Aintree takes center-stage this weekend with three extremely high quality days of National Hunt Racing at the Liverpool track. With eleven Grade 1 races all leading up to the feature £1,000,000 Grand National on Saturday, this meeting always produces fantastic Horse Racing. Ahead of the big Festival, I have a few early fancies that are likely to go off a shorter price.
Friday – 14:20 Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m½f
The Top Novices’ Hurdle is ran over an extended two-mile trip, and last year was won by Pingshou for Colin Tizzard. Previously won by the likes of Buveur D’Air, five of the last six winners have ran in a Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Although running over 2m5f at Cheltenham, Colin Tizzard has a great chance of winning the race again for the same connections, as Vision Des Flos ran a very eye-catching race under Robbie Power. The Ann and Alan Potts Family owned horse took the lead coming into the straight, but just got tired going up the hill in such testing conditions. Although he was no match for Samcro, our selection plucked on to finish sixth in a heap of Irish horses. Although his finishing position doesn’t look that impressive, the next horse was 14 lengths back. This form is rock solid, however I think the drop in trip today could show his true ability.
After winning the Land Rover Bumper at Punchestown last April, Colin Tizzard pitched Vision Des Flos straight into Grade 2 company for his Hurdles debut at Chepstow over 2m3½f where he finished a very good third. Although subsequently he was disappointing at Cheltenham and Hereford, the five-year-old had a wind operation before bolting up in a Listed Novices’ Hurdle at Exeter. I’ve always thought this horse should’ve started at two-miles so the drop in trip should really allow him to get home powerfully, especially as he has the ability to go further. This was highlighted at Exeter in February, where he blew his opponents away back down in trip to score by 31 lengths. This is certainly not the strongest renewal of the Top Novices’ Hurdle, but our selection looks to have a great chance whatever the ground ends up being. Top jockey Robbie Power will take the ride, and hopefully he will have another Aintree Festival to remember.
Vision Des Flos to Win @ 10/1
Friday – 16:05 Topham Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m5f The Topham Handicap Chase is run over the famous Grand National fences, but is ran over a much shorter distance of 2m5f. In order to win the race you need one particular quality – to be able to jump the unique fences effectively. Whilst it is hard to judge this as most won’t have ran over these fences before, it’s wise to look at sound jumpers of regulation fences. One horse who fits this bill is Double Treasure of the Jamie Snowden yard. After winning on seasonal reappearance at Newton Abbot in September, the seven-year-old completed a hat-trick after wins at Worcester and Cheltenham. That win at the October meeting came in a decent Class 2 Novices’ Chase, where our selection beat the 149 rated favourite Two Taffs, battling back well to stay on up the hill. Jamie Snowden then sent this son of King’s Theatre back to Cheltenham to contest the Betvictor Gold Cup, where the testing conditions did not suit. After having a long rest waiting for better ground, our selection has been busy lately schooling over Grand National style fences in Lambourn. In the videos on twitter you can see how foot-perfect he is over his obstacles, and even these larger and more intimidating fences don’t seem to phase him at all. Double Treasure will have to run from a fairly high weight due to his rating of 150 over fences, however his jumping ability could carry him through if the ground doesn’t deteriorate. In the saddle will be Gavin Sheehan, who rode Blaklion to success in the Becher Chase over these fences in December. At 33/1 Double Treasure is a huge price for the Topham, especially as there is so much emphasis on jumping well. The drier the ground the better his chance, however I am confident you will get a good run for your money. Double Treasure Each/Way @ 33/1
Double Treasure was not declared due to the ground being too soft. The new selection is Ultragold, who simply loves the Grand National Fences.