Well, Cheltenham has been and gone like the revolving circus that it is and the national hunt season is slowly, but surely, dwindling away as we head into the height of the summer.
Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby seem like they are arriving quicker than anyone would like, however, we still have Aintree’s Grand National extravaganza to look forward to.
With the meeting becoming its own mini ‘Festival’ now, here are the horses from the three-day event that Ash Symonds of BestofBets.com will be looking to keep on the side of.
Grand National: Roi Mage 50/1
Roi Mage spam ???? counting down the days now. @AintreeRaces @RandoxOfficial @FelixdeGiles Just hope for a drop of rain and some luck ???? ???????? pic.twitter.com/5uykjMYo09
— James Griffin (@jaggriffin) April 9, 2023
We are starting with my captain of the meeting, the horse that will be leading the troops into battle, and the competitor that if it wins, I’ll be talking about for many years to come.
That’s right, I will be on the side of Patrick Griffin’s ROI MAGE for the blue-ribboned event, the Grand National.
Now, I wouldn’t blame you for not knowing this horse very well, however, there is a strong case to be made.
Before this 11-year-old moved to Griffin in 2022, he ran some very good races over the water in some of the top races in France for his previous trainer, a stint that included a good fourth in the 2021 Grade 2 Grand Steeple-Chase de Compiegne when giving weight away and a facile win in the Listed Prix The Stomp Chase at Compiegne.
Dual #TheFestival hero Samcro finishes third at @Downroyal behind Roi Mage for Patrick Griffin at @Downroyal
Results & free replays ➡ https://t.co/sBcsavHpYf pic.twitter.com/mfNOCOuMy9
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 17, 2022
Since moving over to Ireland, he beat Augusta Gold and Samcro at Down Royal in March 2022 when wrong at the weights, finished a good third in the 2022 Grand Steeple-Chase-Cross-Country de Compiegne, was running a good race at Cheltenham Trials Day before falling at the 20th, and he gave five pounds away to Longhouse Poet and Burrows Saint at Down Royal when finishing a close second.
The form looks very favourable in my eyes and will carry 10-8, his lowest racing weight for five years.
All things considered, 50/1 is massive and connections are quite sweet on his chances, as shared by assistant trainer James Griffin in the recent Only Fools Love Horses video sponsored by us at BestofBets.com (23:30-36:00).
Liverpool Hurdle: Champ 7/1
I’m interested in CHAMP for the Liverpool Hurdle due to the power of deduction.
Time and time again, we see horses who have had hard races at the Cheltenham Festival underperform at Aintree – looking at just last year, L’Homme Presse, Thyme Hill, Protektorat, and even Champ all ran well below their best having performed at a good level the month before.
Looking at the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle, Teahupoo, Flooring Porter, Sire Du Berlais, Dashel Drasher, and Home By The Lee all ran in the Stayers Hurdle whilst Marie’s Rock ran in the Mares’ Hurdle and Thyme Hill ran in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.
All of these horses could show up at Aintree for the three-mile Grade 1 hurdle having run at Cheltenham which leaves just Champ who hasn’t run since his third to Paisley Park in the Long Walk Hurdle on Boxing Day.
"National Hunt racing at its very best" ????????@RichardHoiles
THAT WAS EPIC! Champ just gets up to win in the Coral Long Distance Hurdle for @sevenbarrows #ITVRacing | @JonjoONeill |@NewburyRacing pic.twitter.com/KqXjJetnZk
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) November 25, 2022
The Nicky Henderson-trained gelding has an impeccable record when fresh, a stat that reads 1, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1 when running after a 70+ day layoff.
With that in mind, this relatively lightly-raced 11-year-old could outrun his odds of 7/1 if he is on song again, however, I would be fearful of Teahupoo from the market rivals as he is probably the best horse in the race and if he turns out well from Cheltenham, a Stayers’ Hurdle that was run in attritional conditions, he could be the one to upset Champ’s party and if you are happy to back both in the same race, I wouldn’t put you off that.
Aintree Bowl: Conflated 9/2
This year’s Aintree Bowl over three miles could be one of the hottest renewals of the contest for the last few years as Shishkin, Ahoy Senor, Bravemansgame, Conflated, and A Plus Tard are all prominent in the betting market at the time of writing.
The former would be stepping up to this distance for the first time in his career and all of the others ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Bravemansgame finishing a good second to Galopin Des Champs.
All will go to the race with live chances, but I’d be keen to give Conflated a chance at 9/2.
