Talk about needing a winner. Nothing yesterday and weirdly the 2 winners I did back, Eleven Fifty Nine for KOTB and the Finian’s Rainbow/Wishfull Thinking forecast, I didn’t put on the blog. Anyway, to the big day it is and it’s not a bad support card. As most will know, I already have a Grand National guide posted covering all 40 horse. That can be seen here.
1:45 John Smith’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
SIMONSIG looks top have the beating here over 2m4f. He was deeply impressive in the Neptune at Cheltenham when seemingly also not really having a race either. Colour Squadron should appreciate the step up to 2m4f and was consistent beforehand but he didn’t run any race at all in the Supreme and has a bit to prove now. He would be more interesting if rain came though. Aland Islands is the interesting one after he beat the decent Amron Lad comfortably last time out who has gone in impressively since. He is also 1st choice on colours and possibly bookings with AP McCoy taking the ride for the first time since his debut. Molotof racked up 3 wins this year including in a grade 2 and should be more at home on a flat track but never turned up in a Cheltenham handicap and is probably scrapping for a place. Super Duty also has place hopes if some of the above mentioned don’t perform while the rest will have to improve massively to feature.
14:15 John Smith’s Maghull Novices’ Chase
Another chance to see the high-class SPRINTER SACRE in action and it seems the opposition has been scared off. It’s a real shame Sanctuaire doesn’t run in this and Toubab is today’s biggest challenger but in reality he needs the 1/6 favourite to fall if he’s to win. Australia Day should set a decent tempo and Kudu Country has more to find on figures than any.
14:50 John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle
Something more competitive and it couldn’t get more competitive than this. Oscar Whisky is a slight favourite after failing to stay 3 miles well enough behind Big Bucks at Cheltenham. He is a strong traveller and 2m4f is probably his optimum trip which he showed when winning this last year. However he has a significant challenge from 2 Paul Nicholls stablemates in Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby and 5th ZARKANDAR. The winner got a great toe into the race at Cheltenham but the fact he stormed well clear of Overturn and Hurricane Fly means that performances cannot be underestimated. Being placed in the 2m5f Neptune last year, the trip should be no problem and he looks a solid option against Oscar Whisky who had a really hard race at Cheltenham. Zarkandar is preferred out of all of them though. He ran a blinder from well back in the Champion Hurdle where the pace wouldn’t have suited, also doing the same when striking late in a valuable Newbury handicap on his reappearance. He won here last year while he looks likely to improve significantly for the step up to 2m4f. Ruby Walsh takes the ride and he looks to have a leading chance. Add in Thousand Stars for Willie Mullins and you have a superb race to savour. He finished just ahead of Oscar Whisky in the World Hurdle but in all honesty both are just as good as each other. He is very consistent and if deciding to go for forceful tactics he can easily be not for catching. With all 4 rated between 170 and 163, the 149 rated Third Intention and 139 rated Saphir River have a lot to find though the latter ran a good 4th here yesterday.
Advice – Simonsig (1/2)/Sprinter Sacre (1/6)/Zarkandar (5/2) Treble 3pts win @5.14/1
5:05 John Smith’s Handicap Hurdle
I can’t oppose PAINTBALL here who has had a wind operation and that made a significant difference when he comfortably beat an Imperial Cup field last time out. He missed the County after stepping on a stone. He’s up 11lb but that should not stop a big run. Sire De Grugy was 3rd that day and has 9 lengths to find but he does get a 10lb swing. Kazlian is the plot of the race and he ran a great race to be 4th in the Fred Winter but he goes against older horses for the first time now. It seems Constant Contact now knows his job and he could be lurking off his mark of 128. Others look to be done for the season though and are either badly handicapped or may just need a break now. Some that may not include Dee Ee Williams and the progressive Kealigolane. Pipe has two and Dream Esteem looks progressive and may be the better option of the two although Gibb River was 2nd to him that day and gets a 4lb swing today.
Advice – Paintball 3pts win @13/2 Stan James & BetVictor
5:35 John Smith’s Champion Standard National Hunt Flat Race
It’s good to finish with a cracking bumper where Population goes off a warm favourite. This has been his aim for a bit now and John Ferguson has a great strike-rate though he is too short now and his bumper form hasn’t really worked out, albeit he has looked to have a good engine on him. I’m gutted Spirit Of Shankly doesn’t run as I felt he had a big chance. My Tent Or Yours must be respected after finding only the smart Up To Something too good at Newbury. Devon Drum looks a bit short in the market as his bumper win was impressive but over 1m5f. The New One was 6th in the Champion Bumper but he seemed to run his race and I expect 1 or 2 to be too good. In behind him though MANY CLOUDS ran a much better race than people think. He went wide the whole way and made a significnt move turning into the straight. At a flatter track he should get home better and he looks a great price. If taking the trip in his stride then My Inheritance could make a mockery of his price and although 2nd choice on bookings I did expect Minella Forfitness to be shorter. Howaboutnow and Ifyousayso have both shown to be smart with jockey bookings suggesting the former is better. But you can’t go wrong with a small e/w on KAYSERSBERG who took his 2nd bumper in 3 starts last time out in good style. That was a decent bumper and his 2nd before then was just behind a very good Ian Williams prospect called Ballyalton. He sticks on and stays well and 50/1 is just too big for one who already has the form in the book. Williams is represented by new recruit Il Presidente who will be looknig to reward new connections afer ahefty price tag. Stock Hill Fair also impressed in 2 bumper wins last year and has been laid out for this since. The bumper form of his two wins have worked out really well with rhe 3rd last time going on to be 4th behind The New One. That means he is closely matched with that one especially as he gave the yardstick weight and again one is 66/1 and one is 7/1.
Advice – Many Clouds 1.5pts e/w @20/1 generally
Kaysersberg 1pt e/w @66/1 Sportingbet
Stock Hill Fair 1pt e/w @66/1 Bet365 (KOB)