Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Aintree on Saturday and fancies Many Clouds for the Grand National.
Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Chepstow, Kempton and Wetherby on Saturday. View selections below.
MANY CLOUDS (5.15) and Leighton Aspell can take a lofty perch in Aintree’s coveted roll of honour by bagging a second straight Crabbie’s Grand National.
The top weight is attempting to do a Red Rum by winning back-to-back Nationals, while Aspell is chasing an unprecedented third straight victory (also aboard 2014 winner Pineau De Re).
Many Clouds’s flawless, energy-saving jumping technique carried him into contention with some aplomb 12 months ago before galloping on relentlessly to the line, and he again fenced with precision when accounting for Unioniste in his prep race at Kelso.
Punters must hunt around for the best value and take a price as the on-course layers are notorious for shortening up horses in the countdown to the race. I’m sure some firms will go 10-1 the field in the morning and that would be a very fair price for Many Clouds.
Silviniaco Conti, a seven-time Grade 1 winner, is the class act and should go well if finding his jumping rhythm. On the down side, there are stamina questions to answer and he rarely competes in races with double-figure runners, far less the 39 rivals he meets here. I still think he’ll go close.
Saint Are, last year’s runner-up, proved his well-being by scoring on a sound surface at Doncaster recently and he’s definite each-way material as long as the mud isn’t flying.
Holywell is very talented on his day and ran a cracker in defeat at the Cheltenham festival, while at bigger odds Hadrian’s Approach is interesting. The bet365 winner over 3m 5f at Sandown shaped with promise on his return from a long absence and is a fresh horse.
Gallant Oscar and The Romford Pele are another two to throw into the melting pot but Many Clouds looks the one to beat.
The handicaps on the support card appear just as daunting for punters but SQUOUATEUR (1.45) deserves the chance to prove his Cheltenham run was all wrong by landing the opening three-mile hurdle.
Gordon Elliott’s five-year-old was gambled off the boards in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle but he could never get into the contest after being hampered at the fourth flight. The grey eventually stayed on into seventh spot behind winner Ibis Du Rheu and these softer underfoot conditions will better serve Squouateur.
If In Doubt was arguably the most unlucky horse at Cheltenham, being twice badly hampered at crucial stages when third in the Pertemps Final. In a wide-open event, he rates a danger along with about 10 others!
The concluding two-mile handicap hurdle, restricted to conditional and amateur riders, isn’t much easier to unravel but at least we know THUNDER SHEIK (6.10) is at the top of his game. The arrival of drying ground has benefited Nigel Twiston-Davies’ eight-year-old and the fact that regular jockey Ryan Hatch can take the mount is another bonus.
The handicapper has taken a dim view of recent successes at Haydock and Newbury, the latter from in-form Gala Ball, but Thunder Sheik seems to be improving fast.
Well treated Dell’ Arca is better than his recent form figures suggest and David Noonan is terrific value for 5lb. With the David Pipe team in good heart, Dell’ Arca should hit the frame.
There is also some competitive racing on the all-weather at Lingfield where DUTCH UNCLE (3.10) is fancied to land the 1m 4f handicap for Ed Dunlop and Sylvestre De Sousa.
Dutch Uncle ran a stormer at Kempton on his first run for 253 days when chasing home much-improved Barsanti, travelling comfortably before failing to match the winner’s impressive finishing kick. He is nicely berthed in stall two.
Ryan Moore teams up with Richard Hannon’s course and distance scorer Silver Quay, a good second to Gang Warfare at Wolverhampton on his latest run. Despite being 12lb higher than his last Lingfield success, he should go well.
In the finale, top weight SPECULATOR (5.40) is worth a market watch. He returns from a six-month break but trainer David Menuisier saddled a double at Nottingham in midweek with horses having their first start in ages.
Speculator is a dual course and distance winner and regular jockey Shane Kelly is in the saddle. He will need his wits about him to overcome a potentially tricky draw in stall nine but that chance is worth taking.
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