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Horse racing expert Andrew Mount shares his predictions for this weekend’s meeting at Aintree.
3m1f novices’ chase (1.05)
Paul Nicholls is well represented in the 3m1f novices’ chase (1.05), and supporters of GIVE ME A COPPER will be hoping he gets further than he did on last month’s chase debut at Kelso, where he jinked and unseated his rider shortly after the first fence. He should go close with a clear round, but at likely bigger odds, it could pay to take a chance on the Suzy Smith-trained CLONDAW CIAN.
The seven-year-old tends to come to hand early in the season and has won all three starts in November, including when 12/1 on his reappearance at Cheltenham last term. He scored on his sole point-to-point outing and the switch from hurdles to fences could bring about further improvement.
The 3m handicap hurdle (1.40)
The 3m handicap hurdle (1.40) has a tricky look to it, but the market has proved an accurate guide in recent years, with the last six winners priced at 6/1 or shorter. LOUIS’ VAC POUCH won all three completed starts in the second half of last season and, though a 25/1 shot, looked unlucky when sixth in the Grade 3 Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow on his comeback.
He got behind after a bad mistake at the third flight before staying on strongly to finish two lengths behind the winner. On the downside, this will be his first start beyond 2m4f and his stamina has to be taken on trust. Stamina will certainly not be an issue for MINELLA ON LINE, who won twice at Plumpton from four starts over fences for Oliver Sherwood last season. The eight-year-old has a good record when fresh, recording form figures of 221 on his last three seasonal debuts.
2m4f Class 2 handicap chase (2.15)
Eight of the last ten winners of the 2m4f Class 2 handicap chase (2.15) were making their seasonal debuts and ON TOUR, runner-up in this race on his comeback 12 months ago, can go one better. The Evan Williams-trained nine-year-old tends to perform best in the early months of the jumps season, with form figures of 121111120 from September to November.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has made a fantastic start to the current jumps season, with last week’s one-two in the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby the obvious highlight. His BALLYBOLLEY has to enter calculations. The eight-year-old slammed Guitar Pete by four lengths in a Listed handicap chase at Market Rasen last time, and that form was given a timely boost when the runner-up went one better last week. However, the majority of his wins have come on good ground and the top weight could prove vulnerable if the going, described as ‘good to soft’ at the time of writing, eases further.
2m4f Class 2 hurdle (2.50)
Cheltenham festival winners have taken the two previous renewals of the 2m4f Class 2 hurdle (2.50) – 2013 Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth landed at odds of 11/1 in 2015, and Un Temps Pour Tout, winner of the 2016 Ultima Handicap Chase, justified favouritism last year before repeating his festival success several months later.
UNOWHATIMEANHARRY, last seen when recording a game Grade 1 success over his Cheltenham conqueror Nichols Canyon in the spring, is the class act in the race but is likely to find the trip on the sharp side. Strong preference is for dual course winner THE NEW ONE, who started the current campaign with a hard-fought success over the useful Clyne at Ffos Las.
2m handicap chase (3.25)
A strong pace looks likely in the 2m handicap chase (3.25) and the race could be set up nicely for the Venetia Williams-trained UN PROPHETE. The six-year-old ran as though the race were needed when weakening into fourth on his recent comeback at Fakenham and his trainer’s handicap chasers have a great record at this time of year. Backing them blind in November would have found 84 winners from 440 bets (19% strike-rate) for a profit of £147.24 to a £1 level stake. Tom George won this race three years ago and his BABY KING, who has a good record first-time out, looks the chief threat.
2m 1f (4.00)
With 23 runners declared at the four-day stage, the concluding bumper (4.00) looks incredibly competitive and is likely to be a good source of future winners. Five of the last six winners had won or placed in a similar contest on their most recent outing. KHAGE, third at 20-1 in what looked a hot race at Chepstow last month, looks the safest option.
1.05 Clondaw Cian (Give Me A Copper)
1.40 Minella On Line (Louis’ Vac Pouch)
2.15 On Tour
2.50 The New One
3.25 Un Prophete (Baby King)