Former Talksport man Charlie McCann looks to the second day of the Aintree Grand National meeting on Friday, and picks out some winners.
Day 2 of the Aintree Festival begins with the 2m Novice Hurdle; Nicky Henderson has entered Supreme Novices’ runner up Spirit Son and he must be the one to beat with none of the other main protagonists Al Ferof, Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card in the 20 entries at the five-day stage.
Spirit Son looked as if he was feeling the ground at Cheltenham but ran a great race in the circumstances to get within 2L to Al Ferof rallying to lead at the last but run out of it by the Nicholls/Walsh combination up the Cheltenham hill.
Sire De Grugy is held in the highest regard by Gary Moore but he was pulled out of the Imperial Cup at Sandown on the weekend before Cheltenham as a result of the prevailing ground and won’t be risked unless connections are happy with underfoot conditions.
Topolski is a 90-rated horse on the flat who has won both starts over timber and deserves this step up in class. He is reported to be also getting an entry in the two-and-a-half novice on the Saturday, but I would be surprised if he didn’t end up in Friday’s opener and he is a fascinating contender.
RSA Chase third Wayward Prince is likely to go off favourite for the 3m Novice Chase and we know the track holds no fears having won the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle on the corresponding card last year. The ground is unlikely to be soft enough for Quito De La Roque to make the journey from Ireland and Wishfull Thinking (also entered in 2m 4f Novice on Thursday) is a most interesting contender given he holds an entry in the Bet 365 Gold Cup over 3m 5f later in the season.
The Ryanair 1-2 Albertas Run and Kalahari King are likely to fight out the finish of Friday’s feature the Melling Chase. Albertas Run has been an absolute star for Trevor Hemmings and Jonjo O’Neill having landed the same double in 2010 and he was not for passing at Cheltenham last month when denying Kalahari King by a neck.
Many felt jockey Graham Lee had overdone the waiting tactics at the Festival aboard Kalahari King but I’m not convinced. He only got as far as the second in the race last year but did win a Grade 1 here two years ago and deserves another big race win….but he must get past Albertas Run and a certain AP McCoy!
Paul Nicholls has entered Master Minded although the horse was thrashed in the corresponding race 3 years ago. He looked ready for a step back up in trip when well held in the Champion Chase last time but he will need to be back to his very best if he is to cope with the big two.
The Topham Chase over the National fences is one of my favourite races of the year and I will be very interested to see what weight Fine Parchment the recent Newbury winner will carry. The selection first came to my attention when outstayed by Cavers Glen over an extended 3m over the Mildmay course back in November. He jumped beautifully on that occasion and has improved since winning at Cheltenham as well as at the Berkshire track.
This 2m 6f trip looks ideal and as long as the handicapper doesn’t overreact (at first glance looks to have been raised 5lbs) then he must have a leading chance if he adapts to the unique National fences. I can also pass on a good word for Irish raider Gonebeyondrecall whose shrewd trainer Noel Glynn suggests he is an ideal type for the race.
Bobs Worth beat stablemate Mossley by over 2L in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival and they head the entries for the final Grade 1 on Friday’s card. Court In Motion travelled every bit as well as the Henderson pair for much of the race and Emma Lavelle’s charge will have her supporters, but it is hard to see past the big two.
Sparky May was no match for the brilliant Quevega at the Festival but trainer Pat Rodford has given the mare an entry back in Novice company; she only finished a length in front of Ocean Transit a 124 rated animal on that occasion, however, and will have to at her very best to take a hand against the boys.
Nicky Henderson looks to have a strong hand in the mares’ bumper which concludes Friday’s card and I was particularly impressed with Glorious Feeling in the JP McManus colours who made such a favourable impression at Huntingdon on debut. Last year’s winner Big Time Billy was beaten 30L on her belated reappearance at Ffos Las last month but she looks to have been laid out for the race.
The listed Sandown Bumper on Imperial Cup Day is always a hot race and runner up Tante Sissi and third horse Baby Shine have, arguably, the best form on offer. The Irish won the race in 2009 and finished 2nd and 4th last year and they are well represented again at the five-day stage; Willie Mullins has entered the Punchestown winner Ceol Rua whilst Jessie Harrington’s maiden Burn And Turn will improve for the better ground if she makes the trip from County Kildare.
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