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Richard Hoiles: 4 selections for Aintree on Thursday

10 Apr | BY Richard Hoiles | MIN READ TIME |
Richard Hoiles: 4 selections for Aintree on Thursday

The horse racing broadcaster offers his four best bets from day one of the Grand National Festival at Aintree.

Aintree gets up and running with lots of questions to ponder.

Even for horses that handle deep ground, will it prove a race too far given that many have already had several races in testing conditions?

Will Nicky Henderson be back up and firing? If so, will the fact that many of his horses were forced to miss Cheltenham count in their favour?

Will the three days settle the trainers’ title between Dan Skelton and Paul Nicholls, or will even that head over to Ireland to Willie Mullins?

All three clash in the first race of the meeting the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices Chase at 13:45. It sees the third meeting between Grey Dawning and Ginny’s Destiny – the first two home in the Turners at Cheltenham – pitched against Il Etait Temps, third in the Arkle behind Gaelic Warrior. Grey Dawning’s error two out at Cheltenham in December had been crucial in his defeat that day and I expect him to confirm Festival form with Ginny’s Destiny, but IL ETAIT TEMPS / has never looked entirely comfortable at Cheltenham and his lack of scope saw him make at least two serious errors. He stayed on well from the third last and is a doughty battler, which could be a useful asset here, particularly on the long run down to the final fence.

At 14:20 we will have the first Nicky Henderson horse to ponder in Sir Gino, who for a long time dominated the Triumph Hurdle market only to be one of the stable’s many horses forced to miss the Festival. Of the two that did run in the Triumph, Nurburgring can get much closer to Kargese if kept in closer touch. He looked to finish with running left and the application of cheekpieces suggests connection are keen to have him sharper and more focused here. Add into the mix the unbeaten Kalif Du Berlais and this looks a fascinating renewal. Sir Gino is clearly the one to beat, but given the stable concerns, the short price and the lack of three places for any each-way alternative, it looks a race to watch rather than get heavily involved in.

The pick of the chases is the Grade 1 Aintree Bowl (14:55) which has a strong field headed by Gold Cup runner-up GERRI COLOMBE / . He won at the meeting last season and there was no disgrace in being beaten by Galopin Des Champs at the Festival. It was encouraging that he went with a lot more fluency then when beaten by the same horse at Leopardstown over Christmas, and he can go one better here. I am happy to take on Shishkin, who ran down Ahoy Senor in the race last season. How Sir Gino runs earlier will have a bearing but the signs of potential sourness have been there for Shishkin for a while and he is just not the sort of horse that I back. Corbetts Cross is an interesting runner after his National Hunt Chase romp but this is a big step up in terms of class and I expect Gerri Colombe to lead them home.

One of the best bets on the card looks to be NEMEAN LION (EW) / in the Aintree Hurdle at 15:30. A revitalised Bob Olinger, and a horse in need of revitalising in Impaire Et Passe, take a big share of the market and Kerry Lee’s hurdler will relish the deep ground and will hopefully be ridden more quietly over this longer trip. He was well beaten in the Champion Hurdle where he paid for getting involved in the race from an early stage and this looks a more suitable opportunity and I would have him a shorter price than both Luccia and Langer Dan. If the old cracks appear with Bob Olinger and are not papered over with Impaire Et Passe, Nemean Lion could pop up at a nice price, though the each way angle would be partly negated in the dead eight did not line up.

The race over the big fences is the Randox Foxhunters’ Chase, where last year’s runner-up Benny’s King, Cheltenham third Time Leader and Spyglass Hill look the most interesting trio. Benny’s King will no doubt have had the Skelton treatment in being ready for his big race of the season but is now 13 years of age, which is the main concern. Time Leader was fifth last season at a big price after an early error at the Chair, but has really blossomed since and his Festival third was an excellent run. He was one place behind It’s On The Line that day but can reverse the form over the shorter trip. That leaves Spyglass Hill, who has the benefit of the excellent James King in the saddle. He gained a hard-fought victory in the mud at Haydock and had experience of these fences when unseating his rider at the Canal Turn when in front in the Grand Sefton. TIME LEADER / just gets the verdict but it was a close call.

It has always seemed slightly strange that the helter-skelter 2m handicap chase at 16:40 is named after Red Rum, but conditions will ensure it is more attritional than the normal pace burn up. It looks a very difficult puzzle, and while I toyed with tipping up Paul Nicholls’ San Bruit he is still just a shade too keen to guarantee he can last home in this ground after a much better effort at Chepstow last time where a last-fence error cost him against a progressive rival.

The card concludes with a mares’ bumper, the Nickel Coin at 17:15, which turned out to be one of the strongest form races of the meeting last season. The race is packed full of horses with potential and it is one to watch back carefully for next season when many of these will go the mares’ novice hurdle route. Jubilee Alpha impressed me at Wincanton and Park Princess shouldn’t be discounted at a bigger price. She was sent off favourite last time at Market Rasen behind Diva Luna, who also lines up here, but got outpaced when it lifted before keeping on. If conditions are now very testing, the greater emphasis on stamina may well suit her.

SELECTIONS

IL ETAIT TEMPS / (13:45)

GERRI COLOMBE / (14:55)

NEMEAN LION (EW) / (15:30)

TIME LEADER / (16:05)

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Richard Hoiles

Richard Hoiles

Richard is a horse racing broadcaster and commentator who has been involved in the sport since 1992.

Richard Hoiles

Richard Hoiles

Richard is a horse racing broadcaster and commentator who has been involved in the sport since 1992.