Monday, 23 April 2018

Bella Can Benefit From Return To Turf At Navan

Bid Adieu was a non-runner at Newbury for us on Saturday, but my alternative selection Man Of Harlech didn’t manage to hit the frame. He looked like he might at one stage but his effort petered out and he finished in the middle of the pack. Monday’s selection goes in another big field handicap at Navan, and I think this filly could spring a surprise for Leigh Roche and Miss J M Lee.

Leigh Roche is in top form.
Bella Rua goes in the mile handicap at 7.00 and she is up against 17 opponents. She has been drawn fairly wide in stall 16 but Navan is a very fair track and her starting position shouldn’t hamper her chances. This daughter of Casamento first caught my eye on her second handicap start at Tipperary (7.5f soft) off a mark of 52.

Killian Hennessey rode for the first time that day, claiming 2lb, and Bella Rua produced a career best to stay on strongly close to home for 2nd, shaping as if in need of further. Billy Lee took over in the saddle next time, this time over 9f, and again Bella Rua was doing all her best work at the finish.

She made her challenge wide and stayed on all the way to the line over 9f, so I think the stiff uphill finish at Navan might play to her strengths over a mile. She didn’t run well on her return from a 5 month break in a 7f contest at Dundalk in February but that should have blown away the cobwebs and as an added bonus she was dropped a pound for that effort.

She races off just 48 at Navan on Monday and Leigh Roche, who has been firing in the winners, has been booked for the ride. She should enjoy the ease in the ground, the stiff mile at Navan should suit and I think Bella Rua is well worth chancing each way at odds of 22/1 in what looks a wide open race.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 7.00 NAVAN-BELLA RUA E/W @ 22/1

Friday, 20 April 2018

Adieu Can Make Bold Bid At Newbury


Katachenko was in the process of running a decent race for us at Ayr earlier but unfortunately he took a heavy fall just as the race was beginning to take shape. It was too soon to tell if he would have played a part at the finish but he was travelling as well as anything at the time he tipped up. At least he was none the worse for the mishap and he lives to fight another day.
 
Richard Hughes has started the season well.

The one I like on Saturday goes in the closing 10f handicap at Newbury and I think Bid Adieu looks extremely well handicapped for Richard Hughes with Shane Kelly in the saddle. This lightly raced 4yo son of Pour Moi was switched from Venetia Williams to Hughes after a couple of poor runs over hurdles and it could prove to be a wise move.

He made his debut for his new yard in an 8f handicap at Southwell off a mark of 78 a couple of weeks ago and he ran well to be 3rd given he travelled very wide throughout. However, I think he is best judged on his last run over 10f on the level at Dundalk when he proved 1.5L too good for Clear Skies, a horse he was conceding 2lb to.

Clear Skies won five of her next six starts and she is now rated 96 on the all weather and 107 on turf. The third home Nivvo has since won two races at Dundalk while the 4th home Financial Conduct has also won twice since, including a handicap by 3L off 88 last time out. Bid Adieu raced without a hood that day and it is discarded again on his return to the turf.

He has only run once on turf before (12.5f soft), on debut at Tipperary, and he ran a cracker to be 2nd behind Squire’s Tale. Solo Saxophone and Brazos finished 3rd and 4th and they proved there was substance to the form by filling the first two places in a maiden next time at Listowel. Brazos is now rated 88 and he was beaten just 4L off that mark at Naas last time.

So, on that evidence I think that Bid Adieu looks very well handicapped off a mark of 78 and his yard is in superb form at the moment. Richard Hughes has two winners and four places from his last 13 runners and he will be desperate to get his first winner at Newbury. The hood worn last time at Southwell is off, he should appreciate the slight ease in the ground and at odds of 33/1 he has to be worth chancing each way.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 5.30 NEWBURY-BID ADIEU E/W @ 33/1


Thursday, 19 April 2018

McCain’s Star Could Be Hard To Katch At Ayr


Well we just about covered ourselves today, though we were just a place away from securing a nice each way double. Little Midnight Jazz again ran her heart out for Kielan Woods and Ben Case at Cheltenham, but she could only manage 6th which was frustrating with Paddy Power paying out on 5 places each way. I have no complaints about her run though and Ben Case revealed afterwards that she would now be heading off to stud. I can’t wait to see her progeny on the track and if they possess even half the bravery of Midnight Jazz they should be alright.
 
