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Preview 03 April 2008


Aintree Day 1 of John Smiths Grand National Meeting – Ground - Good (Good to soft in places)

2.00 Liverpool Hurdle Grade 2

A very good race to start the meeting of with the World Hurdle record breaker Inglis Drever starting as a warm favourite to follow up his win in the stayers hurdle at Cheltenham last month. Given the short time in between these two meetings, it could be a case of a Cheltenham hangover, even for a great such as this.

This isn’t his favoured course, as the sharper turns are much more suited to strong travelling types, rather then those with hearts of lions and he has never travelled kindly around here. However, he travelled best in the last win of his 3 world hurdle victories at the champions meeting. He has always ran to make the frame in this race, being beaten by a course specialist in Mighty Man in this race, he has a new foe in Coral Cup runner up Kicks for Free, who should travel much kinder of the two market leaders here. A great top weight effort where maybe he should have won the Handicap at Cheltenham, has him up their as graded level. He has often gone well on tracks such as this, including a bumper. He rates as a big danger, having caught the eye on both starts and with a few questions over the staying division. Blazing Bailey doesn’t seem to be the same horse this season and has struggled; While Millennium Royal is a Haydock horse on real testing ground and is another to pass over.

Lough Derg has enjoyed a great season and is one with plenty of stamina. He could well make a place here, with Chief Dan George, a lesser horse this time around, and Ballyfitz maybe not good enough to bridge the gap, despite the Pretemps hurdle victory. Faasel is of interest at this track and rates as a live outsider for this race.

Verdict – 1st Kicks for Free 2nd Inglis Drever, 3rd Faasel 4th Lough Derg.

Advised bet – 2 pts win Kicks for Free @ 6-1

2.35 The Totesport Bowl Grade 2

A race that is good enough to be a grade 1 race with the surprise inclusion of the former gold cup winner Kauto Star who has almost been written off as a top class horse by many with the emergence of Denman his conquering next door neighbour.

It would be foolish to totally dismiss this multiple grade 1 winner as just a decent horse as he is special in his own right and has often been described as a machine, however I’m a firm believe that as you become more exposed as a race horse you start to need your ideal ground underfoot and that the tacky Cheltenham ground on gold cup day did not suit him as much as it is likely today with a bit of zip about it. This track is in some ways similar to Kempton in which a strong travelling bridle horse is often at his best having to sit on a tight rein before being unleashed on the flat speed finish and the only difference it is in Liverpool and left handed.

The rivals are thin on the ground which proves that the former champ still demands respect and even though a lesser race they aren’t queuing up to take him on. Ryanair and King George 2nd Our Vic is a grade 1 horse in his own right and this easier test over 3Miles should suit him more in terms of stamina but will the blinkers have the desired effect again this time?

Exotic Dancer hasn’t shown any real form since the 2nd in the Betfair chase when beaten by Kauto Star and Sam Thomas that day and even though he was impressive in this race last term he doesn’t seem to be the same horse since having his heart broken in the King George and struggling to get home. Gungdu has done nothing wrong in handicaps over 3M since running out of stamina in the Welsh National, but has often been found out at this level, while Monet’s Garden is a course specialist over 2.5M and maybe has chosen the wrong Clive Smith runner to take on this week. He is fresh and loves it here he was put in his place at Ascot by Kauto Star and will be hopping the Gold Cup has left its mark on the Favourite today.

Verdict – 1st Kauto Star 2nd Our Vic 3rd Monet’s Garden

Advised bet – 4 pts win Kauto Star  @ 8/11

3.10 Anniversary Novice Hurdle Grade 1

The Novice event is the feature graded race on day 1 of the grand national meeting and sees two very good 4yo match up against each other in celestial Halo who was often found wanting at the top level on the level in the St ledger but has turned out to be a impressive horse over hurdles and beat useful yardstick Franchock in this years triumph, his rival is Binocular who bypassed the triumph this year for a tilt at the supreme hurdle and travelled extremely well before buckling to a big horse up the climb and should be more suited to the flatter track today.

Both look class acts and could be quite short for the champion hurdle after today’s race with whoever comes out on top likely to be a single figure price next season. Harper Valley dodged the issue at Cheltenham where he did have course form and is another horse that travels strongly and has the ideal pilot, he holds all the hope for the Irish in this race today. However he was in receipt of 8lbs when beating Franchock at Cheltenham and has had an interrupted campaign since so he may struggle against the two market leaders.

While the supreme hurdle was ultra competitive and JP Mcmanus had a strong hand in the race it looked a much tougher race then the triumph hurdle this season and no surprise to see Binocular come out on top today as he could have given JP Mcmanus a double handed assault on the Triumph hurdle, but was thought to be good enough to take the older horses on despite being lightly raced. Compensation awaits and he looks the real deal for a course such as this.

Verdict – 1st Binocular 2nd Celestial Halo 3rd Harper Valley

Advised Bet – 3 pts win Binocular  @ 7/4

3.45 Fox Hunters Chase class 2 (National course)

Our first clues as to how the course is riding prior to Saturday feature race and is the day 1 feature of the card as the Fox Hunters take to the big fences and with the ground in good conditions it should be easily got in terms of finishers today and we could have a finish like 12 months ago when Scots grey beat Pak Jak.

