Day two at Aintree brings us another four Grade 1’s as we build up to the big day on Saturday, however we have a cracking chance of adding some dough to the Grand National betting bank by playing on the Topham Chase. Here are the main contenders:
Ran a cracker at Cheltenham last time but then he so often does; his consistency being a great weapon but also a scourge given that the handicapper knows exactly where he’s at perhaps meaning he won’t have a whole lot in hand.
Ian Williams’ charge was 5th of 8 and as good as he’s ever been when contesting the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at this meeting once upon a time, but that was two years ago now and I can’t say he’s appreciably better than that these days.
He’s crept down the weights and so I’ve seen much worse 138-rated horses but for me there may just be one or two better handicapped, especially over these fences.
Nigel Twiston-Davies knows what he’s doing around here but this seven-year-old, admittedly a potential improver and having recently had wind surgery, may lack a little bit of experience and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s here more pressingly to get Grand National practice for the future.
Having run to within 15 lengths of horses such as Top Notch and Definitly Red on level weights he certainly comes here with place chances even now, though watch out for him round here in the future when he’s a little older.
A lot is made of these fences, especially when we face softer ground conditions as we do this year, but those truly in the know don’t care one jot about Aintree experience or any other such poppycock and given that this is a handicap we simply need to find a decent jumper who could be ahead of the assessor – Kilcrea Vale fitting that bill.
While I’ll concede that his best performance was probably in a novice race back in winter 2016, he hasn’t slipped much below that level and in fact has been largely consistent with what level he can run to since then but the handicapper has dropped him gradually from 142 to now 137 and so his time must be coming soon.
He rates a great chance to get some major prize money here and I certainly wouldn’t want to be against him if I were a bookie standing on the rails at Liverpool.
I have to mention this horse given that he’s been backed into favouritism this week and I cannot ignore that sort of trend regarding a horse of Nicky Henderson’s, though I can’t see why there is so much confidence behind him.
He’d been climbing the ranks steadily, albeit slowly, before being well beaten at the Cheltenham festival in the Ultima Handicap Chase and there’s no obvious reason to be why he should now break a 6-run losing streak.
Although he has come down in the weights, his last win came off a mark 2lbs lower than this when he was odds-on in a 5-runner race so although it would be no great surprise to see him score, I would think his price is a little skinny on all known evidence.
A mare, only 5 chases under her belt, just eight years old, no wins over fences and only one success in 14 rules races. Sound legit?
Well actually I think Warren Greatrex’s runner has an outstanding chance given that she’ll be well prepared for this and that she has the key, obvious thing so many people miss and that is that she is improving and therefore potentially well handicapped.
Having run to a similar level around Cheltenham and Kempton this season, I’d say she’ll have appreciated this 48-day break and a return to a flat track so we can expect the normal improvement of around 5-7lbs for this race.
Should that arrive her mark of 132 makes her look pretty well-in and she can take this en route to better things as she rises up the ranks.
Ballyalton is solid enough while Kilcrea Vale rates as a huge danger to everything and may well prove to be Nicky Henderson’s main hope ahead of OO Seven, for me though this is all about the mare THEATRE TERRITORY.
Warren Greatrex will have his 8yo prepped perfectly well and she looks handicapped well enough to score at a reasonable price.