Well, what a start! Obviously finding four forecasts from three selections per race (including a 66/1 second, returned 33/1) and a 66/1 winner (returned 50/1) is going to be as close to impossible as doesn't matter.
In fact, the chances of another 50/1 winner anywhere on the Aintree card over the next two days remains remote, let alone pinpointing it! So, I'm afraid, if you missed yesterday's then you might be too late.
And, for information purposes, I'm gutted to say that I didn't back Follow The Plan. I was invested on Nacarat and Burton Port, a fact that intensified my annoyance as the latter was second. Especially as I generally always back my lively rags for a couple of quid. Hmm...
In any case, onwards and downwards. I'm pleased to have swerved the handicaps which, while some will have found the winners with ease (a favourite and a Festival winner), I'd have bet against both. In truth, they were both impressive.
Gwanako coming down and Al Ferof being bottomed by the Ascot and Cheltenham runs (I suspect) meant I finished down one a loser. So it's comeback time! Let's get to it.
2.00 Aintree - TANGLE TEASER TOP NOVICES´ HURDLE GRADE 2
A very good two mile novice hurdle to get us going, and the second, fifth, tenth and twelfth from the Supreme rejoin battle here. This is a race where the best horse (on official ratings) generally doesn't win.
That's bad news for Darlan, who ran a blinder at Cheltenham, but has been on the go for quite a long time now. That said, Straw Bear took silver at Cheltenham and gold in this back in 2006 for the same connections. Darlan can win of course, but I won't be rushing in at 6/4 or thereabouts.
In fact, in the last fifteen years, six beaten horses from the Supreme Novices Hurdle have won here (from 42 to try), and their Supreme form figures were 24362U.
With that in mind, the only two I'd be interested in from the CheltFest opener would be Darlan and Prospect Wells. The latter had had a rest prior to the Supreme and comes here a fresher horse at a bigger price, for being beaten just a length by Darlan, and a best priced 4/1 seems fair enough.
But then the stats would point to a younger horse winning. Prospect Wells (and also Oscara Dara) is seven. Horses aged seven and up are one from 28 in the last fifteen years, and the strong percentage play is to go with younger, (generally) quicker rivals.
It's instructive to note that nine of the last fifteen winners of this didn't run at Cheltenham. The best of these, and of each way interest today, could well be Captain Conan. Sure, he's a bit of a monkey, as he showed when turned over after hanging quite badly at Kelso last time. But he's also capable, and comes here fresh.
One other worthy of mentioning is decent flat horse, Right Step. Rated as high as 100 on the level, he made his hurdling debut just 27 days ago, and a very taking first run it was too.
Held up well off a decent lick, he came with a very well timed run to gun down a 110 rated horse, with a 118 rated horse eight lengths back. Clearly, that gives him plenty to find. But he took well to hurdles there, and there's a good likelihood of significant improvement in a race that should be run to suit.
A quick word about the other two vanquished Supreme horses, Agent Archie and Vulcanite. The former is trained by the hugely respected Donald McCain, and could get an easy lead here, which would give him place prospects.
As for the latter, well, he was something of a dark hope for me at Cheltenham, and travelled brilliantly until blowing up/something going amiss. I'll be against him today, but it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if he runs very well on this flatter track and in this smaller field.
It's tricky because of my proclivity to oppose Darlan, who could easily win, so stakes will be small here and I'll definitely include the fav on the placepot.
Selection: Captain Conan 12/1
Next best: Darlan 6/4
Interesting outsider: Right Step 12/1
Aintree 2.30 - JOHN SMITH´S MILDMAY NOVICES´ CHASE GRADE 2
A small field for a decent pot, and decent prize money. The champion trainer battle sub-plot is in full effect here, with Pumpkin (Paul Nicholls) and The Chemist (Nicky Henderson) entering three of the five starters.
In truth, all of that trio, and the talented Yes Tom have questions to answer today.
Silviniaco Conti stopped quickly last time in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown, having previously finished second in the Grade 1 Feltham. The Feltham run would see him go very close, but the Reynoldstown run gives him plenty to find. At 7/4, I'm not prepared to bet that the 'right' Silvi will show up this afternoon.
Join Together, the other of the Nicholls pair, was striking in the extreme when jumping like a buck and making all at the Cheltenham December meeting. It was little surprise that he blew up when attempting to repeat the feat in the RSA Chase after over three months off the track. He'll be fitter and fresher here, and has a good chance. Certainly, I'd be more inclined to back JT at 5/1 than SC at 7/4.
Hendo's Solix was beaten by Champion Court in December at Cheltenham, before running ok behind Sir Des Champs at the Festival. He'd have a bit to find to reverse placings, and I'm not sure that he's as good as some of these.
Also, it should be said that - with the exception of Burton Port - the Henderson battalion ran appallingly on day one. They were all primed for Cheltenham, and perhaps the master of Seven Barrows has run out of his magic potion...!
