1 40 – Handicap Hurdle (Grade Three)
Dream Berry 10/1 EW & Rather Be 12/1 EW
The case for both of these 6YOs is similar – both are on the up and have recent form on good ground. The handicapper looks like he might still be behind these two long term and hopefully one – if not both – can demonstrate that today. Rather Be ran well at Cheltenham before being badly hampered two out, forcing Charlie Deutsch to unseat when making a serious move through the field. The race was a good one and I’m more than happy to give him another EW shot. Dream Berry missed Cheltenham but ran at Kempton on the Saturday behind the vastly improving Brio Conti; finishing a good third with plenty more in the tank. A stronger pace will suit and the handicapper has been very generous leaving the 6YO on a mark of 133. Both solid shouts at generous prices.
2 20 – Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade One)
The Unit 12/1 EW
Not a race I feel strongly on and I’d happily leave the top three in the market alone at the prices. It’s easy to make a case for any of them but hard to weigh them up in comparison of one another. The Unit has been steadily progressive this season; and the one bit of form that catches my eye is the run in behind Air Horse One at Taunton. This was followed up by a rout at the same track and the handicapper has chucked another 9lbs at Alan King’s hurdler. This may seem steep but at the odds I’m happy to take a small chance on another solid run that should see him go close. A better handicap and improving horse my find that extra in the final stages; but The Unit should be there or there abouts.
2 50 – Mildmay Novices Chase (Grade One)
Might Bite 8/13 (No Bet)
I was on Whisper at Cheltenham and had near enough ripped my ticket up as Might Bite cruised round. His antics in the run in gave his backers a heart attack but he proved he had plenty left in the tank by pulling out and sticking his neck out; albeit thanks to the loose horse. He could be a monster and looks set to be a major player on the chase scene next season. However, I’m happy to watch him today and cement himself as a potential star for Nicky Henderson.
3 25 – Melling Chase (Grade One)
Sub Lieutenant 7/2
My bet of the day for a few reasons… The Ryanair was won by a dominant Un De Sceaux and while it may not appear the strongest race at a glance; Sub Lieutenant looked good in behind and pulled well clear of the rest. He has no Un De Sceaux to contest with today and a bit of cut under foot should see him go one better today. Fox Norton is still to be fully tested in a competitive field that isn’t just a procession. God’s Own is a threat; but I feel his form just doesn’t compare to much of Henry De Bromhead’s chasers form in Ireland behind Sizing John and Djakadam; while beating Outlander comfortably.
4 05 – Topham Chase Handicap (Grade Three)
Gold Present 11/1 EW & Quite By Chance 33/1 EW
I look sticking with horses through a sticky patch over fences and in Quite By Chance’s case I’m willing to give him one more chance at long odds. His form has been shaky since stepping up in trip but I’m hoping a big field can give him a new lease of life and Colin Tizzard has got him going again since Cheltenham. Gold Present is the main fancy in a very competitive race; 10/1 the field. The 7YO came to life after Christmas and proved his ability in a cracking effort at Cheltenham behind a very well handicapped horse. The Frodon run at Kempton is difficult to judge and I’m willing to forgive him in such a small field and tactical affair. Not a race to crazy on and a big priced winner wouldn’t be a shock to anyone.
4 40 – Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade One)
The Worlds End 5/2
I really liked The Worlds End at Cheltenham and had him at a huge price antepost. He ran a blinder and would have given Penhill a run for his money had he not fallen two out when making a move. The problem now is that everyone else has caught on and the price reflects this. 5/2 is still backable, but like any Grade One novice race there’s always a serious improver lurking further down the card. West Approach has to be taken very seriously and although very disappointing at the festival; his form earlier in the campaign is the strongest in the race. The Cheltenham form is fresh and always hard to judge coming into Aintree just three weeks after. One horse at huge odds is Get On The Yager; who’s Willoughby Court form makes interesting reading. A tricky race but I have to stick with The Worlds End, even if slightly fearful.
5 15 – Weatherbys NHF (Grade Two)
Western Ryder 11/2
Again the concluding race looks perfectly set up for the bookies to clean up any losses that might be lingering around the ring. The closer is not much of a betting heat; although Western Ryder ticks a few boxes for me. One of the more experienced horses, he will run a race every outing and should be there or there abouts. He’s proven himself amongst the best bumper horses with very respectable run at Cheltenham and anything that does finish above the 5YO sets a good standard. On ratings he is only behind Henderson’s main runner and he’s raced at a better level for three races now. Much of the competition has only two or three runs and what to make of them is anyones guess. Take your pick…