THE first day of the Grand National meeting is as good as it gets in the world of National Hunt.
We’ve got all you need for the big meeting right here with an in-depth look at each race on the first day of the card.
Race 1 – 1.45 Devenish Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
The current prices around LA BAGUE AU ROI are mind-boggling and if she goes off anywhere near the 2-1 mark, the bookies deserve to be punished.
She has by far and away some of the best novice form this campaign and comes here a fresher horse than most after Warren Greatrex bravely skipped Cheltenham.
I’d fancy her massively even without the weight allowance she gets – a whopping 7lbs. She looks a serious Day 1 banker in my book.
I still have no idea how good Glen Forsa really is and Kalashnikov has been far from convincing this season. I can leave the pair alone at current odds.
Bags Groove has been costly to follow this season on the whole, but is fresher than most and has a big race in him.
This small field will suit down to a tee and I’d like to see him given a real positive ride out front.
Mengli Khan is the other I’d like, but with only six going to post each-way betting is very limited.
VERDICT – 1. La Bague Au Roi 2. Bags Groove 3. Mengli Khan
Race 2 – 2.20 Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1)
The second offering on Thursday throws up another stellar Grade 1 and another strong pick.
BAND OF OUTLAWS (NAP) flew home to land the Fred Winter in devastating style and rates plenty better than that bare form.
On the eye and on the clock, there have not been many better performances in the juvenile division and Joseph O’Brien has had all the aces in his hand this season – despite the tragic loss of Sir Erec.
He was backed off the boards at Cheltenham like a good thing and truly delivered in some style. I think he’ll go in again.
I can’t knock Pentland Hills, and his Triumph run will hold up in time, but it’s impossible to have a strong view on him after so few starts.
Nicky Henderson has clearly got the best out of him, but he has been beaten in Class 6’s on the flat. A truly mad profile.
It’s a cracking dual between the two and I can’t see them being far away when push comes to shove.
For each-way purposes I wouldn’t rule out the unbeaten Christopher Wood for the Paul Nicholls team. He remains completely unexposed and has done nothing wrong so far whatsoever.
VERDICT – 1. Band Of Outlaws (NAP) 2. Pentland Hills 3. Christopher Wood
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Race 3 – 2.50 Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1)
Another race, another Grade 1 – Aintree is spoiling us.
There’s only six runners here, but it’s a real trappy heat, and very hard to split the top four in the betting.
I’ll edge towards KEMBOY but would be siding with caution and keeping the stakes fairly low.
Most of these had hard races at the Festival, while Willie Mullins’ improving chaser had an early exit after the first and effectively comes here a fresh horse.
His Irish form isn’t the strongest at the top level, but he’s won well each time this season and is one of the more unexposed of these.
Added to that, I think Aintree will suit better than Cheltenham despite it likely being an afterthought.
Clan Des Obeaux was my Gold Cup horse but clearly didn’t stay and as good a horse as he is, does seem to be one that needs things to go his way.
I can take him on as the likely favourite after such a hard race at the Festival.
Nothing original here, but I think Bristol De Mai is a better betting prospect than the Ditcheat runner and the Nigel Twiston-Davies team could potentially try and switch up their tactics and make all in this small field.
VERDICT – 1. Kemboy 2. Bristol De Mai 3. Clan Des Obeaux
Race 4 – 3.25 Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1)
Another short-priced favourite as Buveur D’Air looks to make up for his fall in the Champion Hurdle.
He is miles clear on the ratings and will be many people’s idea of a banker on Day 1.
However, I can take him on at the prices. His jumping just hasn’t been what it was this season and he’s been made to look uncomfortable twice now in recent months.
The selection is VERDANA BLUE at a huge price. From the same stable, conditions came up wrong for her at the Festival where she could only finish a well-beaten fifth.
The ground should be more up her street here and I have no doubts about her stamina up in trip here.
She hasn’t kicked on from her win at Kempton – where she put Buveur D’Air away despite Nico De Boinville’s best effort – but has had her excuses.
This is her time to land a big one and Nicky Henderson will have her tuned up to a tee as he chases down Paul Nicholls with desperation in the Trainer’s Title.
Supasundae looks a solid each-way option reverted back to his best trip, although his price has shortened plenty enough in recent days.
VERDICT – 1. Verdana Blue 2. Buveur D’Air 3. Supasundae
Race 5 – 4.05 Randox Health Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase
Not a race I have a strong opinion on for obvious reasons but I can’t see past ROAD TO ROME.
This test will suit him plenty better than Cheltenham where he did not get home after travelling and jumping as well as any.
Sam Waley-Cohen is again on board and he’s continued to improve this season.
At a bigger price, last year’s runner-up Bear’s Affair must hold claims. Any course experience is vital and he’s not had many runs since.
Wonderful Charm is another at big odds I’d give a sneak to. He skipped Cheltenham and his Doncaster run prior to that was a big effort and a return to some of his previous form.
VERDICT – 1. Road To Rome 2. Bear’s Affair 3. Wonderful Charm
Race 6 – 4.40 Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Things get plenty trickier with the first big field handicap of the week at Aintree.
It’s an all action two mile chase over the Mildmay course and there hasn’t been a winning favourite since 2012.
As ever, course form tends to be important but I can’t get away from BRELAN D’AS for the Paul Nicholls team.
He put up another big run at Cheltenham – a course he’s never been at his best – when third in the Grand Annual.
He only races off 2lbs higher here and you can’t help but think there’s plenty more to come off that mark.
He races off a very tempting 10’9 and when you consider the past five winners have won off 10’10, 10’5, 10’10, 11’1 and 10’8 – that only adds to his claims.
If he can settle a tad better than at Cheltenham he should go mighty close under the master Barry Geraghty.
Moon Over Germany is mighty interesting for the all conquering team of Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.
He’s thoroughly unexposed and has solid novice form behind the likes of Getabird and Paloma Blue.
Theinval was runner-up last year, but has each-way claims again here despite racing off 5lbs higher.
VERDICT – 1. Brelan D’As 2. Moon Over Germany 3. Theinval
Race 7 – 5.15 – Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2)
This is certainly not a lucky last to be going chasing your tail at the end of the day.
I would not be putting the mortgage on anything here but it’s impossible to ignore the claims of MISTY WHISKY who was mighty impressive in winning a Listed race at Sandown.
Harry Fry has had a tricky season but as always has had some good bumper prospects and this mare must rate highly in his squad.
Minella Melody is exciting for Henry De Bromhead and another I’d give a big nod to.
The Glancing Queen has arguably the best form in the book after his Champion Bumper fifth and that should be more than good enough to feature in this lesser race.
VERDICT – 1. Misty Whisky 2. Minella Melody 3. The Glancing Queen
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