Paul Ferguson has four selections from Aintree for us on Thursday; Hargam in the 2.15; On the Fringe at 4.05, Claret Cloak at 4.40 and Call The Cops at 5.15. | Compare odds and bet.
Aintree’s Grand National meeting gets underway with four Grade 1s on Thursday, with the feature events on day one the Betfred Bowl and the Aintree Hurdle.
Silviniaco Conti and Holywell both won at the meeting last year (the former in this race) but both run in what turned out to be a brutal Gold Cup last month. Holywell will relish the drying ground, but so too will Ma Filleule who steps back up in trip, after finishing runner-up in the Ryanair. I can see her going well, but would have expected a bigger price, so the race is best watched.
Likewise, the Aintree Hurdle looks a tricky puzzle. Arctic Fire finished ahead of last year’s Champion Hurdle winner Jezki in this year’s renewal, staying on strongly, but it could be that he ran on after Faugheen had beaten off Jezki and The New One.
Runner-up in this race 12 months ago Rock On Ruby is the one who will not be inconvenienced by the trip and, having been forced to miss Cheltenham with a minor setback, arrives here the fresh horse. If Noel Fehily gets an uncontested lead, he could easily dictate things aboard the evergreen 10-year-old.
The opening contest this year is the Manifesto Novices’ Chase, in which both Josses Hill and Vibrato Valtat step up in trip, having finished third and fourth in the Arkle, respectively.
The former won at this meeting last year, but has still to convince over fences and, if he gets home (first try at 2m4f) Vibrato Valtat should have too much pace for his rivals at the business end of the contest. If he touches around 2-1, his staying power is probably worth chancing, with the track likely to suit his smooth travelling style.
The bet in the quartet of Grade 1s is Hargam (2:15) who will relish both the course and ground and should provide Nicky Henderson with another Grade 1 juvenile contest.
Third behind stable-mates Peace And Co and Top Notch in the Triumph, the grey has been crying out for good ground all season and showed he handles a sharp track such as this when winning easily at Musselburgh in February. He deserves to be a short price favourite.
In the same green and gold silks of JP McManus, On The Fringe (4:05) is fancied to complete the Cheltenham-Aintree double in the Crabbie’s Fox Hunters’ Chase.
Enda Bolger’s 10-year-old won the Cheltenham equivalent by 17 lengths in the end, putting to bed any doubts about him lasting home (I admit to being concerned about him getting the trip). With that in mind, the drop to an extended 2m5f isn’t too much of a concern and, if he takes to the big fences, he will take some stopping under Nina Carberry.
She will need to ride the selection a shade handier than normal (likes to be held up, which doesn’t always suit around here), especially with Sam Waley-Cohen likely to try and dictate aboard last year’s winner Warne, but Carberry will be well aware of this and I expect him to be hunted around in midfield.
Others to note include Shoreacres who should appreciate the drop in trip, Pacha Du Polder who is the up-and-coming horse in the field and also races over his optimum distance, while those with previous course form to their name include Big Fella Thanks and Last Time D’Albain.
Later on the card Claret Cloak (4:40) is capable of going well under top-weight in the Red Rum Handicap, with in-form Sean Bowen an eye-catching booking.
Beaten in the race off a 7lb lower mark last year, the key to Emma Lavelle’s eight-year-old is returning from a break and good ground, so everything looks in place this afternoon. Off the track since he finished runner-up at Ascot on 1st November, he will be held up off the likely strong pace and, hopefully, his jumping will hold up.
Another worthy of each-way support in a wide-open handicap is festival winner Call The Cops (5:15) who holds strong claims of emulating Cape Tribulation, who won the same two races back in 2010.
An easy winner at Doncaster in February, the Presenting gelding travelled really well for Andrew Tinkler in the Pertemps and he quickened clear to beat Unique De Cotte by the best part of 2 lengths.
Another who will appreciate the decent ground this afternoon, he has a 7lb rise to contend with, but is only 1lb worse off with the runner-up, and is fancied to confirm the form. He opened up 8-1 on Wednesday afternoon, while Claret Cloak was trading at 9s in the early exchanges – both should be backed each-way.
2:15 Aintree: Hargam; evens bet365
4:05 Aintree: On The Fringe; 4/1 Stan James
4:40 Aintree: Claret Cloak; 9/1 betvictor
5:15 Aintree: Call The Cops 15/2 Skybet
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