The eyes of the racing world descend on Aintree in Liverpool for the next three days as we build up to the biggest race in the world on Saturday. Prior to the Grand National itself though we have a couple of days of excellent racing to look forward to.
The first of those comes along on Thursday when some Cheltenham Festival runners and riders renew acquaintances while others who skipped the Gloucestershire jamboree take their chances here. We’ve scoured the card and come up with a couple of bets.
14.55 Aintree: Betway Bowl
9 runners have assembled for this Grade 1 chase over 3 miles 1 furlong & it’s incredibly open looking with bookies going 9/2 the field. Conceivably, any of the front 6 could start favourite with Ireland having 2 & the UK 4 of those runners. The Irish pair are Conflated & Kemboy with the former catapulting himself into the spotlight after landing the Irish Gold Cup in February. He was also going ok in the Ryanair when coming to grief 2 out and he definitely needs to prove he’s none the worse for that fall. Kemboy is now a 10 year old and perhaps his best days are behind him but he did win this 3 years ago so shouldn’t be dismissed. Talking of perhaps having seen his best days, that’s a comment I can probably aim at the top class Clan Des Obeaux. A dual King George winner & a facile winner here 12 months ago but he’s just not been himself this year so perhaps isn’t one to chance at around 5/1. Protektorat is a worthy favourite as the 7 year old has improved throughout the year culminating in an excellent 3rd in the Gold Cup but 5/2 is no price in such a hot race whilst Eldorado Allen could be hard to keep out of the frame if he stays the longer trip. There are doubts on that score as I think they’ll go a decent clip.
The one I’ll chance is Royale Pagaille who admittedly wants the rain but there’s plenty of it around & I can see soft ground by race time. He went from strength to strength last year & after winning the Peter Marsh off a mark of 156, he finished no better than midfield in the Gold Cup. This year, he was 2nd behind A Plus Tard in the Betfair Chase, won the Peter Marsh again (this time off 163) & then finished 2nd in the Denman Chase, splitting Eldorado Allen & Clan Des Obeaux in a race where an extra quarter of a mile & deeper ground would have seen him likely land the spoils. He’ll be more suited by this race today so should turn the tables on the winner. He again finished midfield in the Gold Cup but quite honestly, I don’t think Cheltenham is his track & the flat nature of Aintree is probably his best chance of landing that first Grade 1. In an open event, he’s the definite each way value.
Back Royale Pagaille (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 8.00 Skybet BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)
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The big handicap on the opening day is a 2 mile chase on the Mildmay course where 17 runners do battle. There are a couple of interesting trends emerging in this race, with the last 5 winners all being well fancied & none off a mark higher than 139. Frero Banbou from the Venetia Williams yard is favourite and he races off 142 whilst Henry De Bromhead is triple handed in this but all look to be off stiff marks. King D’Argent and The Last Day appear to be live dangers but I’m sticking with just the 1 bet in this.
The one I like is Gunsight Ridge who is a 7 year old with just 4 chase starts to his name. After finishing 3rd here on debut, he was then just 6 lengths behind impressive Brown Advisory winner L’Homme Presse at Exeter. In receipt of just 1lb from a horse now rated 164, that’s pretty solid form. He then got off the mark at Sandown when landing a Class 2 handicap off 4lbs lower than he races off today before trying to make all back at the same venue & ultimately fading into 3rd. They are sure to go fast here which I think will suit him & provided he doesn’t try to wrestle the lead from others, and tucks into midfield, I strongly fancy him to be in the shake up off what appears to be a mark he should be more than capable of defying. There’s definitely plenty of untapped potential & from what he’s shown, he could be racing off marks at least a stone higher than this if he realises that potential. A solid each way bet.
Back Gunsight Ridge (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 7.00 Skybet BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)