A tough enough day for most people on day one, with the rains blowing in, but we live to fight another day and Lorcan Murtagh has been kind enough to go through the card for us and give us thoughts on day two of the Aintree Festival.
1.45pm Orrell Park Handicap Hurdle
Cobblers Dream has just improved all year and he ran very well at Cheltenham when second to Bambridge in the Martin Pipe. He has been put up 4lb by the handicapper after that, but Jack (jockey Jack Andrews) can claim 5lb off his back here, and I think he has a very strong chance. At a bigger price, I quite like Highway One O Two, second in to Cobblers Dream at Kempton in the Lanzarote Hurdle on soft going, but he prefers better ground which he may get here, and he has been running well all year and deserves to go well at these weights.
2.20pm Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle
I know you should never say it looks like a two-horse race, but that is certainly how I am seeing it. Jonbon ran a very good race when behind Constitution Hill in the Supreme and the winner looks like an aeroplane. He may just have the edge over Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo, an easy maiden winner at Tramore who comes straight here having bypassed the Cheltenham meeting. Jonbon really ought to take this if he is still at the top of his game, and I just can’t see the rest getting in to it, with either First Street or Surprise Package for third, though I am worried the last named may be hurt after having three quick runs in succession.
2.55pm Mildmay Novices’ Chase
A small field but it is all about L’Homme Presse for me, and I cannot for the life of me see why he isn’t favourite for this contest. He just jumps so well, as we saw when he took the Brown Advisory at Cheltenham, and although this is a very different track and test, I can’t see any reason why he won’t do the same thing here.. He has “been there done that” as they say, and I think that he would have beaten Bravemansgame at Prestbury Park even if the Nicholls horse had run, and with an unbeaten record over fences, I think he can do it again this afternoon.
3.30pm Melling Chase
I know he is favourite, but I am still going to have to say Fakir D’oudairies here. He missed Cheltenham which I see as a positive for him, and although his jumping can let him down sometimes, he travelled well when winning at Ascot in February and remember, he did take this race when sent off the favourite last season by 11 lengths. I don’t agree with Editeur Du Gite being a 33/1 chance at all. He has been progressive over two miles on stiff tracks including a fourth in the Grand Annual last time out, and that looked a very competitive renewal, and as I can’t see the extra half mile being an issue on this much easier course, he could go well at a silly price.
4.05pm Topham Handicap Chase
This looks very hard to call and there are so many you can pick from that I will give you a few I like the look of – and leave the rest up to you! I do quite like Mac Tottie who has done it before round here winning over course and distance last November. He is one who could go close, along with Mister Coffey who is in good form, and Senior Citizen who was third last year, it just looks such a competitive renewal this season. One who could also go well at a bigger price is Notebook. He is a difficult horse to win with but he may just take to these fences, and if they spark a bit of life in to him, he could run a big race.
4.40pm Sefton Novices’ Hurdle
Gentleman At Arms looks a spot of value after he won at Huntingdon on Cheltenham week, and he should have no trouble at Aintree which is a similarly flat track (albeit it in the other direction) which suits those with plenty of speed. He went through that race really well after getting a soft lead and more importantly, he didn’t have a hard race. Gelino Bello hasn’t really progressed like I thought he would but he looked better than ever when winning last time out, and if he can back that up then he won’t be far away either.
5.15pm Lydiate Handicap Hurdle
This is another wide-open looking contest and again I am going to throw a few names in to the mix. Severance is a horse I quite like and although Ben Pauling’s horse hasn’t won over hurdles this year, he has had a wind operation which might get some improvement out of him. Homme Public seems pretty unexposed despite winning last time out, and with cheekpieces on today they may well bring about a bit of improvement, while Toby’s (jockey Toby Wynne) 7lb claim from the saddle could prove to be massive in this type of race. Richmond Lake is another I quite like and was only beaten three lengths by Jonbon at Haydock in the Supreme trial in January, before falling at the last at Kelso. Sure to have been well-schooled since, I am wary that he won’t get a soft lead here, but he is another who could be there or thereabouts.
Moment Of The Day: Thursday
The dead-heat in the juvenile hurdle looked a fair result to me and also to the jockeys involved in be finish. If the result had stood, nobody would have complained, and it was a real shame that the Stewards amended the result, which saw the Gordon Elliott team lose a Grade One winner and rather took away from a great race.
And if you could ride one horse…
I would love to ride Mac Tottie in the Topham Chase at 4.05pm. He looks like a great spin around these fences and would be a great buzz to ride.