14.00 Aintree: Activial holds all the aces
A cracking juvenile contest to kick-off proceedings, and Activial looks to have all the right credentials to land the spoils for trainer Harry Fry.
The French import has had just two runs in this country since joing Fry, finishing a highly promising 3 1/4 length runner-up to Calipto at Newbury before winning the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton in impressive fashion.
The four-year-old was always travelling and jumping well in the latter in the hands of Noel Fehily, and showed a good turn of foot after the last to beat Commissioned going away by 3 1/2 lengths.
It was an effort which marked him out as a leading contender for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but connections decided that he needed more time and swerved the race in favour of this contest.
That could well be a wise move, as he now comes into the race a fresh horse and that has often paid dividends in the past at this meeting.
The son of Lord Du sard showed certainly be suited by the track, and remains open to bags more improvement.
He will need to continue on his upward curve if he is going to gain revenge on Calipto, who beat him fair and square at Newbury and has since run a blinder to finish fourth in the Triumph Hurdle.
Paul Nicholls’ gelding was sent off the 11/2 favourite for that contest, and was arguably an unlucky loser as his riders’ stirrup leather broke two from home.
He was travelling ominously well at the time, and considering Daryl Jacob could offer him little assistance from the saddle he ran a remarkable race to be beaten just 8 3/4 lengths.
Guitar Pete, who finished 3 3/4 lengths in front of him in third, is set to take him on again and although many will expect Calipto to turn the tables given how the race panned out it would be no surprise if he confirmed the placings.
Dessie Hughes’ gelding is a really tough sort who jumpes and travels well in his races and has won three of his seven starts over the obstacles.
They include an impressive success in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown, and he looks sure to give it his best shot and run a huge race.
However, both he and Calipto had a hard race in the Triumph and Activial looks the ideal type to expose any chinks in their armour and provide his owners with their second winner in the race having seen their colours carried to victory by Zarkandar in 2011.