If ever a horse deserved a happy retirement it is Midnight Jazz.

Trans Wood was my other selection and after staying solid at 20/1 all day the money came for her half an hour before the race. Sent off at just 8/1 she went the shortest way throughout on the inner but I don’t think she travelled as well as she is capable of. However, she still managed to stay on well after getting tapped for toe as they turned for home and we got our each way money as she grabbed 3rd. It has been a brilliant week of racing so far and the Scottish Grand National meeting starts at Ayr tomorrow.

The ground has even managed to dry out a bit up North with the lovely recent weather and the ground is forecast to be good to soft at Ayr on Friday. One horse that looks sure to relish the decent underfoot conditions is Katachenko for Trevor Hemmings and Donald McCain. This 9yo son of Kutub produced arguably his best ever run this time two years ago at Aintree when scoring in a 16f Grade 3 handicap chase off a mark of 133 (gd/sft) and he is only 2lb higher here.

That remains his last victory and last season was something of a non event for him. He returned to action this season after a 246 day break back at Aintree and he ran a massive race on ground that would not have suited to go down by a nose to Play The Ace off a mark of 131 (20f hvy). He was nowhere near as good as that last time out when a beaten favourite at Kelso but he has been freshened up after that below par effort.
 
Katachenko has an excellent record fresh.

That is a cause for optimism regarding Katachenko’s chances at Ayr as he has a good record when fresh. His form figures when returning from a break of 50 days or more read 31423522 and it has been 96 days since his last run. Brian Hughes rode for the first time on his last outing at Kelso and though the horse disappointed, Hughes generally has a good record when riding for these connections.

Hughes has had a total of 101 rides for Donald McCain, winning 26 races and finishing in the first 4 on a further 40 occasions for a very healthy frame hitting strike rate of over 65%. He has similar figures when riding for owner Trevor Hemmings, gaining 18 wins from 103 rides with another 45 top 4 finishes. It is Katachenko’s first visit to Ayr but he likes going left handed as his wins at Aintree, Wetherby and Kelso illustrate, so the odds are he will take to the track. I think Katachenko could be primed for a big run on Friday and at odds of 20/1 he is worth chancing each way.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 3.45 AYR-KATACHENKO E/W 20/1


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Two To Play Each Way On Thursday

It wasn’t just me that fancied Mont Kiara yesterday as both Andy Holding and Jason Weaver tipped him up too. However, a tardy start meant he never got involved for Shane Gray and he remained in rear from start to finish. It was a bitterly disappointing run from him but he is undoubtedly capable of better and he will be of interest again this season when the handicapper gives him some slack.


I like the look of two mares tomorrow and I am abandoning the flat and going back to the jumps. My best bet of the day goes at Cheltenham in the Listed Mares’ handicap hurdle at 3.15 and this likeable sort is one of my favourite horses in training. Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with Midnight Jazz and though she could only manage 6th in the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle here it was a superb effort on ground she doesn’t like.
 
Midnight Jazz gets her ground at Cheltenham.

This will be her first run on proper good ground this season and she races off a mark of 136. This 8yo daughter of Midnight Legend relishes a decent surface and she was beaten just a head over an inadequate trip by none other than Vroum Vroum Mag the last time she encountered good ground in a Grade 2 at Doncaster (16.5f). Her career form figures on good ground read 20321212 and she is racing off her last winning mark on Thursday.

Midnight Jazz has yet to win on her four previous visits to Cheltenham but two of those came in Grade 1s at the festival. She does have placed handicap form here though, beaten 4.5L on ground softer than ideal over course and distance and she picked up some black type on her first visit here when 3rd in a Listed hurdle. Kielan Woods knows her well having ridden her to victory twice before and at odds of 18/1 I think she is a cracking each way bet.

The other mare I fancy goes in the 16f handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse at 6.55 and I think the return of Ricky Doyle and the drop back to 16f both look to be big positives for 20/1 shot Trans Wood. This 5yo daughter of Trans Island has been a frustrating sort to follow but she did run a nice race at a big price for us when I put her up at Punchestown a couple of months ago (16f hvy).

