Cheltenham Festival Losers That Can Make Amends at Aintree
The 2022 Cheltenham Festival may be over but the Aintree Grand National meeting is just around the corner and our racing expert Gavin Beech is back with a list of horses who may make amends at the Merseyside track.
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2.20 - Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1)
With no Vauban and Fil Dor to worry about, Pied Piper has an outstanding opportunity to land a Grade 1 prize in Thursday’s Anniversary Hurdle.
Gordon Elliott’s high-class juvenile was ultimately done for speed by the Flat-bred Vauban after the final flight in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, but Vauban would be a very short price to win this and Pied Piper appears to have exactly the right profile to excel at this track.
A strong traveller, the way Pied Piper went through the Triumph Hurdle strongly suggests that he’ll be even better suited by the flatter nature of Aintree so it will be a surprise if he’s not last off the bridle on ground he should love.
Brazil, the winner of the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, is the only other runner rated in the 140’s but that handicap form falls short of the level shown by Pied Piper in the Triumph and he can prove that point by landing this Grade 1 prize.
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2.55 - Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1)
It’s a competitive renewal of the Bowl but Protektorat ran a blinder when third in the Gold Cup and he has first-rate prospects of going two places better.
Protektorat will need to beat the last two winners of this race (Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy) but his performance over this course and distance in December strongly suggests that Dan Skelton’s stable star can do the business.
Protektorat’s 25-length demolition job in the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase, his first try at three-miles-plus, remains one of the performances of the National Hunt season and it marked him down as a stayer chaser to be reckoned with at the top level.
The 7-year-old wasn’t able to live with A Plus Tard from the home turn in the Gold Cup but he stuck to his task well to finish just in front of the highly-touted Galvin, and there is surely more to come from this relatively young horse over staying trips.
The competition is tough but Protektorat has yet to be beaten in two runs at Aintree and he can make it a hat-trick of course wins on Thursday afternoon.
2.20 - Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Jonbon couldn’t hold a candle to stablemate Constitution Hill in the closing stages of the Supreme Novices Hurdle but he faces no such superstar in Friday’s Top Novices’ Hurdle and he really should return to winning ways.
Jonbon is a high-class novice in his own right and it’s hard to believe that he was given his best opportunity to win that Supreme Novices’ Hurdle given his rider seemed more intent on keeping Dysart Dynamo, who was going fast enough, honest at the head of affairs.
Obviously, it wasn’t the difference between defeat and victory, but it is a factor that probably meant that Jonbon wasn’t seen to best effect.
He’s an active type that can get sweaty so, provided he handles the big Aintree crowd, we should see a peak-form Jonbon and that will be too much for these rivals.
3.30 - Marsh Chase (Grade 1)
Mister Fisher was taken out of the Ryanair Chase after the ground turned against him at Cheltenham but connections made the right call to withdraw because this horse just doesn’t operate well on slow ground.
Their reward is that conditions at Aintree on Friday appear to be absolutely perfect for this horse and this might just be his best chance of landing a Grade 1 prize.
Two and a half miles on a flat track and a sound surface are his bag and he comes here a fresh horse having not been seen since he was thrashed by Fakir D’oudaries in the Ascot Chase.
We can put a line through that race from Mister Fisher’s perspective because it was run on soft ground, and Mister Fisher will get a good deal closer to that rival under these much more favourable conditions.
If his jumping holds up - which is the biggest concern, then Mister Fisher will outrun his 10/1 odds with the best betting sites.
3.35 - Liverpool Hurdle (Grade 1)
Flooring Porter is the one to beat on his Stayers’ Hurdle success but both Thyme Hill and Champ have decent prospects of turning the favourite over on this very different track.
Thyme Hill will be the one for many, having won this race 12 months ago, but Champ is narrowly preferred having travelled so well through that Stayers’ Hurdle.
There wasn’t an instant change of gear in the locker when Aidan Coleman asked Champ for maximum effort but he did stick to his task well and it’s worth remembering that Champ won a Grade 1 novice event at this meeting in 2019, the only time he’s been to the Merseyside track.
He’s only had three runs this term so he should head to Aintree in peak form and the Nicky Henderson-trained 10-year-old will love bouncing off this decent ground.
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