The Betfred Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase is the feature race at Aintree on Saturday. Worth almost £40,000 to the winner, the event was established in 2004, and in its short history has been won by several of jump racing’s best.
Kauto Star was successful in 2006, in a season where he remained unbeaten all the way through to his Gold Cup success at Cheltenham. That winter his run of victories was quite incredible. After his Old Roan ‘romp’ he won the Betfair Chase at Haydock, then the Tingle Creek, before winning his first King George at Kempton. He opened 2007 with a win in the Aon Chase before ending his campaign with that Gold Cup win.
Yet it was Monet’s Garden who made the ‘Old Roan’ his own, with wins in 2007, 2009 and again as a 12-year-old in 2010. The wonderful front-running grey was thrilling to watch, attacking his fences with great exuberance. The race now carries his name and he will be parading in front of an appreciative crowd on Saturday.
Last year’s winner Conquisto looks set to try for a repeat success. Disappointing in five runs since that win, he is now back on a favourable handicap mark. He clearly goes well at the track, but this looks a stronger renewal.
Uxizandre could go off as race favourite. Second in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, he then won at Aintree beating Oscar Whisky. This tends to be a race that suits front runners. He loves to race prominently and looks sure to go close.
Module appeared outpaced in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham behind Sire De Grugy. He will appreciate the softer surface and should be suited by the step up in trip. He only just failed to win the Haldon Gold Cup first time out last season. Still only a seven-year-old, it’s possible he may have further improvement in him.
Rajdhani Express went very close in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham back in March. He then slightly disappointed in the Melling Chase here at Aintree. At his best he would have a great chance, but Nicky Henderson’s horses often improve for the run.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls runs Rolling Aces. He won first time out last season at Down Royal in the Grade 2 Powers Irish Whiskey Chase. He also ran in the Melling Chase, finishing a very satisfactory second behind Boston Bob. He has failed shine when stepped up in trip, so this should be ideal.
Edgardo Sol has moved from Paul Nicholls to Emma Lavelle since his last campaign. He finished down the field in this race last year, but is now off a 5lb lower mark. Changing stables can often revitalise a horse, and although he seems to have been around forever, he is surprisingly only a seven-year-old.
Finally Astracad was runner-up to Conquisto twelve months ago. He follows an identical path to last season, having run well at Cheltenham last weekend behind Johns Spirit. As mentioned before, there is just a feeling that this race is slightly stronger this year.
And that just about covers the likely contenders for the Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase. It’s a race with a rather short yet colourful history. Let’s hope that this fiercely competitive renewal is won in a suitably impressive manner.