triumph Hurdle when going down by just two and a half lengths to her stable mates Lossiemouth and Gala Marceau. She had Rightsotom and Jipcot way behind her that day and those two outsiders are safely held.
Stablemates Gust Of Wind and Blood Destiny were 7 1/2L and 24L further behind and they filled the 2nd and 3rd position in a grade 2 juvenile hurdle at Fairyhouse earlier this week to give the form a boost. She’ll be hard to beat here.
Gary Moore’s Bo Zenith comes here having won the Victor Ludorum at Haydock and a small contest at Stratford in good form and should be thereabouts for the very much-in-form trainer whilst Fergal O’Brien’s Greyval is an improver who’s chasing a hat trick of wins. The Joseph O’Brien runner Nusret, who runs in the double green silks of Messrs Souede and Munir, looked good in the Adonis at Kempton last time out although on official ratings has 8lb to find with the favourite.
Willie Mullins is in as good a form now as at any time during this NH season running at a staggering 29% win ratio and his mare Zenta is the one to beat with possibly Greyval the best each-way play in the contest. 10 of the last 17 winners finished in the first three of the Triumph Hurdle whilst 9 of the past 14 winners started their racing career, like Zenta, in France so the stats are also very much in favour of Mullins’ mare.
ZENTA 2 points win @ 7/4 with BetVictor
A small but select field of six goes to post for the Aintree Bowl Chase run over 3m 210 yards. Four of the sextet ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last time and with one of the key stats here being that 25 of the last 38 winners had run in the Blue Riband contest they must be looked at closely. Bravemansgame was only run out of first place on the run-in by the smart Galopin Des Champs with, as always, his jumping a joy to behold.
6 and a half lengths back in third was Conflated who weakened on the run-in and should be suited by this flatter track as the trip at Cheltenham really does stretch his stamina whilst two horses who had no luck in the race were Ahoy Senor who fell at the 17th badly hampering the fancied A Plus Tard which put him off of his stride and effectively out of the race.
I’m a big fan of Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame but I can’t forget how flat he ran at last year’s meeting when trailing in way behind Ahoy Senor in the 3M 1F Novice Chase and so for that reason I’m reluctantly passing on him today. Lucinda Russell’s Ahoy Senor has won at this meeting the last two years (beating Bravemansgame on both occasions) and with the track likely to suit can run well.
Ga Law looks out of his depth having some 22lb to find with top-rated A Plus Tard which leaves us with Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin. A top-class two-mile chaser over the years who is now stepping up in trip to three miles for the first time under rules. He was staying on over 2M 4 1/2F in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last time looking like this trip will suit and is an intriguing runner. A cracker of a race where any bar Ga Law could win but I’ll plump for the Henry De Bromhead-trained A Plus Tard who has a tough of class about him and was just creeping into the Gold Cup when badly hampered. He’s officially the highest-rated of the six and is very classy on his day.
A PLUS TARD 1 point win @ 7/2 with bet365
Only five take on the flying machine that is Constitution Hill in this 2m 4F grade 1 Aintree Hurdle. Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old who is owned by Michael Buckley is officially rated 16lb and upwards better than his quintet of opponents here and it will be a major surprise if the Nico De Boinville-ridden gelding doesn’t win easily. He is stepping up to two and a half miles here for the first time but he’s never stronger than at the end of his two-mile contests and in fact, this intermediate trip may even suit him. He had two of today’s rivals behind him in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham with Zanahiyr (3rd, beaten 13L) and I Like To Move It (6th, 34L) safely held.
His stablemate Epatante won this last year and may have had the ground go against her at Cheltenham last time in the Mares hurdle. Both Sharjah and Sceau Royal at ten and eleven years of age look past their prime and although too short to back Constitution Hill should win this easily. A race to sit back and enjoy as I seriously believe we’re witnessing one of the all-time greats.
Next up is the twenty-eight runner Randox Foxhunters. It is run over 2m 5F 19 yards of the National course. Our resident Hunter Chase expert Darran Pearce has had an extensive look at the field and his thoughts can be seen HERE. No doubt he’ll be giving Famous Clermont a big chance as his selection at Cheltenham who travelled like a winner until his stamina gave out over 3M 2 1/2F and will appreciate this drop in trip on a flatter track
The Red Rum Handicap Chase is run over two miles of the Mildmay course and has attracted a field of fourteen. Last year’s one-two are back to challenge again with The Last Day now a pound better off with the runner-up Dancing On My Own. Both, it has to be said mind, are out of form this season and are easily overlooked. My shortlist comprises Sam Thomas’s Grey Diamond who did it well last time at Haydock and is now 7lb higher in the handicap and Lucinda Russell’s Douglas Talking.
Russell has been in excellent form this spring and her seven-year-old may still have an improvement in him. A winner of 5 of his 8 starts over the bigger obstacles he jumps very well and even a 10lb rise for his latest success at Sandown may not be enough to stop him from winning again.
DOUGLAS TALKING 2 points win @ 5/1 with bet365
A maximum bumper field of twenty faces the starter for the finale of day one of the Aintree Grand National meeting, the grade 2 Mares NH Flat race. Fergal O’Briens Dysart Enos took the scalp of the well-touted Queens Gamble in listed company at Huntingdon last time and looks a player here whilst Willie Mullins saddles two runners and any representative of his has to be taken seriously.
Jolie Coeur Allen looks the better of the pair and makes her UK debut here having finished runner-up in a bumper at Fontainebleau last September for her then French trainer. Now racing in the colours of JP McManus he’s an interesting one to watch in the market. Another Ex- French contender who his now in the care of Henry De Bromhead is July Flower. She’s won both her starts in France including a grade one contest at Fontainebleau when last seen in November.
Both of those Irish-trained mares will have to be good mind to beat the Paul Nicholls-trained Seeyouinmydreams who made a striking impression when winning at Newbury on his debut under rules (she has won an Irish point-to-point by 15L), when taking a good hold but always travelling well and sauntering home to win by an easy 11L. Trainer Nicholls was very bullish about her after that win and nominated this race for her which is always a good sign. She’s quite headstrong so I would expect her to be ridden prominently under Harry Cobden.
SEEYOUINMYDREAMS 2 points win @ 7/2 with bet365
All odds are accurate at the time of writing.
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