The weather forecast has been all around the place this week, depending on which site you use, so you’d rather have been the Tory MPs doing the morning media rounds, defending the latest indefensible, than be Aintree’s clerk of the course.
The course executive also has to endure some pretty underwhelming fields in Grade 1 terms – let’s be honest here, as Cheltenham and Punchestown have dragged away plenty of the star names from the three-day meeting – but maybe it was always thus, so let’s focus on what we have.
I must admit the set-up of the opening-day card does not lend itself to my handicap-centric way of betting, especially as I don’t follow Hunter Chase and bumper form closely enough to offer a meaningful opinion there (though I may ask around the professionals in these fields, and pass on any worthwhile nuggets at the end of the piece).
War Lord could come into his own late on
The opening, seven-runner, 2m3f200yd novice chase at 13:45 is interesting because there is ample pace in the race. You’d imagine common sense will prevail to a certain extent but this could be an ideal set-up for a patiently-ridden War Lord.
I actually backed him at huge three-prices on the exchange for the 2m4f novice at Cheltenham but they decided to go down the Arkle route, and he pretty much ran as you would have expected him to there over 2m on the unexpectedly good ground.
That is to say that he found things happening too quickly at the business end after being ridden to the fore to tried to utilise his proven stamina over further. He got outpaced but stuck on well to take fourth again on the run-in, and recorded a level of form that puts him among the leading contenders in this.
A bit more cut in the ground and back up in trip, it is not hard to see him coming into his own late on here – and one of the three probable forward-goers in here is a stablemate – and, as ever, it is just a case of whether his price is big enough in such a close-knit field on official ratings, with Pic D’Orhy leading the way on that front.
War Lord’s current price of around 3.02/1 on the Exchange is fair – the opening 10/3 in the marketplace on Tuesday morning was quickly snapped up – but nothing more.
I’ll pass, and it isn’t on ITV after all, but he is the bet in the race if you want one. It wouldn’t be a massive surprise if he went off favourite.
Fautinette – potential jack in the box?
I can’t see much of a betting angle in the 14:20, with the Irish pair of Triumph Hurdle third Pied Piper and Boodles winner Brazil dominating the ratings and the betting, with the latter also possibly having the added bonus of a solo on the front end if Inca Prince declines the offer to lock horns early doors.
One of their rivals is going to have to improve by at least 7lb to hit their Cheltenham level – this is, of course, entirely plausible given the oft-repeated, relatively narrow gap between Cheltenham and this meeting and the possibility horses regressing in the interim, plus Pied Piper’s trainer Gordon Elliott is hardly firing – and I am sure many will focus on Fautinette on this front.
I am told her form is the equivalent to a French rating of 147, which is probably around 137 under the English handicapper’s regime of dropping them 10lb – don’t shoot me if that is wrong, I am but a mere messenger – so form-wise this unbeaten filly has to be respected getting 7lb.
She hasn’t raced since May 2021 and she may have had problems (she has been with the yard a while, I believe), and for all I know she could be a social runner here, looking to nick black Grade 1 type behind the front two, but she is undoubtedly the potential jack in the box at a price from a top yard.
I couldn’t put her up, even at 20/1+ on the Exchange, as it is a total guess-up but I came across an outstanding, ridiculously comprehensive piece on her while researching her claims on Tuesday – I put the link up on my Twitter feed, if you are interested – and the horse she beat on her recent start did win his next two, for what that is worth.
It is competitive in the second tier behind the front two, as Petit Tonnerre is similarly ex-French, unbeaten and unexposed (and did very well to overcome a bad mistake when winning at Market Rasen) and Inca Prince did impress off a mark of 119 in a good time in a Musselburgh handicap, so I will leave the race alone.
I thought the Betway Bowl at 14:55 was as nasty a Grade 1 race as I have seen this season. Royale Pagaille was a smidgeon of value at the opening 10s but that was taken into 8s, and I would have Kemboy as the safest conveyance at around 11/2 on the Exchange.
My only line into the Aintree Hurdle at 15:30, concerned the possibility of Champion Hurdle third Zanahiyr reverting to front-running tactics and making all, as I can’t see any other guaranteed pace in the contest.
I wouldn’t kick him out of bed at around 2s on the Exchange but it’s a marginal bet at best, especially with that stable form (as it stands) and he is unproven at the trip too, so the only punting ITV race of the day for me is the Red Rum at 16:40.
Give Frero Banbou another chance
Not the biggest surprise in the world that, and neither is the fact that I am happy to give Frero Banbou another chance. You could argue he is short enough at around 8/1 in an 18-runner handicap, but I would make the case he is justifiably so.
Quite simply, Charlie Deutsch, very much a golden jockey with the media of late (and rightly so), has probably had two obvious nightmares in the saddle this season and they have both been on this horse.
And, even worse, they have resulted in his charge going up 2lb for those two defeats, one by four lengths and the latest one by six, so the handicapper clearly agrees.