This strong traveller was ridden by an inexperienced 7lb claimer that day and given the amount of trouble she found in running she would have finished a lot closer than 5th beaten 8L with a kinder passage. The same rider was on board again when she was stepped up in trip at Clonmel (18f hvy) and she again finished 5th, though this time she was beaten a lot further.

She went very well for a long way when 6th off a mark of 91 on her last visit to Fairyhouse for Ricky Doyle and he claims 5lb off her back again today off a mark of 88. He will be chock full of confidence too after firing in a lovely double at Tramore. Hopefully he can keep the winning sequence going on Trans Wood on Thursday and at odds of 20/1 she looks worth chancing each way. A small each way double on both selections might be worth doing too.

STEVOS’ SELECTIONS: 3.15 CHELT: MIDNIGHT JAZZ E/W 18/1; 6.55 FAIRYHOUSE: TRANS WOOD E/W @ 20/1




Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Count On Kiara At Newmarket


Examiner got the job done for us in good style a Newmarket today under a brilliantly judged ride from Fran Berry. He joined the group down the middle after breaking well and Berry soon had Examiner covered up. A couple of furlongs out there was nothing travelling better and he stayed on well in the closing stages to just come out on top in a close finish. There is nothing like a 20/1 winner to start the week and hopefully we can repeat the trick tomorrow.
 
Mont Kiara has a good record at Newmarket.

The one I like goes in the opener at Newmarket and I think Mont Kiara looks overpriced for Kevin Ryan and Shane Gray. This 5yo son of Kendargent loves it at Newmarket and his last two wins came here on the July Course. He has yet to win on the Rowley, but he has run well on both previous tries on it, finishing 4th in this off 90 last year and then going down by half a length in 2nd off 85.

Mont Kiara runs off a mark of 87 on Wednesday and his first win here came off 90 so he is capable of getting involved off that rating. Just like yesterday’s selection Examiner he had an outing on the all weather to blow away the cobwebs and he shaped nicely, staying on well from the rear for 4th, beaten just over 4L.

Shane Gray has been booked for the ride and he rode a winner for Ryan at Southwell just a couple of weeks ago. He had a good record when riding for Kevin Ryan in 2017, partnering 6 winners and a further 33 top 4 finishers from a total of 88 rides. Ryan’s form is encouraging too as he has had three winners and 6 places from his last 15 runners.

Mont Kiara has a nice draw in stall 13 and he will have no issues on the drying ground. He has won on surfaces varying from good to soft to good to firm so once there isn’t a torrential downpour he will be just fine on the ground. I think this fella is overpriced at 20/1 and hopefully Gray delivers him late and hits the frame in a race that should be run to suit.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 1.50 NEWMARKET: MONT KIARA E/W @ 20/1

Examiner Worth Backing On Return To Newmarket


I was absolutely delighted with how Lace Bonnet performed for us at Cork on Sunday. Katy Brown’s filly was friendless in the market, drifting all the way out to 33/1. However, she was always up in the firing line and a furlong out it looked like she had bested her rivals, but a late challenge from Song Of The Sky meant she had to settle for 2nd.
 
Examiner will love the ground at HQ.

Tomorrow racing returns to Newmarket for the first time this season and it is a very nice card for a Tuesday. The one I like goes in the mile handicap at 4.10 and I think Examiner has the credentials to run a massive race for Stuart Williams and Fran Berry. This is not my first time to tip up this horse and he ran a cracker for us in the Cambridgeshire (9f gd/sft) here last season at silly odds (and also in 2015).

For some reason the bookmakers tend to price this son of Excellent Art up at inflated odds in these big field handicaps, and a lot of the time he defies them by running well. As regards tactics he is versatile, as he has won when racing prominently and also when held up off a strong pace. The stalls will be on the stands side at Newmarket so he has a good draw in stall 17 and Fran Berry should have options from there.

Berry has ridden Examiner once before, at Epsom last season (10f gd), and they were only beaten a length in 4th off a mark of 92. Examiner went on to win his next outing off the same rating quite easily at Salisbury (8f gd/sft) and he will be getting identical ground conditions at Newmarket on Tuesday. Best of all, he is only a pound higher now off a mark of 93.

