Aintree Festival 2019 Preview – Friday
Merseryrail Handicap Hurdle
Nicky Henderson has won three of the last six renewals of this race, most recently with Rather Be in 2017. The Seven Barrows trainer solely represented this year by Kobrouk who’s returning from a very long absence. We last saw the French-bred gelding winning in his native France and it will very interesting to see how he fares on his British debut.
Brio Conti has shown much-improved form on his most recent starts, winning a decent handicap at Ascot and then running a career best to finish fourth in the Coral Cup behind William Henry. He’s only gone up a total of seven pounds which seems fair and he looks sure to run another big race.
Another horse that ran a fine race in the Coral Cup is the Irish raider Canardier. The lightly raced French-bred was outpaced late on at Cheltenham having travelled throughout but I think the soft underfoot conditions won’t aid his cause.
Others of note include the improving Tedham, the Donald McCain trained Mount Mews and the returning Project Bluebook.
Top Novices’ Hurdle
Eight horses go to post for this Grade 1 contest which has been on by the likes of Buveur D’air, My Tent Or Yours and Lalor in the past.
Itchy Feet produced a career best to finish third in the Supreme Hurdle last month with Olly Murphy’s charge fading at the back of the last. It later transpired that he burst a blood vessel during the race, which further marks up the form. The fourth horse home that day came out yesterday and only found the Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hill too good. This is the best form on offer and he’s the right favourite.
Precious Cargo has looked impressive on both his starts for Nicky Henderson and is well-fancied to land the hat-trick here. I have my reservation surrounding the strengt of his form and a watching brief is best advised.
Another horse that ran a big race in the Supreme is Felix Desjy for the Gordon Elliott team. He wasn’t beaten far in the race but he’s had plenty of racing and there is probably horses in teh field with more progressive profiles.
The final horse of interest is Southfield Stone who beat the smart Angels Breath when last seen in action and has to be considered.
Selection: Southfield Stone
Mildmay Novices’ Chase
Lostintranslation came out the wrong side of a ding dong battle with his old advisory Defi Du Seuil in the JLT at Cheltenham. Colin Tizzard has always held this horse in high regard and the step up in trip should really suit. Mengli Khan who finished in behind in the JLT didn’t leave the form down today and he’s got a big chance.
Paul Nicholls’ faith was rewarded when Topofthegame won the RSA beating Santini. He travelled supremely that day and is viewed as a live contender for next season’s Gold Cup already. On all known form he’s the horse to beat.
The only horse that might trouble the principals is Chris’s Dream from the Henry De Bromhead yard, who had a winner on the first day of the festival. He was an impressive winner of a Grade 2 in Navan when last seen and is a horse to follow.
The Melling Chase
The seven-runner field sees two former winners of the race come back for more glory. God’s Own won this three years ago but hasn’t looked the same horse this season. The other returning victor is last years winner Politologue who’s been a model of consistency all season and give Altior a real scare in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham. A reproduction of that run would see him go very close in his bid for back-to-back wins in this.
Ruth Jefferson has had to bide her time with the aptly-named Waiting Patiently who’s only twice this season and would have needed the runs behind Cyrname most recently. The addition of first-time blinkers can spark further improvement and he looks the most likely to cause Poliologue problems.
The Willie Mullins trained Min would be a multiple Garde 1 winner only for the unfortunately of being around at the same time as Altior. He’s finished runner-up on numerous occasions to one of the best horses of his generation. Min has won two of his three starts this season, both in Grade 1 company, but he was slightly disappointing in the Champion Chase.
The Topham gives us a second taste of the National fences this week and can be often used as a trial for the following years Grand National itself. Ultragold has won the last two runnings of the race but is lining up in the National instead this season. This leaves the door open for a winner of the race and many people believe that will be top-weight Janika. He has finished runner-up on all three starts for connections since coming over from France and proved carrying weight was no problem in the Brown Advisory Plate.
Nigel’s horse Ballyhill has been a model of consistency all season and looks like the type that might excel in a race of this nature. He jumps boldly, comes here as a fresh horse and might just get his day in the sun with Sam Twiston-Davies in the saddle.
The horse I like is Call It Magic who finished fourth in the Becher back in December, should appreciate the ground and runs off a featherweight 10 stone.
The last horse of note is Highland Lodge who is a previous winner of the National fences and has been laid out with this race in mind. we all know that course form is very important and he could sneak into the places.
Selection: Call It Magic
Sefton Novices’ Hurdle
The Challow Hurdle winner Champ came into the Ballymore with a very big reputation and having had every chance going to the last only to be outstayed by City Island. This was still a very good run and he holds the strongest form in the race.
I am a big Lisnagar Oscar fan and Rebecca Curtis’s charge ran very well to a point without ever looking like winning. This flatter track will play to his strengths and a big run can be expected.
Walk Away is unbeaten in two starts, one of which came in a point to point. This represent a huge jump up in class but Henry wouldn’t be running the horse if he didn’t think he’d a chance of being competitive.
Dallas Des Pictons went off a hot favourite in the Matin Pipe at Cheltenham only to be beaten by the well-touted Early Doors. He was probably lacking a bit of experience that day and with that run under his belt, he should be a better horse.
Selection: Lisnagar Oscar
Weatherbys NH Flat Race
This looks like a very open bumper and it’s hard to gauge the form. Santa Rossa is unbeaten in both her starts thus far including a Grade 2 at Leopardstown back in February. Connections have been patient with her since the and she’ll be hard to beat here.
The thrice raced Mcfabulous has won two of his three starts and was very impressive in a Newbury bumper back in March. He’s got one poor run in the book to and others make more appeal.
I’ll take a chance on the Ballydoyle cast-off Blackhillsofdakota who was a winner on Saturday and John Halley must be happy with how he came out of the race to make the trip. He’s bred in the purple and could just be anything.
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