FRIDAY AT AINTREE features two Grade 2 and two Grade 1 races. The Cheltenham “bounce factor” appeared to have a mixed effect yesterday, and the horses have probably been helped by the extra week of recovery time between fixtures this year.
Racing gets under way at 2pm with the Grade 2 Tangle Teezer Top Novices Hurdle over 2m110yds. Although 12 runners have been declared, it can probably be narrowed down to four or five.
One of the side events of this year’s Aintree meeting is the battle for the trainers’ championship between Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls. The former is three-handed while Nicholls saddles one, and the race should be between the two of them.
Captain Conan won on his English debut following some good form in France. However, he’s disappointed since and the drying ground might not suit him. His stablemate Darlan is a class horse. Having won three in a row this season he fell at the second last when going well in the Betfair Handicap Hurdle and then wasn’t fluent at the last in the Supreme Novices at Cheltenham, where he was beaten just over a length by Cinders and Ashes.
The third Henderson horse, Oscar Dara, has run just three times and was very impressive last time in a novice hurdle but would appear to be the outsider of the three.
Paul Nicholls is represented by Prospect Wells who started the season with a big reputation but disappointed on soft ground. He made something of a return to form in the Supreme Novices, when he was beaten by just over two lengths into fifth. The good ground will help him but if DARLAN gets his jumping together, he’ll take all the beating.
Only five go to post for the Grade 2 Mildmay Novices Chase over 3m1f at 2.30pm.
Champion Court is likely to attract plenty of support following his performance behind Sir Des Champs in the Jewson Chase at Cheltenham. It’s arguable that his best form has been over shorter trips though.
Join Together disappointed at Cheltenham in the RSA after two good wins but he was probably feeling the effects of whatever was wrong with the Nicholls horses and should be a different proposition this afternoon.
However, Ruby Walsh has opted for the other Nicholls runner Silviniaco Conti and this one will take all the beating. He swerved Cheltenham and should arrive here fresh and well having not run since mid-February.
Solix represents Nicky Henderson but this one finished a long way behind in the Jewson. A repeat of SILVINIACO CONTI’S second to Grand Crus at Kempton at Christmas should be good enough here and he is the day’s nap.
The Grade 1 Melling Chase over 2m4f goes to post at 3.05pm and the early betting suggests that it’s a match between Albertas Run and Finian’s Rainbow.
Albertas Run ran a great race in the Ryanair at Cheltenham, but it was a hard race and it remains to be seen how much of a mark it left. Finian’s Rainbow won the Champion Chase in impressive style and is a progressive sort. He acts on the track and should have no problem with the trip.
Kauto Stone will need it a lot softer while Wishfull Thinking seems to have lost his way. Poquelin could give the top two most to do. Although a Cheltenham specialist, he comes here fresh having had a break since January.
Stick with FINIAN’S RAINBOW to boost Nicky Henderson’s tally towards the trainers’ title.
The white flag goes up at 4.15pm for the Grade 1 Sefton Novices Hurdle over 3m110yds and 19 have been declared. Ground conditions are going to be a factor here with the ground drying out all the time.
Fingal Bay is unbeaten in five runs accounting for Simonsig among others. A minor injury kept him out of Cheltenham and he is reported to be in rude health.
Cotton Mill is probably the danger. This one was running a big race in the Neptune at Cheltenham before trying to duck out at the second last and unshipping Denis O’Regan.
Lovcen, Ballyrock and Gullindursti are all capable of a minor place but will have to find a lot to trouble FINGAL BAY.
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