The good to soft ground is a huge positive for Examiner as he has a superb record on that type of surface. Both his turf wins and his best runs at Newmarket came on good to soft and he will have no excuses on that front on Tuesday. He had a nice pipe opener to blow away the cobwebs at Wolves when beaten just over 3L after a slow start and that should have put him cherry ripe for his return to the turf.

Stuart Williams hasn’t had a winner in the past fortnight but he has had a couple of 2nds and 3rds so his horses are in decent form. Examiner has run well on three of his four outings on the Rowley Course at Newmarket with his sole poor effort coming on good to firm. With conditions in his favour I think another big run could be on the cards and at 20/1 he should go well for each way players.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 4.10 NEWMARKET: EXAMINER E/W @ 20/1

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Lace Looks Interesting On Handicap Bow At Cork


The ground is going to be extremely testing at Cork on Sunday and as a result small fields are mostly the order of the day. However, a field of 14 will line up for the apprentice handicap at 16.45 and I like the look of Lace Bonnet for Katy Brown and Killian Hennessey.

This 4yo daughter of Mastercraftsman ran her best race to date at this track back in April last year on debut (8.5f hvy) when trained by Joseph Murphy. She was slow away and out the back early on, but she stayed on nicely in the home straight to grab 5th, beaten 16L by the winner Angel Island.

Conditions will be testing at Cork on Sunday.
The 2nd home in that race was Dabulena and that filly has since won a maiden and is now rated 92. The 3rd home was Set In Stone and she won three handicaps in a row after breaking her maiden and was beaten just a length off 92 at Musselburgh last month. Hushing was 3L ahead of Lace Bonnet in 4th and she has also gone on to win a maiden.


Lace Bonnet got the better of Furiosa in a sustained battle by a neck and that filly won a maiden soon after before going on to be beaten just over 6L in a Listed heat. She is now rated 76 so theoretically, if that form is taken at face value, Lace Bonnet looks absolutely chucked in on her handicap debut off a mark of just 54.

She was stepped up in trip on her next start just 10 days later at Dundalk but the surface clearly didn’t suit and she was well beaten in 5th. That was it for the season for her and she was picked up by current connections cheaply at the Goffs Sales in November. She made her seasonal reappearance at Dundalk at the end of last month and she should strip fitter now.

This will be her first run back on heavy ground since her promising debut and it is no surprise that she heads back down South for her handicap bow. Killian Hennessey has been booked for the ride and he claims a useful 2lb. On the evidence of her debut run here the step back up to 10f looks sure to suit and back on heavy ground Lace Bonnet is worth chancing each way for small stakes at odds of 25/1.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 4.45 CORK-LACE BONNET E/W @ 25/1


Friday, 13 April 2018

Aintree Grand National Festival: Day 3 Preview And Tips


Race 1

An ultra competitive 3 mile handicap hurdle kicks off the action on Grand National Day at Aintree and a case can be made for plenty. Irish raider Ahlittleluck will be doing his best to follow up his fine Fairyhouse win but he got a relatively easy lead that day and that is unlikely to be the case here with the likes of Tikkanbar and Sykes in the race.

It looks sure to be run at a fast pace and it could set up for a closer. With conditions on the easy side an ability to handle soft ground will be key and one horse who could be tailor made for this race is Prime Venture. This 7yo son of Primary was a decent 8th in the Pertemps at Cheltenham off 141 and he is a pound lower now.
 
The race could be run to suit Prime Venture.

Isabel Williams claims a very handy 7lbs and she has a good record when riding for her Dad. She was well beaten for us on Court Minstrel but the rain did for that horse’s chances. Before that race she had ridden 18 times for Evan Williams, winning 6 races and finishing in the first four on a further 9 occasions (frame hitting strike rate of 83%).

