The second major spring festival of the British jumps season gets underway on Thursday as Aintree begins three days of action that will culminate in Saturday’s Grand National.
Almost four weeks have gone by since Cheltenham ended, a week longer than is normal between the festivals, but how will those that performed well in the Cotswolds do on Merseyside?
Given the attritional nature of this year’s Cheltenham Festival, it might be safest to tread with a degree of caution. Those races in deep ground will have left a mark and it might be wise for punters to look for fresh horses at Aintree, at least in some instances.
That will the case for me in the Doom Bar Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle (14:20) as Nicky Henderson’s We Have A Dream earns the note at odds of 2/1 to collect the prize.
He has impressed since arriving from France, winning all four starts on a variety of ground conditions. He hasn’t been winning with endless style, but he does always appear to have the goods when questions are asked.
He was a leading fancy for the Triumph Hurdle before sidestepping that mission, with his Seven Barrows stablemate Apple’s Shakira going off as one of the best-backed favourites of the meeting before ultimately proving a massive disappointment.
They may meet here, and We Have A Dream has undoubtedly enjoyed the better preparation for this day.
In the Aintree Bowl (14:50) it is hard to escape the claims of Might Bite, despite a tough race in the Gold Cup and cramped odds of 4/7. Nicky Henderson’s runner put a hard race at Cheltenham behind him last spring with a much more polished showing at Aintree.
He is the most likely winner of this Grade One, something his price very accurately reflects.
Tom George skipped the Gold Cup with Double Shuffle, who was just one-length behind Might Bite in the King George on Boxing Day at Kempton in finishing second. His only previous experience of Aintree saw him pulled up in the National last year, where he patently didn’t stay.
His trainer has been bullish that there was no fluke in his proximity to Might Bite at Christmas and, a fresh horse now, this flat track should play to his strengths ensuring double-figure odds of 10/1 with three places make him a value shout in this race.
In the Aintree Hurdle (15:20), a chance is also worth giving to the veteran My Tent Or Yours at 11/2.
He’s finished second in this race the last two years – to the Champions Hurdle winners Annie Power and Buveur D’Air – but won’t face down the latter this time.
Instead, he faces Stayers’ Hurdle second Supasundae and another likeable old-timer in The New One (a long way back in the same race). My Tent Or Yours hasn’t run since December and that freshness might be his biggest weapon now as the champion trainer looks to get another big prize from him. At worst, he’s likely to go down with a fight.
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