Richard Johnson: Brian Ellison is sweet on Shearling in the mares’ bumper
The Betway ambassador previews his two rides for the opening day at Aintree...
There’s always a great atmosphere at Aintree. People go there for a good time, not a long time!
It’s definitely more of a party feel than at Cheltenham. Of course, there’s still pressure for jockeys and trainers, but it’s not quite as intense.
There’s more expectation going into Cheltenham because a lot of the horses haven’t taken each other on yet. You have a better idea of where you stand at Aintree.
Fairer than Cheltenham
It’s always a really fun week and I’m pleased that Betway are the new betting partner. It’s a great meeting.
Although many think it’s a tight track, it has a very long straight and you need a horse that stays well.
It’s easy for a horse to get into a rhythm here and I’d say it’s a fairer track than Cheltenham. You rarely get an unlucky loser at Aintree, as you have time up the straight to get a clear run.
Top Notch should take all the beating after his run at Cheltenham. I think that form behind Yorkhill is really solid. Cloudy Dream is probably the biggest threat based on his Arkle run.
I’ve only got the two rides on the opening day and my first is on Flying Tiger in the juvenile hurdle (14:10), who I won the Fred Winter with at Cheltenham last month.
In fact, both of my Cheltenham winners are in this race and obviously Defi Du Seuil is the one with the best form. He was very impressive in the Triumph and he’s come out of the race really well.
He will be very hard to beat.
If Flying Tiger can reproduce his form from last month, then he has a great chance of finishing second.
My only worry is that a fast race suits him really well as he’s a very keen horse. With just eight runners it could be more tactical and that might not help him.
If he settles it will be a big help, although on all known form Defi Du Seuil will continue his unbeaten record for Philip Hobbs.
The big race of the day is the Betway Bowl, where Cue Card is sure to be a short-priced favourite.
To be honest, after that nasty fall in the Gold Cup 12 months ago I thought he’d struggle here but he was absolutely fine. That said, I don’t think he was travelling as well as this year.
Silviniaco Conti is the only horse in the line-up that didn’t go to Cheltenham this year and that is a big bonus.
He’s won this race twice before and Paul Nicholls has kept him fresh for it. I’d be siding with him. The track, trip and ground all look spot on.
Buveur D’Air was very impressive in the Champion Hurdle and he’s going to be very hard to beat in the Betway Aintree Hurdle.
He travelled really well at Cheltenham and he’s taking on most of the same horses here. It’s hard to think why they would beat him.
Perhaps Identity Thief could be his biggest threat. He hasn’t been at his best over fences, but he was a very good hurdler last season.
I don’t have a strong view on the Foxhunters. You’d think the same horses from Cheltenham would be involved in the finish.
On The Fringe loves these fences and Pacha Du Polder ran really well last time.
The Betway Red Rum Chase is always a really fast run race and it certainly will be with Gino Trail in it.
You need a horse that can hold a position and stay on well. Dandridge always runs well in these races and it’s only a matter of time before he gets his head in front.
My final ride of the day is in the closing mares’ bumper where I’m on Shearling for Brian Ellison. She’s won three bumpers already and I know that Brian is very sweet on her.
There are a number of talented mares in the field, but hopefully she has a decent each-way chance.