Friday, 15 April 2016

Aintree - Day 1

Day 1 of the Aintree Grand National meeting.

Overnight rain has changed the official going description to ‘soft’ on the hurdles and National courses: whilst it remains ‘good to soft’ on the Mildmay course.

It will be interesting to see how the ground rides – but I think we can be pretty confident it won’t be quick (which will be a blow for some of todays runners).

Elsewhere, I’ve spent some time working on the end of season report – but it’s still a little way off completion.
I would expect to finish it off and issue, early next week (hopefully !).

In the forum, I’ve created a thread on most of the days since the end of the TVB season – primarily to monitor eye catchers which are still running – and tips from earlier in the season.
Those of you who’ve not been following it, will be pleased to learn you’ve not missed too much – yet !!

I’d also like to thank those who have shared figures and thoughts on the end of season thread.
So far 11 people have contributed – and it’s made for very pleasing reading.

If anyone else is prepared to contribute, it will be much appreciated.
All of the input (both positive and negative) will help me mould the service for next season.
Just in case, here’s a link to the forum:

Anyway, enough of the rambling – and on to the thoughts on todays races…


1:40: This looks a strong race – and on paper, there isn’t that much between a number of the runners…
It would be a bit of a shock if Aso proved himself good enough – but he’s the only one I would feel confident about taking on.
That said, I do think there is a bet in the race, in the shape of Arzal.
The angle into him, is that he’s the only runner in the field, who didn’t compete at Cheltenham.
Instead, his connections opted to save him for this – and I hope that might make the difference.
In fairness, his form put him in with very chance, regarldess.
His last 2 outings have seen him finish just behind Vaniteux, and that one would probably have taken second place behind Douvan in the Arkle, if he’d not fallen at the penultimate fence.
As a result of that fall, Sizing John claimed the runner up spot – and there shouldn’t be much between him and Arzal, based on that.
Sizing John has been made favourite for this race on the back of that run – but he’s far from the only danger…
L’Ami Serge and Garde le Victoire both ran in the JLT at Cheltenham, with the former finishing a creditable third.
We were on him that day – and he looked likely to win when sweeping into the lead round the home turn.
However, he faded up the hill and was ultimately well beaten.
My feeling is that he had a pretty hard race and will do well to bounce back and win this.
Garde le Victoire was a faller in the JLT. In truth, his jumping style means he’s always likely to clout a fence - and even if the fall hasn’t left any scars, there would still be a concern that he might do the same again today.
Bouvreuil was another placed horse that we supported at Cheltenham.
He ran really well to finish second in the novice handicap on the day 1.
There is nothing to dislike about his chance today – just the suspicion that he won’t be quite good enough.
That may also be the case with Rock the World.
I thought he travelled particularly well in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham – and made him an official eye catcher on the back of that run.
However, he has a preference for very quick ground (which he is unlikely to get) – and I would have liked to see him running over 2 miles.
The final runner is Volnay de Thaix, and whilst he too should be outclassed, I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see him run well.
It’s unusual for Nicky Henderson to over-face his horses – so the very fact he’s running in this is interesting.
He was a high class hurdler – and whilst he lacks experience over fences, if everything did drop right, he has the natural ability to go close.
I’ve saved my stake on him at 20/1…

2:15: The first 3 home from the Triumph hurdle re-oppose in this – and I suspect they could dominate this race as well…
Ivanovich Gorbachov was a worthy winner that day – but the ground was in his favour – and the race panned out perfectly.
Obviously there is a chance that the same thing could happen today - but there is also a chance it won’t and at a shade of odds against, he represents minimal value (certainly without being sure on the state of the ground).
Apples Jade is the obvious one to take him on with.
She finished second in the Triumph – comfortably clear of the remainder – and should have no issue if the ground is soft.
Her form with Jers Girl from earlier in the season, also now looks very good.
However, I have a sneaking suspicion that Footpad might be the one…
He only finished third in the Triumph hurdle- but he was given an exaggerated waiting ride by Ruby Walsh.
My suspicion is that they didn’t go much of a pace in the Triumph, which played into the hands of the prominently ridden Apples Jade – and to slightly lesser extent, Ivanovich Gorbatov.
Certainly, if there is more pace in todays race (and I’m optimistic that Azzuri might provide some serious pace) – and if the ground is riding on the soft side – then I can see Footpad turning the table on the 2 who finished ahead of him at Cheltenham.
Of the others, then I will be a little surprised if either Diego Du Charmil or Romain De Senam, are good enough.
They finished first and second in the Fred Winter – but the form of the race is probably a fair bit below that of the Triumph.
I could see Sceau Royal running well. He was a big disappointment in the Triumph – but was sent off an 8/1 shot.
If he can recapture his form from earlier in the season, then I can see him outrunning his 20/1 odds.

