There’s some £930,000 in prize money on offer at Aintree on Thursday as we kick off Grand National weekend.
We’ll have information for both the Topham Chase and the Grand National itself in due course, but for now we concentrate on this two-mile thriller on the Mildmay Course.
While the National will be as gruelling as ever, the Red Rum is purely a speed test. The maximum 18 are lining up for a share of £100,000, these six being the ones we’ve taken against the field.
Sam Thomas is making some waves, there’s no doubt about that, and his Before Midnight comes to this race having missed Cheltenham meaning he should be nice and fresh.
Second at Doncaster in January on good ground, he has the required speed for sure and is already a three-time winner over fences too. He has a certain each-way chance for jockey Sam Twiston-Davies.
There is plenty to like about Frero Banbou. Trainer Ventia Williams and jockey Charlie Deutsch have been doing pretty much what we expect them to do, which is to say they’ve been very good, and they are the ones represented by this seven-year-old.
Four from 12 over fences, Frero Banbou has had enough racing of late including having gone to Cheltenham but he is getting better.
Third in the Grand Annual to Global Citizen, our guess would be he achieved that position despite the soft ground rather than because of it and will do much better this time when able to show off his speed between fences on the better going.
Winner of the aforementioned Grand Annual last time, Global Citizen can’t be left off this shortlist but there are some negatives.
Although he’s lightly raced over fences, it could just be that he was well enough handicapped to take advantage last time at the festival and at ten years old, his 7lb rise might be enough to stop him doubling up. The ground may also be a concern.
Like Frero Banbou, King D’argent is a seven-year-old with more improvement to come. Another to have skipped the festival, he was last sighted finished second at Doncaster which is good form.
That was on soft ground too, while his best run came nearly a year ago on good going. If we are to take it that he has been waiting for this sort of surface, then a career best seems all but inevitable which gives him a major chance for Dan and Harry Skelton.
The Last Day
Evan Williams’ runner was two lengths ahead of the field when falling at the last fence at Haydock as a 25/1 shot.
He can be treated like a last-time-out winner in that case, although the ground was very different and he has been raised a pound for the effort. He has won over the course and distance before, but it was back in 2019 and once again was on softer ground.
Six-year-old Thyme White is more than a little interesting. We went for him in the Grand Annual in fact, but when the heavens opened Paul Nicholls decided to pull him out of his festival engagement.
He was rerouted to Ascot for a novices’ handicap chase where he finished second in a small race that didn’t really suit him. It speaks volumes that Nicholls wants to bring him here 11 days on.
On our numbers, at least the ones we expect him to reach, he’d be close to being the selection but it’s the words of jockey Bryony Frost that have given us more encouragement.
Not only did he at least travel very well at Ascot and jumped nicely, two things that will really be seen to good effect around Aintree, but Frost also says that he rode him on Monday in preparation for this event and that he felt very good which is nice to hear.
We can’t deny that on the drying ground King D’argent is a major player. He is a solid each-way chance and should attract plenty of money close to post time.
Given that we like them both and that the prices are juicy, our recommendation is to back both FRERO BANBOU and THYME WHITE.
The former has threatened a win like this for a while now and the latter was our selection for the Grand Annual and should be even better now given that he is improving all the time.