Prime Venture will appreciate the return to a flat track and he will also relish the underfoot conditions. His last run on a flat left handed track at Ffos Las resulted in a wide margin victory (24f soft) and he wasn’t beaten far off 142 the last time Isabel Williams rode three runs back at Warwick. I think this race could set up for this hold up sort and at odds of 25/1 he could reward each way support.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: PRIME VENTURE E/W @ 25/1 NB

Race 2

The Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle is the second race on Day 3 of the Aintree Grand National Festival and a field of fourteen horses are due to go to post. Black Ops is the current market leader after his brilliant run behind Samcro at Cheltenham and with ground to suit he looks a worthy favourite. He did run poorly on his only previous visit to Aintree though and that has to rate as a slight worry.

Next best in the market is On The Blind Side for the in form Nicky Henderson yard and this unbeaten 6yo son of Stowaway is a fresh horse who will be having his first run since scoring in a Grade 2 contest at Sandown (20f gd/sft). He won his maiden over today’s course and distance but the only worry is that he is unproven under rules on proper soft ground.

Colin Tizzard has his team in stupendous form at the minute and perhaps Lostintranslation can go well for each way players. He was 7th behind Summerville Boy in the Supreme at Cheltenham but he was only beaten 8.5L and he was doing all his best work at the finish. He is bred to appreciate the step up in trip, he will enjoy the ground and at odds of 16/1 he is the each way selection.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: LOSTINTRANSLATION E/W @ 16/1
 
This looks a gilt edged opportunity for Petit Mouchoir.

Race 3

Only six horses have been declared for this Grade 1 16f Novices’ Chase and Petit Mouchoir is a short price to make amends for his poor run behind Footpad at Cheltenham. He paid the price for forcing too fast a pace at the festival and he finished a very tired 3rd but he is back in calmer waters now and he should be more than capable of winning this contest for Henry De Bromhead and Davy Russell.

Shantou Rock could be the one to chase the favourite home for Dan and Harry Skelton. This admirably consistent son of Shantou is coming here on the back of two fine 2nds in Grade 2 chases at Doncaster and Kempton and he arrives here fresh having swerved the Cheltenham Festival. He is relatively unexposed over fences, he will appreciate the soft ground and at 9/1 he could be the one for the forecast.

STEVOS’ SELECTIONS: PETIT MOUCHOIR/SHANTOU ROCK (REV FCAST)

Race 4

Stamina and an affinity for soft ground will be required for this 25f handicap chase and plenty have realistic chances. Paper Lantern scored for us in great style at Fairyhouse last time but he has been hiked in the weights and off an 11lb higher mark than last time he might struggle to repeat the trick. The one I like for this contest is On Tour for Evan Williams and Adam Wedge.

This 10yo son of Croco Rouge has run well on his two previous visits to Aintree, winning a soft ground 20f handicap chase here back in November off 135 and finishing 2nd off 137 beaten a length in November 2016. He has been freshened up after a below par hurdles run at Uttoxeter and that is a big plus given his excellent record when fresh. The new trip is an unknown but I think he will stay and at odds of 14/1 he is the each way pick

STEVOS’ SELECTION: ON TOUR E/W @ 14/1

Race 5

The 24.5f Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle will be contested by eleven horses and Sam Spinner is a short price to get back to winning ways after his defeat at Cheltenham. That race could hold the key to this contest as the next best in the betting is Wholestone, a horse that finished two places and over a length in front of Sam Spinner in 3rd.

However, the big eyecatcher for me at Cheltenham was the winner of last year’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle here, The Worlds End. Tom George’s son of Stowaway ran a cracker at the festival to finish 7th and he only has a couple of lengths to find with both Wholestone and Sam Spinner on the evidence of that run. The return to Aintree is a big positive and at odds of 8/1 he looks sure to give each way players a good run for their money.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: THE WORLDS END E/W @ 8/1

Race 6

I have long been sweet on the chances of Seeyoutamidnight for the Grand National and I have already put him up ante post at odds of 33/1. If he takes to the fences he looks tailor made for the race and he could prove to be a shrewd purchase for the Thompsons who won the race with Party Politics many moons ago. With 40 horses going to post it makes sense to have a saver, and one horse that could go well at a huge price is one of Seeyouatmidnight’s old foes Regal Encore.
 
Regal Encore could outrun his odds.

Anthony Honeyball’s son of King’s Theatre is as hit and miss as they come, but he took to the fences well when staying on late for 8th in last year’s renewal. He is 4lb higher now but experience over these fences is a huge plus and he comes into the race on the back of a fine win at Ascot (24f sft).

