ALL ROADS LEAD to Liverpool this week for the Grand National Meeting at Aintree. With eight Grade 1 races and four Grade 2s, this meeting is about more than one race but nonetheless the Grand National itself will get most of the attention over the next few days.
The track itself is a stiff test over both the chase and the hurdle courses and requires great judgement of pace with some jockeys going off too quick and a lot of horses not getting home. Statistically in non handicap races, 43% of favourites win the hurdle races and only 31% of favourites win the chases; this is low compared to other tracks but might be explained by its proximity to Cheltenham in the racing calendar and by the sharpness of the track. The warning signals are there for punters, and the advice is to proceed with caution.
Today’s card has four Grade 1 races and first up is the Liverpool Hurdle at 2pm. Winner of the last three runnings of the race, Big Buck’s is nigh on impossible to back at current odds of 1/4 as he bids to win his 17th successive race. Alan King believes that Smad Place is capable of second place and Paul Nicholls’s other runner Poungach ( 16/1 ) might be value for the place. It’s hard to see BIG BUCK’S losing this, and he will no doubt feature in a lot of doubles and trebles.
The four-year-old Juvenile Hurdle goes to post at 2.30pm and 13 runners, some of the highest quality, have been declared.
Triumph Hurdle winner Countrywide Flame renews his rivalry with some of those he beat at Cheltenham and this tough racehorse is sure to attract support. Grumeti who made a mistake at the last and finished third, fourth-placed Dodging Bullets and Saddlers Risk who finished ninth all renew rivalry here as does Pearl Swan who never travelled in the race and was staying on when falling at the last.
Grumeti didn’t jump well enough that day and got into a bit of a war with Dodging Bullets. Grumeti’s trainer Alan King believes tomorrows ground will suit him better and expects a big run from him. Nicholls’s other runner, Hinterland, hasn’t been seen since January but had a bit of decent form before disappointing on his last run. However, he will need to improve a bit to figure here and his future probably lies over fences.
GRUMETI is on a recovery mission and he’s a tentative selection.
The Betfred Bowl over 3m1f (3.05pm) is a very tricky affair and another race where we hope the Cheltenham bounce isn’t a factor.
Riverside Theatre and Medermit renew rivalry here and jockey bookings for the three Henderson runners suggest that the former is the stable selection.
Hunt Ball, who has attracted a bit of a cult following, will no doubt have his followers but will need to improve again on his Cheltenham run while Nacarat won this race last year although some would say that it was a poor renewal.
Medermit is into unknown territory over this trip while Diamond Harry just doesn’t seem to be able to get to the racecourse in one piece. I’m going to stick with RIVERSIDE THEATRE to just about shade it.
Only five go to post for the 2m4f Manifesto Chase at 4.50pm. Paul Nicholls is two-handed here and Ruby Walsh has chosen Al Ferof ahead of Cristal Bonus. Menorah also runs here. He finished three lengths ahead of Al Ferof in the Arkle although both were soundly beaten by Sprinter Sacre. Al Ferof’s jumping was poor that day and the extra four furlongs here should help. The ground will also be in his favour and he’s been much more consistent than Menorah this season.
Cristal Bonus had a couple of impressive victories prior to Cheltenham while Pepite Rose is a progressive sort having won four on the bounce and gets the mares allowance.
The booking of Walsh for AL FEROF is significant and with Paul Nicholls reporting his string in good form, I make him the selection.
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