???????????????????????????? ???????????? ???????????????????????? – ???????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????? ???????????? ????????????????
???? 13 runs
???? 9 wins
???? Cheltenham Gold Cup
???? Irish Gold Cup
???? John Durkan Memorial
???? Racing has a new Gold Cup king #CheltenhamFestival | @WillieMullinsNH | @PTownend pic.twitter.com/ejWhbtRmiq
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 17, 2023
Taking in the conditions of the race, I’d say Gordon Elliott’s runner is the second-best horse of the group and is still improving, as shown by his good third in the blue-ribboned event at the Festival when finding a bit of trouble in running under Sam Ewing, a jockey who only knew he was going to be riding him 20 minutes before the race after Davy Russell stood himself down for the day.
The one query I’d have about his run last time out is I wasn’t sure how well he saw out the 3m2f of the Cheltenham test, but back to three miles on a flat track in a race he was second in last year (he should have won if he was more prominent), I think all things lead to him running a good race.
The only horse that might just have the edge over him is Bravemansgame and it seems like connections are lining up this contest for their King George winner, however, I’d have a small query about how hard a race he had in the Gold Cup and whether he can bounce back to that form again.
Clan Des Obeaux holds on to win the Betway Bowl Chase again!#ITVRacing | #GrandNational pic.twitter.com/jTSw69ttHY
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) April 7, 2022
Conflated should be fine reappearing at Aintree so soon after Cheltenham as he did the same last year when falling in the Ryanair at the penultimate fence before finishing second in this race.
So, it’s my cliff horse that gets the nod for me.
Mersey Novices’ Hurdle: Letsbeclearaboutit 14/1
To finish off my Grade 1 fancies, I’ll be taking a swing at Letsbeclearaboutit for Gavin Cromwell in the Mersey on Saturday.
He is trying 2m4f for the very first time having won a bumper nicely as a six-year-old over two miles as well as a good second to American Mike over 2m6f in 2022.
Since then, he has ran into the top staying novices in the hurdling division this season over three miles and he ran a great race in the Albert Bartlett for all he maybe didn’t truly see out the trip.
Hugely impressive! @donoghue_keith won't ride many easier winners than this – the classy Letsbeclearaboutit makes the most of a good opportunity and bolts up at @punchestownrace ????
Bigger targets surely await @gavincromwell1's eight-year-old now ???? pic.twitter.com/HUlkWyaSxo
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 16, 2023
He has shown plenty of gears from his bumper victory and throughout all his races this season and even in his 22-length victory two starts ago, there is obviously a good power unit there.
At this new trip that I think could bring out improvement, I’ll be siding with him alongside DARK RAVEN at 13/1 for Willie Mullins who has been crying out for a step up in trip and he ran a belting race in the Supreme for 80% of the race before being caught for a bit of speed at the finish.
An extra four furlongs will be perfect for him, in my opinion, so those two horses are where I’ll be keeping my faith with.
There are also a few in handicaps that are grabbing my interest.
In the Topham Handicap Chase over the national fences, I’ll be chancing PHOENIX WAY at 16/1 for JP McManus.
He’s down to a low mark of 138 having finished second to Annsam in December 2021, a horse who has now improved 15lbs since, before an easy win at Ascot in January 2022 off 140.
Good ride from @kevinbrogan109! Phoenix Way is timed beautifully by the jockey to win at @Ascot for @HarryFryRacing1! pic.twitter.com/o63UbtuIH6
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) January 22, 2022
Back to a middle-distance trip of the Topham and off this low mark, he should be very competitive at 16/1.
And finally, and stick with me on this one, I think that JASON THE MILITANT could be ready to step back to his former glory in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle at 2:20 on Friday.
???? Nice performance from Jason The Militant who goes on to land the Grade 3 @REDMILLSHorse Trial Hurdle in comfortable style for @HenrydeBromhead ???? pic.twitter.com/JqomRhMGvh
— FairyhouseRacecourse (@Fairyhouse) February 27, 2021
Having been a Grade 1 horse at one point in his career, he moved from Henry de Bromhead to Philip Kirby at the start of the year and has now dropped down to a mark of 146.
Joe Williamson is set to claim five pounds off his back and if the ground turns up soft, something that could happen with the incoming rain on Thursday, this horse off an effective mark of 141, having run a super race on Trials Day off an eight-pound higher mark over the wrong distance, is big enough at 66/1 for me to take a swing.