He stayed on well behind Total Recall at Newbury for 3rd three runs back, beaten 10L conceding 3lb and he is 9lb better off with that rival now. If Richie McClernon can get him into a nice rhythm early and doesn’t get too far back I think Regal Encore is capable of turning that Newbury form on its head and at odds of 33/1 a small each way interest is advised.

STEVOS’ SELECTIONS: REGAL ENCORE E/W @ 33/1 SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT ALREADY ADVISED @ 33/1 ANTE-POST

Race 7

A very tricky 2 mile handicap hurdle closes the show on Grand National Day and the one I like is Sternrubin. This 7yo son of Authorized will have no problems on the ground and he looks more than fairly treated off a mark of 140, especially with top claimer Sean Houlihan taking off a very handy 5lb.

Sternrubin is a horse that likes to get on with things out in front and he could be hard to peg back on soft ground. He hasn’t won over timber since taking a Listed handicap at Ascot off a mark of 142 and with his jockey’s claim he is effectively 7lb lower here.

He has won on ground ranging from heavy to good to firm so he won’t mind what the weather does and he ran a respectable race on his return from a break in the County Hurdle. That should have put him spot on fitness wise for this contest and at odds of 16/1 he is capable of going very close.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: STERNRUBIN E/W @ 16/1 NAP

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Aintree Grand National: The Stats That Matter


At Cheltenham our stats that matter pieces performed extraordinarily well. We found the first three home in the Champion Hurdle, and three of the first four home in the Gold Cup. As a result, I have decided to have a go at the Grand National, though with 40 horses and some of the most feared fences in racing it would be no surprise were the stats to go out the window. However, God loves a trier as they say and I will attempt to narrow the field using age, course form, weight and price.

Plunge horse Baie Des Iles may be just too young.
Age

I looked at every winner of the race since the turn of the century (18 races) and a pattern emerged. This is a race that very young and very old (relatively) horses struggle to make an impact in. Since 2000 horses that have been aged between 8yo and 11yo have had the most success with 17 wins between them.

The one exception to that rule was Amberleigh House who scored at the grand old age of 12 for Ginger McCain back in 2004. So, the stats suggest that it makes sense to put a line through any horse younger than 7yo and older than 11yo. Some fancied horses fall by the wayside, including ante-post gamble, 7yo Baie Des Iles.

Cut: Gas Line Boy, Double Ross, Carlingford Lough, Baie Des Iles, Lord Windermere, Saint Are, Bless The Wings, Maggio, Raz De Maree.


Anibale Fly has never run at Aintree.
Course Form

When I studied all the winners since 2000 another clear trend revealed itself. Since that time only 4 of the 18 winners had not run at Aintree before, while 9 (50%) had previous form over the Grand National fences. The other 5 winners had course form, though not over the National fences, so for that reason a line will be put through horses that have never run at Aintree before.

This sees five horses getting the chop, and some of them are near the head of the market. Irish raiders Valseur Lido, Anibale Fly and Total Recall are cut for this reason, as are Chase The Spud and Milansbar. Adding those five to the horses ruled out because of age still leaves us with 26 horses to choose from, and I will try to narrow the field further below.

Cut: Anibale Fly, Total Recall, Valseur Lido, Chase The Spud, Milansbar.


Blaklion may be carrying too much weight.
Weight

With a trip of over 4 miles it is an obvious advantage to be carrying a reasonable weight in the Grand National and the previous winners of this race bear this fact out. Since 2000 only two winners carried more than 11st 5lbs and just one carried less than 10st 4lbs.

This suggests that it might pay to concentrate on horses carrying between 10st 4lbs and 11st 5lbs. A trio of well fancied horses are ruled out because of this trend, including Blaklion, Minella Rocco and The Last Samuri. All those horses are near the top of the weights and on the forecast soft ground they might struggle to get home.

Cut: Minella Rocco, Blaklion, The Last Samuri.


Tiger Roll looks too short in the betting.
Price

That still leaves us with over 20 horses to choose from, but the final stat that matters has a dramatic effect. Since 2000 only 2 winners have been priced up at bigger than 33/1 while only 5 horses scored at odds of 12/1 or less.

