Cheltenham Festival Losers That Can Make Amends at Aintree
The 2023 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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Zenta - 2.20 - Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1)
Zenta took her form to a new level when third in the JCB Triumph Hurdle and assuming that the daughter of Pastorious is in the same kind of form this week, then she could prove very hard to beat in the Grade 1 Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle.
The JP McManus-owned filly moved through the Triumph Hurdle in the manner of a youngster with a big future ahead of her and although she was passed late on for second, she stuck to her task well to finish a long way clear of the rest.
The less taxing nature of Aintree should be right up her street and there could easily be stacks more go come from this lightly raced filly, who has only had two runs for Willie Mullins since coming over from France.
She has proved quite versatile ground wise in her short career to date so conditions shouldn’t be a problem and, in receipt of the fillies’ allowance, she is going to take some stopping for the all-conquering Mullins team.
Ahoy Senor - 2.55 - Alder Hay Aintree Bowl Chase (Grade 1)
If even half of the horses being earmarked for the Aintree Bowl turn up then we are in for a real treat because this is going to be a red-hot renewal of this Grade 1 contest.
Shishkin, stepping up to three miles for the first time in his career, heads the market and it’s easy enough to see him going one place better than in the Ryanair Chase but he’s becoming a very difficult horse to predict.
King George winner Bravemansgame feels the obvious choice after his outstanding Gold Cup performance, but he’s twice been to Aintree and twice been put in his place by Ahoy Senor, who has yet to run a bad race at the Merseyside venue.
Lucinda Russell’s stable star was still travelling within himself when coming a cropper at the 17th fence in the Gold Cup.
His jumping is clearly not bombproof, but Ahoy Senor is capable of top-class form at this track when on-song, as he showed when hammering Fury Road, L’Homme Presse and Bravemansgame in last season’s Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase.
Inthepocket - 2.55 - Poundland Top Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1)
As things currently stand, the 2023 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle looks bang up to scratch and Inthepocket can give the form a major boost by becoming the third Irish-trained horse in four seasons to land this Grade 1 contest.
The JP McManus-owned six-year-old stuck to his task well at the business end of the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser despite having raced keenly early on.
Although he was no match for the exceptional Marine Nationale, he still finished over two lengths in front of Grade 1-winning novice Il Etait Temps.
The flatter, more conventional nature of Aintree should really suit this improving horse given the way he travels, as should the likely big field which will hopefully enable him to settle better than at Cheltenham.
The concern is the form of Henry De Bromhead’s horses since Cheltenham – the Co. Waterford trainer has had a very quiet time of things in the last couple of weeks.
However, De Bromhead’s big guns tend to do themselves justice at the big festivals and Inthepocket is yet to run a bad race in his life. If he runs to the same level as at Cheltenham, he has to go close at least.
Hermes Allen - 4.40 - Winners Wear Cavani Sefton Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1)
For whatever reason, we didn’t see the best of Hermes Allen in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, despite him being super strong in the market with betting sites in the build-up to the race.
The Nicholls team put his below-par performance down to tacky ground, which the horse just couldn’t operate in – he certainly wasn’t able to jump with the same zest that has been a trademark of this horse’s career so far.
Ground conditions at Aintree are likely to be on the soft side given the amount of rain forecast but it needs to be emphasised that this horse sluiced home in a Grade 1 Challow Hurdle on soft ground.
So, softening conditions shouldn’t really be detrimental to his chances providing they are able to get through the ground, which should be the case given conditions should not be overly bad by the second day.
Hermes Allen had looked a star in the making prior to Cheltenham and we know he’ll stay this longer trip because he won a point early in his career.
Paul Nicholls won this race last season and a peak-form Hermes Allen, who is the highest-rated runner in the 2023 renewal, can strike again for the 13-time champion trainer.
Teahupoo - 3.35 - JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle (Grade 1)
Thyme Hill, winner of this race in 2021, is a potential fly in the ointment at bigger odds with betting apps on his switch back to hurdles, but this is likely to concern the horses that fought out the finish to last month’s Stayers’ Hurdle.
Sire Du Berlais, who came out on top that day, attempts to defend his Liverpool Hurdle crown after scoring by a length and a half 12 months ago.
Once again he arrives at the top of his game after screaming back to form in the Stayers’ Hurdle, but his younger stablemate Teahupoo looks well up to reversing Cheltenham form.
Teahupoo retains a stack of potential as a hurdler given his staying-on third in the Stayers’ Hurdle was just his second try over three miles.
Davy Russell’s mount didn’t get the seamless trip at the business end that the winner did that day, and inexperience may have also played it's part given he had never been in the trenches to such an extent at the end of three miles before.
That experience should not have been lost on Teahupoo who still has the potential to progress into the outstanding three-miler of his generation, and he can confirm that by avenging last month’s defeat and winning his first three-mile Grade 1 prize here.
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