The one I like here, if Cheltenham hasn't knackered him, is Champion Court. He wants to run from the front, so will likely have Join Together for company, but he's tough and he stays, and he has a touch a class too.
A clear cut second to Sir Des Champs is the best piece of form on show here. And, whilst he was no match for that one, he put nine lengths and more between himself and the rest that day. The rest included a Grade 1 winner, For Non Stop.
Yes Tom is quirky. He's probably a bit below this class too. And he jumps sketchily sometimes. But he's talented as well as all that. In a race where they may not all get round, he could nick place money at a price.
Selection: Champion Court 9/4
Next best: Join Together 5/1
Interesting outsider: Yes Tom 25/1
3.05 Aintree - JOHN SMITH´S MELLING CHASE GRADE 1
The Grade 1 Melling Chase is one of the feature races of the afternoon, and it has a high class roll of honour, including Master Minded, Albertas Run and Voy Por Ustedes (twice) in the last four years.
It's rarely a shock result, and this year is unlikely to change that trend. However, that still doesn't make it much of a punting proposition for me. You see, the contest is full of talented monkeys, many of which could win if putting best hoof forward.
Take Kauto Stone for instance. Or Wishfull Thinking. Or Forpadydeplasterer. Or Kalahari King.
OK, let's get to the facts: a top three finish last time was achieved by twelve of the last fifteen winners; horses aged eight to ten have won thirteen of the last fifteen; horses either without a UK rating or rated 160+ have won all fifteen; six favourites and four second favourites have won in that time.
Oh, and twelve of the last fifteen winners - and all bar 2006 champ, Hi Cloy, since 1999 - ran at Cheltenham's Festival in March. Three of the ten Cheltenham Festival winners to run here doubled up... which means seven of them didn't!
What does this all mean? I'm not really sure, except to say that the percentage call is to side with the first two in the betting. Finian's Rainbow, the jolly, had a hard race last time and I'm far from certain he stays the extra half mile of this contest, plus he will have been trained for the last day.
Albertas Run, second market choice, won this two years ago and was second to a resurgent Master Minded last year. He's 11/4 from 10/3, and looks the answer to this particular conundrum, despite perhaps being a bit long in the tooth now at eleven (though Moscow Flyer scored for this age bracket in 2005).
As I've said, a case of sorts can be made for a few of the longer priced horses, but guessing which one will consent to run its race today is akin to playing the lottery. So what better nomination that Wishfull Thinking? The horse at the centre of the 'bashed French photographer' storm when falling in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, this longer trip is right up his street, and when he wins here, it will vindicate my decision to back the horse for the Ryanair Chase, in which he didn't run!
The Irish have a good record in this race, and one old lag who might just have a last hurrah at a price, is Forpadydeplasterer. He's run some decent races this season, but a record of eleven second place finishes in eighteen chase starts tells its own story... In fairness, that record also shows he's been in the first three in fifteen of eighteen chase starts, so at 20/1 each way, you might get paid on the place.
Selection: Albertas Run 11/4
Next best: Wishfull Thinking 10/1
Interesting outsider: Forpadydeplasterer 20/1
3.40 Aintree - JOHN SMITH´S TOPHAM CHASE HANDICAP (GRADE 3)
Ah, the Topham Chase. More truncated Grand National action. At least today, we have the (cold?) comfort of professional jockeys steering the nags over the verdant foliage of Britain's second quirkiest track (Cheltenham cross country, in case you were wondering about the quirkiest).
It's a decent trends race, but a handicap nevertheless, so stakes on the thin side in this quarter.
First, a trainer trend. Peter Bowen has won three of the last five Topham's, including the last two with Always Waining. He's got his conditions again today, and must have a squeak, despite lugging more weight and being a year older.
In the last fifteen years, the story is thus:
- Ten winners were placed 1-2-3-4 last time out
- Two 5yo's have won, and one 7yo. But the other twelve winners were aged eight to ten
- Thirteen winners were officially rated 124 to 141 (the outliers were 115 and 116)
- Ten winners were officially rated in the bracket of 124 to 133
- All fifteen winners had run in the last sixty days and thirteen of them in the last thirty days
- Seven Topham winners ran at the Cheltenham Festival (from 104 runners)
- Seven winners had previously run at Aintree, four had previously placed at Aintree, and two had previously won at Aintree
So, we're looking for a horse rated 124-141 or thereabouts; placed last time out; probably aged eight to ten; and ran in the last thirty days.
Bonus points will be awarded for those with track form.
Those with the best profiles then are Paradis De Thaix, Aimigayle, Fabalu, and Douglas Julian.