A slew of outsiders like Tenor Nivernais (150/1), Final Nudge (66/1) and first reserve Thunder And Roses (80/1) are struck out because of their odds, and the well fancied Tiger Roll (12/1) is also a casualty. Eight contenders remain standing now, and hopefully one of those is the winner.

Cut: Tenor Nivernais, Beeves, Virgilio, Thunder And Roses, Road To Riches, Perfect Candidate, Pendra, Childrens List, Final Nudge, Buywise, Warriors Tale, Houblon Des Obeaux, Vicente, Shantou Flyer, Alpha Des Obeaux, Tiger Roll.


Seeyouatmidnight ticks a lot of boxes.
Verdict

With another 16 horses cut due to their odds, we are left with eight contenders. Vieux Lion Rouge is a doubtful stayer and off a pound higher than when well beaten last year he is ruled out. Captain Redbeard is another one with serious stamina doubts having never won beyond 23f and for that reason a line is put through him.

That leaves us with six, thankfully including my own ante-post fancy Seeyouatmidnight. I think he has an outstanding chance if taking to the fences and his prominent racing style should keep him out of trouble. Regal Encore ran a stormer in this last year and with Richie McClernon in the plate he is another one that could go really well.

Sue Smith won this with 100/1 shot Auroras Encore a few years ago and in I Just Know she has another serious contender. He will love the testing conditions and he looked an out and out stayer when scoring over 30f at Catterick on soft ground. I am not sure that Ucello Conti will get the trip and the same applies to The Dutchman.

I am keeping the faith with Seeyouatmidnight as I think he is well treated, he will relish the ground and he is proven over 4 miles. If Regal Encore is on a going day he could be a huge danger, while I Just Know is another one that has the stamina to figure. Pleasant Company could be Willie Mullins’ best chance of glory, but he may have to settle for minor money. So, now that the stats have spoken all that remains is to see if they are right! Here is hoping they are.

VERDICT: 1. SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT 2. REGAL ENCORE 3. I JUST KNOW 4. PLEASANT COMPANY

Aintree Grand National Festival: Day 2 Preview And Tips


Well, our day 1 selections were an absolute disaster with none of our horses running creditable races. Modus doubled in price and ran accordingly in the opener and judging by his jumping I don’t think he was in love with the ground. Beau Gosse ran well to a point but between the last two his effort petered out and perhaps it wasn’t quite soft enough for him.

I am not sure what happened Double Shuffle as on his Kempton form he was entitled to be a lot closer to the principals. Cyrus Darius travelled well for a long way but he faded in the final furlong and could only manage 5th. Tommy Silver and Vosne Romanee hated the ground and neither could land a blow Hopefully we do better on Day 2 and considering how Day 1 went that shouldn’t be hard!


Cornborough is a previous course winner.
Race 1

A very competitive 20f handicap hurdle kicks off Day 2 of the Grand National Festival at Aintree and 20 runners have been declared. After watching the racing on Thursday the ground is definitely closer to soft than good, so an ability to handle a bit of cut will be key. One horse at a massive price who won’t mind the ground is former course winner Cornborough.

This 7yo son of Sir Percy is a dual purpose type and he has won three flat races as well as three races over timber. His last hurdling win came here in June 2016 off a mark of 126 and although he hasn’t won since his current mark of 125 shows that he has been very consistent. Jamie Hamilton is a fine jockey and Cornborough carries just 10st 1lbs. His staying on 4th at Cheltenham in December (17f soft) suggested he was worth a try over further and if the step up to 20f suits he could outrun his odds of 50/1.

Another former course winner who could go well at a massive price is Court Minstrel for Isabel and Evan Williams. This fella is an 11yo now but he still retains plenty of ability and he showed that when beating Sam Spinner at Chepstow in October off 142 (19.5f gd/sft). His run at Ascot after a short break should have put him spot on for this and at 28/1 he could go well.