2:50: As with the previous race, it’s hard to think that the winner of this will come from outside the top 3 in the betting.
In fairness, those 3 would probably have filled 3 of the first 4 places in this years Gold Cup – so we are looking at just about the best distance chasers in training…
Djakadam did best of the trio, when finishing runner up behind Don Cossack at Cheltenham – and todays softer surface will certainly suit him.
It will also suit Don Polli, who finished a never nearer third - staying on well in the closing stages.
However, those 2 Mullins horses will have their work cut out to beat Cue Card.
He’s indifferent to ground conditions – but 3 miles around Aintree is likely to suit him better than the other two.
Assuming there are no issues following his fall in the Gold Cup, he is the one to beat.
That said, he is also the favourite – and I won’t be rushing to back him at 5/4.
In truth, I can’t really see any margin in the price of the 3 markets leaders.
I guess 11/2 about Don Polli could be considered a fair EW bet – but equally, it wouldn’t be a total shock, if he finished out of the frame…
Of the outsiders, then Taquin Du Seuil is the one that appeals most.
He was slightly disappointing in the Ryanair at the festival - but that was on ground he would have found a bit too quick.
I would expect him to run better on todays softer ground – though his ability to stay 3 miles isn’t completely guaranteed.
Both Wakanda and Houblon Des Obeaux should run their races, in conditions that will suit – as too should Irish Cavalier (though he is less consistent).
All 3 are capable of getting placed, if any of the principals suffer misfortune.
That said, the placing is most likely to be a distant third…

3:25: There are only 6 runners in this – and I’m happy enough to take on a couple of them…
Court Minstrel probably isn’t good enough regardless – but he certainly won’t appreciate rain softened ground: whilst there is a very good chance that My Tent or Yours will ‘bounce’ after a huge run in the Champion hurdle, on the back of a very long absence…
Annie Power is by far the most likely winner, following her resounding victory in the Champion hurdle.
She will have no issue with either the softer ground – or extra half mile: however, she does take the odd risk at her hurdles – and no horse has an easy race when winning a championship event.
It’s difficult to argue with odds of 1/2 – but she is not completely bomb proof…
I don’t have many issues with either Nichols Canyon or The New One.
Both were put in their place by Annie Power at Cheltenham – but both will appreciate todays step up in trip and softer ground.
Ignoring Annie Power, they set a fair standard – but not an unsurpassable one…
There was a point on the lead up to Cheltenham, when I considered tipping Camping Ground for the Champion hurdle.
He had been hugely impressive when destroying Lil Rockerfella in the Relkeel hurdle at Cheltenham on New years day.
However that was over 2m4f on heavy ground – and whilst he didn’t get home the next time over 3 miles behind Thistlecrack – the drop back to 2 miles and quick ground seemed likely to present too much of a speed test.
And that is how it panned out, as he was never able to lay up in the Champion and ultimately finished well beaten.
Today he is stepped back up to 2m4f – and will face much softer ground than he did at the festival.
That should ensure he isn’t taken off his feet – in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him racing prominently.
In truth, I’ll be surprised if he is good enough to beat a peak form Annie Power (who will be receiving 7lb) – but I think he has a fair chance of getting the better of The New one and Nichols Canyon, and following her home.

