The big event may be on Saturday but the Aintree meeting lacks nothing in quality from the offset with a Thursday card strong on quality.
The Cheltenham Festival will be a big source of clues but not all horses may still be at their peak if they were primed for that. There is one race that immediately presents me with a price I think is wrong
2.15 Anniversary 4yo Hurdle 2ml 1fur
Early odds here : http://www.oddschecker.com/horse-racing/2015-04-09-aintree/14:15/winner
Cheltenham form so often the key to this and this year’s Triumph Hurdle looked a particularly strong renewal with the first three pulling well clear. Hargam couldn’t quite match the first two from the last but should have been inconvenienced by the rain that fell that day. He’s back on better ground now and I see no reason why the 4th Devilment should be able to reverse a 10 length deficit here. I certainly rate Hargam’s chances to win at more than 50% so will happily take the early Evens being offered.
With good ground looking likely the one I like most at bigger odds would be Intense Tango . This strong travelling mare will be one to look out at the right odds later in ‘without the favourite’ markets
Recommendation 5pts win Hargam @EVENS (generally available at 1556 UK time)
* Thursday Update *
The Evens on Hargam didnt last too long into the evening. He’s currently best price of 8/11 and just over 1.8 (4/5) on Betfair. Intense Tango was too short in the ‘betting without the favourite’ markets last night but is getting appealing at 13/2 now. I think she can reverse Kelso form on the likely better ground with Bristol de Mai
And now for the remaining races:
1.40 Josses Hill did something to vindicate Barry Geraghty’s opinion that he would be better with a stronger pace when 3rd in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham – but will he get a strong pace here with no obvious front runner in the field? Vibrato Valtat was 4th in that race when for me he was ridden too forward in the race. I’m not sure the step up in trip is what he wants but if the pace is slow he should be suited to a late pounce. Clarcam and Three Kingdoms were further back in that event. The latter should appreciate this trip more but his jumping is still a concern at this level for me. Clarcam could be the one to be best suited by this race tactically with astute Ruby Walsh on board again there is a slight stamina query though.
A difficult race to solve and I don’t really see any value – NO BET
2.50 Betfred Bowl 3ml 1fur
Aintree’s equivalent of the Cheltenham Gold Cup sees Holywell (4th), Silviniaco Conti (7th) and Smad Place (8th) reopposing. Silviniaco Conti bounced back from defeat at Cheltenham to win this last year but Coneygree really did put them all to the sword this year and I really wonder if it would have left a mark on the vanquished with the ground turning so soft on the day Ma Filleule was 2nd in the shorter Ryanair Chase but that was on better ground. She wasn’t far behind Holywell on last year’s form and is effective over further
Menorah is definitely the one coming in here fresh after missing the Festival with a setback. He has been second in this before (with Silviniaco Conti behind) and shouldn’t be easily dismissed either. There isn’t enough value for me to be betting in what could be another tactical race up front with Holywell and Silviniaco Conti.
Marginal selection is Ma Filleule but it’s a NO BET
3.25 Aintree Hurdle 2ml 4fur
Formerly the main back up race to the Grand National on Saturday’s card and once again we have to ask about the pace angle of this race. Rock on Ruby was another to miss Cheltenham with a setback and this is probably his ideal trip nowadays. He may be forced to make the running here to test out the others properly Arctic Fire improved his earlier season form to prove a superior horse to Jezki in the Champion Hurdle and was the only one to make in-roads on Faugheen’s lead on the run-in. I think he’s the best horse in the race on that run but he’s unproven at this new trip and for that I have to swerve at his 2/1 price It would be a shock if anything outside of the top 3 in the market would be to prevail
Selection is Arctic Fire but again it’s a NO BET
4.05 Foxhunters Chase 2ml 5fur
Today’s only race run over the National fences and I think this could be the best race for Hunter Chasers I have seen for a few years. Tartan Snow won the race as a 13yo 2 years ago but that was a very substandard renewal – it did prove that age isn’t really a barrier in this event.
Last year he returned to find Warne proved much superior and that one is back to defend his crown again. He’s opposed by impressive Cheltenham scorer On The Fringe who has beaten him on regular courses before and appears the superior horse. On The Fringe did seem to benefit from the rain softened ground last time and though he won very easily I think the opposition is stronger here. He has to be favourite based on that run but not having jumped around these fences is a negative.
There is much better previous course form to be seen from Last Time D’Albain (3rd in 2013 Topham) and Big Fella Thanks. The latter is 13 now and there probably isn’t a horse around who has consistently jumped around this course better. He began in the Grand National as a 7yo in 2009 and has been here 6 times since – the only blip being an Unseat in the 2013 National. Stamina always found him out in the big race but he was going as well as anything in the Topham last year until the pace of the principals found him out.
His form this year shows he is no back number yet and with one of the best amateur jockeys in the business (Derek O’Connor ) on board I can see him going as well as anything into the straight again. Something may beat the old boy for toe from there but I doubt that 4 others will and with some firms offering 4 places he is the each way bet for me
Recommendation 1.5pts ew Big Fella Thanks – take 7/1 or better with firms offering 1/4 1234 (365, Ladbrokes, Betfred, Betfair Sportsbook)
On The Fringe is solid in the market at 4/1 (tipped up by everyone on Channel 4 this morning) while Pricewise selection Pacha Du Polder has also contracted. This has served to push out Big Fella Thanks’s price to 8/1 – even better value with those offering the enhanced place terms
4.40 2ml hcap chase
Next Sensation is 8lb higher than when winning a similarly competitive handicap at Cheltenham where his front running was noticeably less frenzied than before (helped by a breathing operation). Over this sharp track a follow up isn’t out of the question (4th home Ned Buntline 8lbs better off for a 6 length beating) but he should have no peace up front with Arnaud also liking to blaze.
Claret Cloak will like the pace of the race and the ground – but we could say that last year as well when he finished 3rd in this off a 7lb lower mark (despite not winning a race since). At a big price I’ll take a chance on Bellenos back on a sharp track and decent ground. He won at Stratford at this time last year in similar conditions and comes here with a 4lb lower rating than he won off then
Recommendation 0.5pts ew Bellenos 25/1 (365, Boyles, Corals, Sporting Bet)
Pricewise followed in on Bellenois last night and all 25/1 promptely disappeared. 20/1 is available in a place right now but he’s generally 16/1
5.15 3ml Hcap Hurdle
The first three home from Cheltenham’s Pertemps final cross swords again. Call The Cops beat Unique do Cotte (1lb better off) by 1.75 lengths with another 3/4 length back to The Tourard Man (2lbs better off). All three have had their ratings raised however by up to 7lbs. That may not be enough to stop Call the Cops winning again and he’s the selection – but I don’t have a good enough feeling about this race to get involved with it. It is noticeable that Wayne Hutchinson deserts The Tourard Man to team up with Ulzana’s Raid instead – but that one may need the run after a 3 month break. No Bet
Thanks for reading the blog today. The Grand National page is now updated as 48 hour declarations are in and there have been now ithdrawals – selections for Friday will appear early evening
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5pts Hargam EVS
1.5 pts ew Big Fella Thanks 7/1 (taking 1/4 1234)
0.5 pts ew Bellenos 25/1
(9pts staked in total)
Initial Bank 50pts
Balance after Thursday bets are placed is 62.06 – (not including 9pts staked for Thursday and 5pts already placed in Ante Post Grand National Bets)