STEVOS’ SELECTIONS: COURT MINSTREL E/W 28/1; CORNBOROUGH E/W 50/1


Lalor scoring here in 2017.
Race 2

The second race of the day is the Top Novices’ Hurdle and this Grade 1 contest is run over a distance of 16.5f. Global Citizen is the current favourite at odds of 9/4 after his Grade 2 romp at Kempton last time when he slammed the field by 10L (16f gd). He has a novice win on soft but that was a weak race and it remains to be seen if he is good enough on easy ground in a race of this quality.

Lalor is a horse I fancied to do big things this season but unfortunately things haven’t gone quite to plan. Last year’s Grade 2 bumper winner here ran well in some decent novice hurdles in the first half of this season without winning and he found the going too tough when well beaten in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

However, I think this is a better horse than he has shown so far this year and this race has likely been the target for some time. The booking of Richard Johnson catches the eye and he has had a couple of months off to freshen up after Newbury. Johnson was on board when he won here in 2017 so hopefully he can work the oracle again and at odds of 16/1 Lalor is the each way selection.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: LALOR E/W @ 16/1

Race 3

The Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase is the third race on Day 3 and stamina will be at a premium in this 25f contest. Plenty of the market leaders showed up at Cheltenham and had tough races there so, especially over this distance, it could pay to side with one that didn’t show up at Prestbury Park.

Snow Falcon unseated at the 13th fence in the Irish Grand National just 11 days ago so he didn’t have a hard race. He was hampered so the mishap wasn’t his fault and it shouldn’t have had an impact on his confidence.

He ran an absolute cracker here 12 months ago when close up in 3rd behind Yanworth and Supasundae, and there is nothing of their calibre in this contest. Sean Flanagan is a quality pilot, there are no worries regarding ground or trip and at odds of 11/1 I think Snow Falcon has the credentials to run a massive race.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: SNOW FALCON E/W @ 11/1

Race 4

There might only be 6 horses lining up in the 20f Grade 1 Melling Chase, but while it lacks in quantity it is chock full of quality. Min found just Altior too good in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham and a repeat of that run should suffice here. He had Politologue well behind in 4th and I can see no reason why the Nicholls horse should reverse the form.

At a bigger price I think Cloudy Dream could be the one to chase Min home. Okay, he was 12L behind Balko Des Flos at Cheltenham but I think the combination of slightly better ground and the return to Aintree could be in Cloudy Dream’s favour. His form figures at Aintree read 222 and he could add another 2 to that sequence on Friday. At odds of 12/1 he is the each way alternative to the favourite and a small reverse forecast is advised.  

STEVOS’ SELECTION: MIN 6/4 WIN; CLOUDY DREAM E/W 12/1. (REV FCAST ADVISED).


Highland Lodge loves the Grand National fences.
Race 5

Just the 30 horses to choose from in the Topham Chase and this looks an exceedingly tricky puzzle to solve. Run over the Grand National Fences over a trip of 21f there is sure to be no shortage of drama and luck usually plays a big part in a race of this nature. Hold up horse will be hostage sto fortune and the one I like at a nice enough price is old friend of the blog Highland Lodge.

This fella comes alive over these fences and he went well for a long way in the Grand National last year before his stamina gave out. He was a fine 3rd here on ground softer than ideal behind Blaklion back in December off 138 (26f hvy) and he races off 3lb lower today. He has been given a break since being pulled up at Haydock and that is a big plus as he goes very well fresh. I think he looks sure to give each way backers a good run for their money at odds of 16/1.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: HIGHLAND LODGE E/W @ 16/1 NB


Don't lose faith in Tower Bridge.
Race 6

The penultimate race on Day 2 of the Aintree Grand National Festival is the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle. A field of 14 horses will go to post for this 24.5f contest and it looks an extremely competitive renewal. Tower Bridge scored for us at odds of 40/1 at Leopardstown back in February and after a fine run in the Albert Bartlett I think he could be worth siding with again here.

JJ Slevin keeps the ride and he gets on very well with this lightly raced son of High Chaparral. The 5yo will be having just his 5th start over timber and his last two runs have come in Grade 1s. He only has a couple of lengths to find with OK Corral and Santini who were in front of him at Cheltenham and I suspect he might be a better horse on this slightly better ground. At 10/1 he represents the best value in the race and he is a confident each way selection.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: TOWER BRIDGE E/W @ 10/1 NAP

Race 7

No bet for me in this bumper.