4:05: This doesn’t look an easy race to find an angle in to, with the likely suspects all at the top of the market.
On the Fringe beat Pacha du Polder in this race 12 months ago – and there is a fair chance that the same thing will happen again this afternoon.
That said, there is also a chance that Pacha du Polder will reverse the form. At 9, he should be a slightly better horse than he was 12 months ago; whilst On the Fringe is now 11 – and possibly in slight decline.
Either way, you wouldn’t expect there to be much between them – something that was confirmed when they ran in the Foxhunters at the Cheltenham festival.
On the Fringe cameo out on top that day – but that was probably as much to do with jockeyship as it was ability of the respective horses.
Both horses have different riders today, so jockeyship shouldn’t be such a factor.
I would struggle to separate the pair – but 2/1 and 10/3 in a 23 runner race over the National fences, makes limited appeal…
The trouble is, the next most likely winner of the race, is third favourite, Marasonien.
In his prime, he was a very good hurdler, and is in the process of being reinvented as a hunter chaser.
His recent defeat of the formerly top class, Salsify, suggests he is already close to the top of the hunter chase tree.
8/1 on him has more appeal than shorter prices on the other two.
Of the outsiders, then I think that Monkey Kingdom has sufficient ability to run well.
He represents Rebecca Curtis and whilst the yard has been out of form for most of the season, there have been some positive recent signs.
The other one of interest at a ridiculous price, is Richmond.
He was a fair performer when  trained under rules by Venetia Williams - and will have no issue with either the ground or the distance.
He even his hunter chase form that makes his price look insulting (specifically his second to Mendip Express at Warwick).
Since the Warwick run, he has been pulled up at Haydock – but the distance was too far: and finished unplaced in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham (where he raced prominently before fading).
I can’t tip him ‘properly’ at the odds on offer – but I do think he is worth a tiny play (even officially speaking !).

4:40: I really was hopeful that I could find a compelling route into this race – but I can’t…
In fairness, the uncertainty over the ground hasn’t helped – but that’s the way it is, so I’ll just have to pass on it – officially speaking…
My initial fancies were Minella Present and Going Concern – but I think both would prefer quicker ground than they are likely to get.
Pearls Legend looks almost guaranteed to run his race – and if he was a decent EW price, I would have tipped him accordingly.
However 11/1 and only 3 places, makes the value in him limited…
I think the fast track will suit Dandridge perfectly - and I like the fact he is Davy Russells only ride of the day.
However, he has shot up the handicap following 2 very good runs and there must be a chance that he handicapper now has his measure…
Viconte Du Noyer could be the one.
He looks like he has been saved for a spring campaign, has decent novice form from last autumn – and represents a trainer I am very keen on.
If I was going to go with one in the race, it would probably be him – but it is a very open race and his price isn’t massive (8/1).

5:15: I got quite close to tipping Copper Key in this  - but I have to be realistic, it’s a mares bumper – and my knowledge of those, is limited (so I would be guessing !).
I was drawn to her, because I initially quite liked the look of Little Miss Poet.
However, she is a stablemate of Copper Key – and Dickie Johnson rides the latter.
He also rode Copper Key when she bolted up in a similar event at the Cheltenham November meeting.
On the back of that, she was made favourite for a listed mares race at Sandown.
Philip Hobbs had another fancied runner in that race, but I recall Dickie saying that he had never considered getting off Copper Key.
She ran a little disappointingly that day – but the combination of a long absence and very heavy ground, probably account for the below par run.
Certainly, the suggestion – both from her performances on the track and from Dickie - is that she is a very good mare.
As such, I would expect her to take the beating today – though I guess she could bump into one better…
If that is the case, then it is likely to be Le Bague au Roi – who is unbeaten in 3 runs and also appears to be viewed very highly.
Augusta Kate and Shattered Love both travel over form Ireland - and command plenty of respect.
Whilst Theatre Territory travelled really well on her debut behind Copper Key at Cheltenham - and I could see her possibly placing, at a big price.

Here’s hoping for a great day ahead !!


Advice Summary



Aintree 1:40 Arzal 0.375pt win 13/2
Aintree 2:15 Footpad 0.375pt win 11/2
Aintree 3:25 Camping Ground 0.125pt EW 33/1
Aintree 4:05 Richmond EW 150/1 (0.125pt staked)

Eye Catchers

Aintree 1:40 Rock the World

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