Experience over these fences are always vital in my view and these races usually do end up going to a horse that can jump these big fences well and isn’t overburdened by the ratings of level weights. Katarino is often a horse that goes well here but is in the latter years being 13yo and may struggle against the younger horses, while Scots Grey is looking to follow up his win last term but is another that maybe is on the down grade now and not looking for fast conditions underfoot. Thisthatandtother went well in the national before departing and has a touch of class about him even at 12yo and could well run a big race for Paul Nichols in this, who typically has favoured runners in most races at this meeting.

The Irish will look to Where’s Now who I believe has a great chance under Nina Carberry of landing this race while Christy Beamish looks to have been laid out for this race in mind all season and has a good chance of landing this prize. Eskimo Jack is a good horse on his day and is a live outsider, while the Trevor Hemmings colours catch the eye with Arctic Times making a lot of appeal having finished 4th in this race 12 months ago behind Where’s Now and Scots Grey, a year on and he seems as good as ever with a good 3rd in the Cheltenham version of this race. The colours have been carried to victory before over these fences with Hedgehunter and the owner be hopping for another big race winner with Cloudy Lane, however this looks to have a good chance and has improved in 12 months. Holy Joe could improve on last years 7th for a trainer looking to improve her season tally which hasn’t been great.

Verdict – 1st Arctic Times 2nd Where’s Now 3rd Thisthatantother 4th Holy Joe

Advised Bet – 1 pt win Arctic Times  @ 20-1 & 1 pt win Where’s Now  @ 10-1

4.55 Mersey Novice hurdle Grade 2

Franchoek could make it a good day for connections by landing a novice double here and has great claims if mustering enough speed to see of his rivals in the finish. A course that suits strong travelling types rather then fighters it is a million miles from Cheltenham and this course could well not play to the strength of the Triumph hurdle runner up and that former could possibly take a second knock today.

Going over further to hope that maybe a world hurdle tilt is on the cards he has seven rivals to overcome with Cheltenham winner Whiteoak the winner of the mare’s race and Group Captain who caught the eye in the Ballymore properties hurdle staying on. The latter may be the better prospect out of the two in the long run and I cant be having the mare in this event today, however Group captain looked like he may need 3M over hurdles and with limited races to go for this looks like it could well be used as another fact finding mission out, he will handle the ground and was a better horse then Elusive Dream on the flat, but the former Sir Mark Prescott horse now with the champion trainer looks to have been laid out for this race today and ran a craker against proven stayer’s prior to the festival and comes here very much a horse that should be well suited to the track and this 2.5M trip/ The ground will no doubt suit as he doesn’t like tough going and is quite a small pocket rocket where he does have a turn of foot after travelling up strongly. Razor Royale is another who travels well but may just lack class to win this race despite travelling so well at Cheltenham in the past, a true bridle horse should be thereabouts turning in but maybe needs some headgear to unleash his true potential, could grab a place though.

Verdict – 1st Elusive Dream 2nd Franchoek 3rd Razor Royale

Advised Bet – 1 pt win Elusive Dream  @ 9-2

5.30 Listed Handicap Hurdle

The final race on the card sees a ultra competitive affair over hurdles in which 21 runners line up for this prize and the leader in the market is no surprise in the shape of Peacock who has threatened so many times this season to land a race such as this. Kingscape is a unexposed edge to the race for AP Mccoy and those famous silks and he could carry on improving in this sphere before maybe taking on graded company.

However the race looks primed for a big price winner to give some relief to those bookmakers who could potentially take a pounding on day one and Double Vodka is a horse that could well run a very big race here today at a track that should ideally suit his style of running and ground that is very much his favoured, interesting jockey booking today in Dennis O’Regan and the longer trip may well suit him.

County Zen and Ring the Boss gives Philip Hobbs a good-looking hand in this race but bother have question marks to answer and the former was major disappointment in the coral cup. Junior has come out of that race with much credit and should handle the ground today but is he still in the same shape with the possibility of being over the top after that eye-catching run. Be interesting to see if Palomar jockey doesn’t change with Tony Dobbin without a ride now for Nicky Richards and given how he travels and the way he has progressed this season he could well run a big race for connections as the penny has dropped now and he was a class act on the level.

Of the big prices Prince Ary was a good horse through out the summer and has done nothing but run with a mark of consistency and the defeat to Pidgeon Island reads well over this trip. Gustavo for Venetia Williams is not without a chance with this ground suiting and is also at the right end of the handicap, while Gabier who smashed Zilcash at Exeter earlier in the season is nicely weighted with Timmy Murphy at the foot of the weights here and just looks a better bet then the Paul Nichols runner under the claimer down there.

Verdict – 1st Palomar 2nd Gabier 3rd Double Vodka 4th Gustavo 5th Prince Ary

Selection   1 pt win Palomar  @ 10-1 and 1/2 pt win Gabier @ 49-1 and 1/2 pt win Double Vodka @ 29-1

Well Chief

Best of luck all

The preview for the 4.20 Aintree will follow, which should be available shortly after 3pm