Perhaps the most interesting is Fabalu, trained by Grand National-winning trainer, Donald McCain. He's a relatively lightly raced ten year old, in good form at the moment, with a second in an Aintree bumper in the back catalogue. He's won off 136 in the past, prior to an injury which kept him out for eighteen months, and I'm pretty sure this has been the plan for him. 16/1 looks good.
Aimigayle fell in the National at the second fence, but has at least seen the ferny beasts before. She's also in good form and on a winning mark.
Irish raider Paradis de Thaix likes to be up with the pace, and has won in a big field. Trainer Jessica Harrington knows what she's doing all right, and this one could run a big race for the Irish. Whilst they haven't won it since 2005, the raiding party has been third last year and second in the two previous renewals.
Douglas Julian probably wants it softer, and looks a bit high in the weights too.
Selection: Fabalu 16/1
Next best: Paradis de Thaix 25/1, Aimigayle 16/1
Interesting outsider: Always Waining 12/1
4.15 Aintree - JOHN SMITH´S SEFTON NOVICES´ HURDLE GRADE 1
Yet another Grade 1, and this might be the weakest of all the Grade 1's in Britain. With respect to connections of the likes of Saint Are, Ogee, Pettifour and Asian Maze, they're hardly top drawer racers.
In any case, it's a race that either throws up a surprise or goes to the favourite, so let's see if we can hit the jackpot!
Actually, first, let's deal with the favourite, a certain Fingal Bay. Remember him? He was THE staying hurdler to follow before injury intervened. He's been off the track for 104 days, and fitness is taken on trust, but he'd be a mile clear of these on form.
Seeing as he's been very well supported into 6/4, it's reasonable to assume he's ready to do the bizzo, and I think he's by far the most likely winner.
Of the rest, much has been inferred from Cotton Mill's recalcitrant run out last time, and I'm not as convinced as many that he had so much left in the tank. Horses who do generally run straight, rather than straight through the wing of a hurdle! 5/1 is of no interest to me whatsoever.
Seven Sefton winners came from the Cheltenham Festival (from 76 runners), and six of those were in the first four in that previous run. Consequently, I'm inclined to overlook the chances of the aforementioned Cotton Mill (unseated), Nagpur (6th), Poole Master (17th), and Ipsos de Berlais (pulled up).
I am however interested in the prospects of Alan King's Lovcen, who ran a great race behind Brindisi Breeze, Boston Bob and Grand Vision in the potato race (Albert Bartlett). Barring a fall early in a Grade 2 at Donny, he's looked highly progressive, and his last run was his best.
He might give the jolly most to think about here, and 14/1 is a decent enough price if there are any chinks in the fitness armour of Fingal Bay.
But the last four winners skipped the Cheltenham Festival, but still ran in the previous 40 days or so, so our search is not yet complete. Ignoring the chances of a few (Gullinbursti, Ballyrock) who could run close might be reckless, but we've got to do that if we're chasing rainbows.
So, with rainbows aforethought, two at big prices who could run into the mix are Makethe Mostofnow and Forgotten Gold. The former has been winning easily around the similar course constitution of Ffos Las, albeit on slightly softer ground and in considerably softer company.
The latter has run into some good ones at Cheltenham, outside of the Festival, and might appreciate this less testing course. He's trained by the excellent Tom George, and is worth 50p e/w.
Selection: Fingal Bay 6/4
Next best: Lovcen 14/1
Interesting outsiders: Makethe Mostofnow 33/1, Forgotten Gold 50/1
4.50 Aintree - JOHN SMITH´S DAILY MIRROR PUNTERS CLUB HANDICAP HURDLE (LISTED RACE)
As you might guess, you're on your own here. It's A Gimme has a good chance, but I wouldn't back it at the price. And Attaglance would achieve a memorable double double for trainer Malcolm Jefferson if he could win here as well as at Cheltenham, like stablemate Cape Tribulation did yesterday.
Oh, and Ski Sunday is a horse who owes me and Gavin, after running off the course at Cheltenham last time. I'll be having half a crown each way on him for old times' sake.
Frankly, I haven't a clue.
5.25 Aintree - JOHN SMITH´S MARES´ STANDARD OPEN NATIONAL HUNT FLAT RACE (LISTED RACE)
Three 20/1 + winners in the last four years make this an interesting small stakes betting proposition. Two of those came here off the back of a single win, so that's as good a place as any to start!
Flementime and Hidden Lite are the two which fit that rather tenuous bill, and both are fair prices: 9/1 each in fact.
Call Me A Star has the best form, but less scope to improve. She may not have to and, if you think that's the case, then 3/1 will be fair enough.
These aren't sensible 'betting boots' propositions, so I'm going to leave it at that and hopefully keep a bit of dry powder for tomorrow!
Selection: Flementime 9/1
Next best: Call Me A Star 3/1
Interesting outsiders: Hidden Lite 9/1
What are your day two fancies? Any big winners on day one? Leave a comment and brag/blub publicly. 🙂