Apr 8, 729 days ago

Holywell favourite for Aintree Bowl

Holywell favourite for Aintree Bowl

Jonjo O’Neill’s Holywell, a respectable fourth behind Coneygree in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, has been installed as the 7-4 favourite for the Aintree Bowl on Thursday.

The eight-year-old will be having only his fourth race of the season and usually thrives at this time of year. All seven of his career victories have come between January and April including a very impressive win in last season’s Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase.

He earned some single-figure quotes for the Gold Cup after trouncing Don Cossack by ten lengths under Tony McCoy. The runner-up won his first four starts this season before finishing third in the Ryanair Gold Cup while Hennessy winner Many Clouds was well beaten. The form was reversed by Oliver Sherwood’s gelding at Carlisle in November and Holywell unseated Richie McLernon here the following month.

O’Neill gave him a break after that and he reappeared to win unchallenged in a minor race at Kelso before running at the festival. He was still in contention three from home but could not quicken, possibly the soft ground having just gone against him. He should enjoy perfect conditions at Aintree on Thursday where he renews rivalry with disappointing Gold Cup favourite Silviniaco Conti.

The Paul Nicholls-trained gelding was strongly fancied after winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton for a second time in December. The Ditcheat trainer had no real explanation for his poor run at the festival where he faded to finish seventh. He was fourth in the Gold Cup last year before bouncing back with a victory in this race.

Don Cossack could also take on Holywell again on Thursday while Nicky Henderson may run Ma Filleule, a fine second in the Ryanair behind Uxizandre. The grey mare won over the big Aintree fences in last year’s Topham Chase and was third over the Mildmay course in December.

Menorah was runner-up to First Lieutenant in this race in 2013 but only fifth last year behind Silviniaco Conti. He has not raced since being well beaten at Kempton on Boxing Day but usually runs well fresh. Smad Place is also on a retrieval mission after finishing only eighth in the Gold Cup for Alan King.

Willie Mullins has entered Champagne Fever, a late withdrawal from Cheltenham after being bitten by a stable companion during the journey from Ireland. He has an alternative engagement in Friday’s Melling Chase, the likely target of Al Ferof and Cue Card.

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