Paul Ferguson has three more tips for Saturday’s Aintree Grand National meeting, hoping to follow up on yesterday’s successes.
The week hasn’t really gone to plan so far for Nicky Henderson at Aintree, but that could change today as the Lambourn based handler could be in for a cracking Grand National day, despite not having a runner in the big race itself.
His first runner comes in a very hot renewal of the Grade 2 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle and Spirit Son (1:45) is fancied to gain compensation for his Supreme Novices’ Hurdle second, when he was beaten 2 lengths by Paul Nicholls’ Al Ferof.
The five-year-old steps up to 2m4f for the first time, as does Cue Card who was back in fourth in the Supreme, but that shouldn’t be a problem around here and he proved by winning at Huntingdon on his British debut that he handles a tight track.
Cue Card will also appreciate the step up in trip and is still very much greatly respected, as are the Nicholls pair of Rock On Ruby, who sets the standard over this trip having finished second in the Neptune, and Sam Winner, who is another stepping up after running on in the Triumph.
Henderson’s second runner of the day also carries the silks of Michael Buckley and Finian’s Rainbow (2:15) can make it a memorable day for the long-serving owner by taking the Grade 1 Maghull Novices’ Chase.
The eight-year-old is another bidding to go one better than he did at the Cheltenham Festival, where he finished runner-up to Captain Chris in the Arkle.
After taking the lead down the back straight, he had them all at it turning for home, before being outstayed up the hill. A similar performance, on a track that suits front-runners over fences, should be good enough as he won’t stop around here and the pursuers will find it hard to reel him in.
The Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle is the race of the meeting and Henderson holds a very strong hand, as he saddles last year’s Champion Hurdler Binocular as well as the improving Oscar Whisky (2:50).
Binocular needs to prove he can stay 2m4f on his first start at the trip, whereas his main market rivals Oscar Whisky and Peddlers Cross will appreciate stepping back up in distance.
Peddlers Cross finished 5 lengths in front of the selection in the Champion Hurdle last month and won the opening race on last year’s card, so conditions appear ideal for Donald McCain’s six-year-old.
However, the distance is also in the selections favour and I believe, with his perfect blend of speed and stamina, the track could be right up his street.
With Peddlers Cross and Binocular setting the market and there being the dead eight runners, Oscar Whisky looks a solid each-way play at the prices. Be sure to back him with Ladbrokes, Bet365, Skybet or VC who are all offering ¼ odds.
1:45 Aintree: Spirit Son @ 10/3 (Lads )
2:15 Aintree: Finian’s Rainbow @ 4/5 (Ladbrokes)
2:50 Aintree: Oscar Whisky e/w @ 5/1 (Ladbrokes)
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Last year’s selections included:
Hurricane Fly: 3/1 winner of the G1 Rabobank Champion Hurdle
Copper Bleu: 12/1 winner of the Jewson at Cheltenham
Great Endeavour: 18/1 winner of the Festival Plate
Tranguil Sea: 11/2 winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup
Sizing Europe: 6/1 winner of the Arkle
Weapon’s Amnesty: 10/1 winner of the RSA Chase