14.00 Aintree: Josses Hill looks rock solid
The progressive Josses Hill ran a cracker to finish runner-up at the Cheltenham Festival and looks to hold outstanding claims of going one better in this 2m 1f contest.
The gelding was no match for impressive six length winner Vautour at Prestbury Park, but travelled strongly throughout the contest and stayed on in good style.
He left the impression that he had plenty more to offer, and has a progressive profile.
The six-year-old joined trainer Nicky Henderson after finishing a highly promising second of 22 to Faugheen on his debut in a bumper at Punchestown and ran out the easy winner of a bumper at Ascot on his first start for the Seven Barrows handler.
He then put in an impressive display to score first time up over hurdles at Newbury, before going down by just 1/2 a length to stable companion Royal Boy in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Kempton on a track which didn’t play to his strengths.
His Cheltenham run makes him the one they all have to beat, and with Barry Geraghty in the saddle a huge run looks assured.
The two main dangers could well be Baltimore Rock and Art Of Payroll.
The former is a progressive five-year-old trained by David Pipe who showed a good attitude last time out when landing the Imperial Cup at Sandown.
He travelled ominously well in that ultra-competitive 2m 1f handicap and found plenty for Tom Scudamore’s urgings to beat Gassin Golf by more in hand than the one length winning margin suggests.
That was a career-best performance and he has the scope to improve further.
Art Of Payroll is trained in Ireland by Dessie Hughes and got back to winning ways last time out when cruising home by 2 1/4 lengths in a handicap hurdle at Leopardstown.
He was strongly fancied for one of the big handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival on the back of that effort, but missed the meeting and comes into this contest a fresh horse as a result.
The five-year-old will relish the better ground that he now encounters and his chances should not be underestimated.