Perhaps I am being uncharitable and the horse is a much harder ride than it appears on TV and gives Deutsch the impression he has more in the tank than materializes late on – I am certainly no expert in that sphere – and Frero Banbou is also now 5lb higher than when beaten over eight lengths into fourth in this race last season.
But I cannot believe he still isn’t weighted to close here.
I thought the assessor was fully entitled to put him up 6lb for his Lingfield win in December – that form has worked out well – and the horse has clearly been given too much to do at Sandown and Cheltenham since.
Quite what went on at the Festival last time, when he was a right old gamble for the Grand Annual, being backed into 6/1 from double that price, I don’t know. But he was positioned bang-last, steadily crept into the race and made a Horlicks of the final fence when coming with a strong challenge.
It would be stretching it to say he would have won but for that momentum-stopper – he only hit 4.3 in the run, having traded at 1.625/8 previously at Sandown when never near the winner at any stage – but he would have been a damn-sight closer than a six-length third to Global Citizen and the punted Andy Dufresne.
If he can be ridden much closer to the front end here – and there is plenty of pace on in this, so you don’t want them to get away on this track – hopefully he can finally show what he is made of.
He is a bet a 9.08/1 or bigger.
Massive player is a smart saver
I suspect this has been a long-term plan for King D’argent, and I am not in the least surprised the Sportsbook’s opening 11/1 (they are paying five places, by the way) was taken on Tuesday afternoon.
Rated 146 when a close third at Kelso earlier in the season, he is down to 139 now and that is in spite of a close second at Doncaster last time, a race in which he would probably have won but for a sticky jump at the last (traded at 1.33).
But what really marked that run out was his stunning drift beforehand. Backed as short as 9/2 the day before, he drifted out to a Betfair SP of 16.59 at the off, which suggested he wasn’t exactly expected there on ground much softer than ideal, so just a 1lb rise still makes him a massive player here.
I also reckon we will see him revert to more forcing tactics – all his best runs have come under aggressive rides, and he has been held up on his last three starts – and I am happy to have him as my saver at 12.011/1 or bigger.
He wouldn’t want too much more rain though – perhaps unlike Frero Banbou – as he is best on decent ground, but the next 24 hours is hard to gauge from a rain and watering perspective, as I type away on Tuesday afternoon.
It should be fine for all though – we are not expecting extremes of weather – and I am going to suggest you have a small reverse forecast on the pair, too.
By the way, they are both very backable with the Sportsbook at 7s and 9s if you prefer to play them each way, five places.
If I was being really greedy then I would add in the big-priced Irish poke Espion Du Chenet as a third to consider, and I’ll chuck a few quid at him no doubt after what I saw at Thurles last time (off a much higher mark admittedly), but just the two for me here, with that reverse forecast thrown in.
Oh, and there is nothing doing in the Hunter Chase and bumper, sorry.
I did think Gavin Cromwell’s Law Ella looked impressive at Down Royal last month and was fair at 10s in the bumper – and the Sportsbook are paying five places here, by the way – but backing horses in isolation, when knowing precious little about the unexposed and lightly-raced opposition, is rarely wise.
Pace maps for Aintree ITV races on Thursday
13:45 Aintree – Lead/Prominent: Pic D’Orhy, The Widdow Maker, Gin On Lime; Midfield: Millers Bank, Erne River; Held Up: Jacamar, War Lord
14:20 Aintree – Lead/Prominent: Brazil, Inca Prince; Midfield: Knight Salute, In The Air, Impulsive One; Held Up: Pied Piper, Petit Tonnerre. Fautinette, Too Friendly
14:55 Aintree – Lead/Prominent: Bristol De Mai, Kemboy, Eldorado Allen; Midfield: Protektorat, Clan Des Obeaux, Conflated; Held Up: Royale Pagaille, Nuts Well, Itchy Feet
15:30 Aintree – Lead/Prominent: Zanahiyr ??; Midfield: Epatante, Brewinupastorm, Monmiral, Guard Your Dreams; Held Up: Glory And Fortune, McFabulous
16:05 Aintree – Lead/Prominent: Jett, Latenightpass, Cousin Pascal, Dashing Perk, Le Breuil, Myth Buster, Reikers Island, Complete Sizing, Drumconnor Lad, Activial, Demain Des L’aube, Golden Tobouggan; Midfield: Cat Tiger, Porlock Bay, Mighty Stowaway. Pont Aven, Another Venture, Stand Up And Fight, Clondaw Westie, The Dellercheckout, Down the Highway, Michael’s Pick, Ferocious; Held Up: Marracudja,
16:40 Aintree – Lead/Prominent: Global Citizen, Before Midnight, Elixir Du Nutz, Gunsight Ridge, Bun Doran. Shakem Up ‘Arry, Dancing On My Own, King d’Argent.; Midfield: Dolos, Sky Pirate, Espion Du Chenet, Fugitif; Held Up: Frero Banbou, Thyme White. The Last Day, Bold Enough, Gaelik Coast, Zarkareva
PROFIT AND LOSS SINCE MARCH 26
PREVIOUS (April 14 2021 to March 25 2022, with a four-month break)
P/L: + 183.1
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