Photo by Fran (@Riosrider2)
Day one of the Aintree festival. Usually it pays to side with horses who have swerved Cheltenham, however this year we've had a slightly longer break between the two. Whatever happens over the next few days I'm sure we're in for a right treat, there are some great races to watch and a few tricky handicaps to try and solve. We of course then have the biggest puzzle of them all – The Grand National! My record in the big one just isnt great, the last time I won I think I was eight! I'm now 35!!! However, I have an antepost ticket on MON PARRAIN at 50-1 after he won for the blog on New Year's Day. I'm chuffed the ground will be on the better side for him and also chuffed that Sean Bowen rides. He has a great chance and I reckon he'll run a cracking race! I'll probably pick another couple but haven't made my mind up yet!
Here are my selections for Day One. Good luck with whatever you back and I hope you win!
Manifesto Novices Chase 1340
A small but distinct field and a few with obvious chances. The main one is VIBRATO VALTAT who should have been UN DE SCEAUX's main rival in the Arkle, but he never ran a true race. I'm not sure whether he will get this trip? JOSSES HILL has flattered to deceive this year and I don't think his jumping will hold up. I'm opting for CLARCAM (WON 5-1), he may also not get the trip but I prefer his chances with Ruby on board. He was put in his place in the Arkle too but he really caught my eye in the Fred Winter last year and was unlucky when falling. He has had a couple of solid runs this year and doesn't have either VAUTOUR or UN DE SCEAUX to overcome.
Betfred Juvenile Hurdle 1415
HARGAM will be a short priced favourite for this based on his third in the Triumph. The Nicholls pair really don't do it for me. I'm opting for INTENSE TANGO (unplaced). She struggled against her male counterparts last time but she comes here fresh and will enjoy the better ground. Her weight allowance may also support her speed at these weights and help her overcome her rivals this time. She looked a decent horse when putting PASS THE TIME and ANIFILET in their place at Doncaster.
Betfred Bowl Chase 1450
HOLYWELL (nb) (3rd – 5-2) was my tip for the Gold Cup and is my tip here. He ran a cracker at Cheltenham and it was a shame the ground swung to the soft side that day as I really thought he would win the race. SILVINIACO CONTI misfired that day and on this ground I can't see him reversing placings with my tip. MA FILLEULE is a tough mare and she will be there at the finish. HOLYWELL has the class, the jumping ability and the ground to beat all his rivals.
Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle 1525
JEZKI comes here with a real chance of giving the champ another victory in his swansong. ARCTIC FIRE has been ultra-consistent this year too and must have a decent chance. However, I have to opt for my old favourite ROCK ON RUBY (2nd 7-2) though. He missed the festival and will be fresh. Despite being 10 years old he can still mix it with the young guns. He has a good record here and produces good efforts on better ground. I think he'll battle up the finishing straight with the other two above and his heart will bring him out on top.
Crabbies Fox Hunters Chase 1605
Only one horse here for me. PACHA DU POLDER (nap) (2nd 7-1) is a horse I always followed and has made a brilliant start in this sphere. My selection improves so much on better ground and I'm expecting a big run tomorrow. He started out this year being beaten by TEAFORTHREE on soft ground and he then won easily on good ground at Ludlow. He's a nice mover and a smart jumper. He is closely matched with BIG FELLA THANKS on old form and I expect both of them to be fighting it out up the finish.
Betfred Red Rum Chase 1640
CLARET CLOAK will enjoy the better ground and ran well last time behind ULCK DU LIN at Ascot. He runs well fresh but 11st 12lbs is a lot to carry in this. Even a 5lb taken off by Sean Bowen may not be enough. BABY MIX fascinates me; he's been off for a while and was a smart hurdler on good ground. With this break to overcome and a return to form needed he may not do it, but he's well treated on his old form. I'm opting for TED VEALE (treble) (unplaced) he's down to his last winning mark of OR141, which he's won twice at. He has got a nice weight and has good form when the ground is better. He also has a strong form line through CLARCAM and I think he'll run a big race!
Injured Jockeys Fund Handicap Hurdle 1715
The last race on day one and it's a cracker to try and solve! DALAWAN is smart yet disappointed last time behind CALL THE COPS, can he recapture his form? CALL THE COPS has been raised another 7lbs for that win and I think he's handicapped to the max now. LAC FONTANA could really improve for the extra distance amd is worth a saver! UNIQUE DE COTTE and my old favourite JOIN THE CLAN deserve praise and should run well. Now this is where I get silly! I have followed KATGARY (unplaced) all year based on his efforts last season and I was and still am convinced he's a smart horse. Good ground I'm sure is key and with a little bit of confidence back in him for winning in a lower class last time I think he'll run well. He is carrying a stone less than he did last time too. My advice here, ignore me, I'd go over the White Cliffs for this one!!