2.00 – Liverpool Hurdle
No doubt this race will be dubbed “the rematch” as the mighty Big Bucks and Grands Crus look set to lock horns again after an epic battle at Cheltenham three weeks ago. Big Bucks will prove extremely tough to beat again but, at 4-7 is no price – especially after his Cheltenham exploits. Grand Crus is sure to go well again, too, but this improving six-year-old may battle with two tough back to back races.
The race for the places looks wide open and a chance is taken with the hardy Knockara Beau. The son of Leading Counsel has quite a bit of ground to make up in terms of ratings but, his tough attitude and course and distance form mean he may sneak into a place. Plenty others have more questions to answer and at the prices he looks a nice value bet. A bet without the favourite is advised.
0.5pts each-way Knockara Beau @ 15-2 (w/o Big Bucks)
2.30 – Matalan Juvenile Hurdle
Hugely impressive Cheltenham winner, Zarkandar, is hoping to complete a quick fire double today. The half-brother to superstar race mare, Zarkava, left a lasting impression when sizing through the Triumph Hurdle pack, for a very impressive victory. Odds of 4-5 today do not appeal so we’ll be looking for an alternative. Plenty of horses may go well here at a nice price with Third Intention, Palawi and Launchpad taking the eye. Third Intention was a horse I felt would run well in the Triumph and, although he didn’t prove a major disappointment, he may well have slightly underperformed. I can give a horse one more chance and in doing so he gets the call. This flat track may help him use his speed that bit better and hopefully he at least gets placed. Palawi was an above average type on the flat and his front running style will be suited to Aintree. Plenty front runners prove tough to pass around here and with a superb pace judge in Jason McGuire on board, I’ll be having a small saver. Hopefully he handles the big occasion.
0.75pts each-way Third Intentions @ 12-1
0.25pts each-way Palawi @ 25-1
3.05 – Totesport Bowl Chase
You’ll hear no bigger roar all year if Denman crosses the winning post in front today. Paul Nicholls’ inmate is a modern warrior and has been one of the national hunt pin-ups for quite a while now. He ran another superb race to be placed in his fourth straight Gold Cup three weeks ago and will be remembered in racing folklore for years to come. That being said, wearing your heart on your sleeve rarely gets you anywhere in life and the same must be said for gambling. I’d love Denman to win tomorrow but, for me, the track just may find him out after a tough race three weeks ago.
Younger legs are needed and Punchestowns gets the call. Nicky Henderson’s charge hasn’t reached the dizzy heights of his hurdling days yet but, the fact connections are still pursing with a chase career (probably due to Big Bucks also) is encouraging. He got his head back in front last time out and Barry Geraghty always felt this race would suit him better than the Gold Cup. He comes into the race fresher than most and so gets the call.
1pt win Punchestowns @ 5-1
3.40 – Foxhunter Chase
Not a race I’m over keen on with it being a race for hunters but, races of this nature, over the Grand National fences, do take my fancy. Year in year out, horses with course form over these daunting obstacles go well. That being said, Silver Adonis, Moncadou, Van Ness, Offshore Account and Turko are the ones to concentrate on.
Of the above mentioned a chance is taken on Silver Adonis to recapture last year’s form and reclaim his crown. Dr Richard Newland’s stable are in great form with three of his last four runners winning. 14-1 looks a little too big and he represents a nice each-way bet.
0.5pts each-way Silver Adonis @ 14-1
4.15 – Handicap Chase
An interesting but tough heat to deal with for the first handicap of the day. The presence of Woolcombe Folly means the horses to the bottom end of the weights are ‘out of the handicap’. For this reason the higher rated horses should be the ones to concentrate on. The fact Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride Tchico Polos instead of Woolcombe Folly may be a tip in itself. Ruby’s mount will come into the race fresher than most and although the sharp track is a slight concern, the recent rain around Merseyside should help offset this fear. This horse really knuckles down to the task and I can see him grinding out a success coming up the straight.
1pt win Tchico Polos @ 5-1
4.50 – Totesport Manifesto Chase
I’d be very surprised if Royal Charm can improve sufficiently to challenge Medermit and Wishful Thinking. Medermit was a huge disappointment in the Arkle at Cheltenham where he never travelled or got competitive and finished a decent fourth, considering. Wishful Thinking ran a nice race in the new Jewson Novice Chase when finishing second to Noble Prince. Both are now rated the same on a mark of 155 but, given the fact that Medermit disappointed at Cheltenham, it may be too soon to right him off. Formerly a high class hurdler Alan King’s inmate has taken very well to fences. King always felt he’d make a better chaser and given he hasn’t yet progressed past his hurdles mark; there is every chance he will do so today.
2pts win Medermit @ 5-2
5.25 – Listed Handicap Hurdle
A tough getting out stakes with a very competitive listed hurdle to end the days racing. The two that catch the eye are Megastar and Pateese. The former looks to be on a very fair mark while the latter will love the step up in trip. Afsoun may go well at a monster price, too.
1pt each-way Pateese @ 11-1
0.5pts each-way Megastar @ 7-1