Above: Might Bite, runner-up in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, is the star turn on Thursday, the first day of the superb Aintree Festival
145 Aintree – CYRNAME (10/3 with Betway) didn’t run at last month’s Cheltenham Festival and comes here a fresher horse than many of the other key contenders, most of whom had hard races. He failed by just a neck to beat Terrefort at Sandown in February conceding the winner 3lb, and that rates a very good effort. Brain Power ran well in the Arkle, but that was a very tough race and he will do well to bounce back even allowing for the extra week gap this year between the two major jumps festivals. Finians Oscar, Renees Girl, and Modus are all respected, but Cyrname can get Paul Nicholls off to a winning start at Aintree.
220 Aintree – Many punters will be out to try recover losses sustained when Nicky Henderson’s Apple’s Shakira (see video below) was beaten in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last month. She ran too free in the first half of that race and had nothing left to give in the closing stages. If she settles better here it may be a different story, but it’s a big ‘if’.
Stable companion WE HAVE A DREAM (9/4 with BetStars) has been saved specifically for this event and didn’t go to Cheltenham. He is already a Grade 1 winner having beaten Sussex Ranger in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow in January and subsequently scored again at Musselburgh. He has been given a break ahead of this race and looks set to go very well. Redicean and Nube Negra need to improve on their Cheltenham efforts to score here, but the progressive Malayan is respected and could well be a danger to all.
Might Bite Poised For More Grade 1 Glory
250 Aintree – The big race of the day, the Grade 1 Betway Bowl, is always a tremendous contest and the presence of Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up MIGHT BITE (4/6 with 10Bet) will ensure plenty of press coverage. Had the Gold Cup been run here over this furlong shorter trip and less demanding course, there is every chance Nicky Henderson’s King George VI Chase winner (see video below) might have prevailed – but it isn’t, and he didn’t. The tough and relentless Native River was just too strong for him in last month’s stellar championship race.
Might Bite won the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices Chase over this course and distance 12 months ago so we know the track suits. He has reportedly recovered well from his Cheltenham exertions, and even if not quite at his brilliant best should be good enough to take this prestigious race.
Following a wind operation, Bristol De Mai may bounce back to form having been below-par since slamming Cue Card by a country mile in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock, but Definitly Red beat him last time fair and square, although Brian Ellison’s horse proved short of the required standard in the Gold Cup. He beat Cloudy Dream over this course and distance in December, but that level doesn’t look enough to trouble Might Bite.
Tea For Two famously defeated Cue Card in this race 12 months ago and goes well here, but a place may be the best he can hope for this time, however Double Shuffle, beaten just one length by Might Bite at Kempton on Boxing Day and saved for this race since then, is a possible surprise package and may give the selection most to do.
Old Stager Tent Still Up To The Task
325 Aintree – With champion hurdler Buveur D’Air missing, this Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle has lost a touch of its lustre but should still serve up a fine race with some smart horses lining up. Supasundae will be all the rage following his fine effort when runner-up in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month and this drop back in trouble holds no fears for him. He did have a hard race that day though, and while sure to run well once again I fancy that MY TENT OR YOURS (6/1 with William Hill), who has been sparingly campaigned by Nicky Henderson may just have the edge. Runner-up in the last two renewals of this race, he is well into the veteran stage now, but My Tent Or Yours has only run once this season, beating the admirable The New One in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.
These two old warriors lock horns again and the fresher My Tent or Yours is taken to confirm superiority. L’Ami Serge ran well for a long way in the Stayers’ Hurdle and is another who will appreciate this drop back in distance but isn’t the easiest to win with.
405 Aintree – This Foxhunters Chase run over the Grand National fences will be a great spectacle as always and the tentative choice is GRAND VISION (11/2 with Bet365), a good sixth in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham last month and will be better served by the very testing ground at Aintree. Top amateur rider Jamie Codd should give every assistance from the saddle. Wonderful Charm, and Balnaslow are both respected along with mud lover Unioniste.
Bun Can Rise to the Occasion
440 Aintree – A fiercely competitive two-mile Red Rum Handicap Chase and there will be plenty of support for the Grand Annual Chase second and fourth Gino Trail and Theinval, who do battle again. The former has been raised just 1lb so has good claims once again, while Theinval, runner-up in this event 12 months ago, runs off the same mark. King’s Socks never managed to land a blow over half a mile further at Cheltenham be still ran a good race to finish fifth of 22 and is sure t attract support once again.
Sent off favourite and a brave third 12 months ago was Tom George’s BUN DORAN (8/1 with Betfred), who runs off the same mark today but crucuially this time has the soft ground required to show him at his very best. This is his chance to land the spoils and he looks worth an interest.
515 Aintree – There are a host of unknown quantities in the Grade 2 mares’ bumper but the fine effort from John Queally’s Getaway Katie Mai when runner-up to subsequent Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner Relegate at Fairyhouse in February stands out on recent form. A similar effort would see her go close again.
On this soft ground a chance is taken that Mick Channon’s BUILDMEUPBUTTERCUP can build on her good win last time in soft ground at Ascot. The first-time hood should help keep her in the zone and at 25/1 with Betfair she looks a sporting each-way alternative to the favourite and looks decent each-way value. The likes of Duhallow Gesture, Cedar Valley, Dissavril and Kuragina also have claims in a veyr tricky finale.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.