Aintree festival day one preview
Frank Monkhouse | 6 April 2017
Our best bets on Thursday’s card
We have arrived at day one of the Aintree festival, three days of top quality horse racing, headlined by the 2017 Grand National on Saturday. There’s plenty to get through before looking to solve the big one however, starting with a competitive Thursday to bring the curtain up.
Click here to place all your horse racing bets, or read on as we give a selection in every race at Aintree. Let’s start as we mean to go on…..
1.40pm – Novices’ Chase
We get up and running with this grade one six-runner contest over two-miles three-furlongs. Coral traders have come down hard on the side of Top Notch for Nicky Henderson, and I find that difficult to argue against. Daryl Jacob’s ride arrives in stunning recent form, winning four of his last five. That purple patch includes victory in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown on his penultimate go, and that looks the form of the bunch. A narrow second behind Yorkhill in the JLT Novices at the Cheltenham Festival last time. Opened with us a 5/4 jolly.
2.20pm – Juvenile Hurdle
Defi Du Seuil goes as short-priced favourite in this grade one eye-catcher, and so he should. The three-year-old super-star is now unbeaten in six, and added the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham to his list of achievements last time. Beat Mega Fortune by a comfortable distance that day, and seemed to have plenty left in the tank at the end. You’d be hard pressed to make a strong case against backing him, so we won’t bother. Currently 1/3, he’s expected to go around unchallenged for the most part.
2.50pm – Aintree Bowl
Now we have a race on our hands, and the early betting suggests this will be a two-horse battle between fan’s favourite Cue Card and Empire Of Dirt. That shouldn’t be far off, but we’re going with Tizzard’s Cue Card to justify favouritism. Of course, we all remember him falling in the Gold Cup, again, and he did look a beaten horse that day, but it happens. He’s a top-class chaser and, putting a line through the Gold Cup, he has already won the grade one Ascot Chase this year. Claimed this race last year, after falling in the Gold Cup, no less. 7/4 is a price punters can work with.
3.25pm – Aintree Hurdle
Nicky Henderson comes into the festival in solid recent form, and he aims to enhance that by pairing Barry Geraghty with Buveur D’Air. There’s not a lot this five-year-old can do wrong at the minute and after an exceptional chasing CV, he was put back out hurdling. And to some effect, winning the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on his last showing. He was spotted staying on at the finish that day, and looked to be fully enjoying the task at hand. It rarely pays to take him on, and he’s 4/11 fav at the time of writing with us.
4.05pm – Aintree Foxhunters
On The Fringe gets the nod here. He couldn’t live up to the pre-race hype in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham last time, finishing fourth when going off as 11/8 favourite, but that doesn’t make him a bad horse, and we take much more from the fact he has won each of the last two renewals of this race. Has the respect of punters again, leading the way at 2/1 vs Pacha Du Polder at 4/1. Repeat over revenge for us.
4.40pm – Handicap Chase
15 runner grade three, settled over one-mile seven-furlongs, Dandridge is the pick to give us a winner in the penultimate race of the day. The selection has been knocking on the door of late, threatening a return to the winner’s enclosure, and he should get his wish in this one. Last seen fourth in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham, there were positives to pick out, and he was involved in the tussle for the major places at the business end. Worth sticking with.
5.15pm – Mares NH Flat Race
We’re hoping Shearling will round off a profitable day when she goes in the lucky last. Richard Johnson and Brian Ellison join forces, and you’ve got to love the selection. She arrives having won three of her four starts, including last time out at Catterick, with plenty to spare. The challenges of this race look to play to her strengths. She has the best form of the bunch, and will look to serve it up to her rivals early.