It is day one of the Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree on Thursday with plenty to get stuck into if you wish. I am taking a slightly careful approach this year as it can throw up some surprises being so close to the Festival at Cheltenham as it is, but I am on three for Thursday.
Best bets for the horse racing at Aintree Thursday 7th April
Cheltenham Festival form is on show in a few race on Thursday not least the Grade One 2m1f Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at 2.40. Brazil was perhaps a surprise winner of the G.3 Fred Winter at Cheltenham, surprised me anyway, but he will be fancied by some here off the back of that run. I am sticking with Pied Piper though who I backed to win the G.1 Triumph Hurdle, finished third, in the belief that not only is he the best horse lining-up this flat course should suit this speedy son of New Approach perfectly. I have Evens overnight. Joey Logan, racing manager for the owners Caldwell Construction, said this week: “We think the ground is going to suit him and the track is going to suit him – I think we’ll see the best of Pied Piper on Thursday. He’s in good form – he came out of Cheltenham very well. Davy is going to ride him and we’d be expecting him to run a big race. This was the target more than the Triumph Hurdle because of the track”
A couple of old favourites of mine go in the Grade One 3m1f Betway Bowl Chase with Clan Des Obeaux and Bristol De Mai lining-up. Clan Des Obeaux has finished first (last year), second and third in this in three attempts but needs to bounce back following a poor effort in the G.2 Denman Chase at Newbury last time. Blinkers go on the ten-year-old and I have taken a chance at 4-1 overnight that he can win back-to-back renewals. Paul Nicholls told the Betfair website this week: “Clan hasn’t been at his best yet this season, but still ran well in the King George. I was then a little disappointed with him at Newbury when our horses were a bit out of form.He is not getting any younger, but he’s bouncing at the moment and looks great in his coat. We worked him in blinkers on Saturday to sharpen him up and he will wear them in a race for the first time on Thursday.I’m hopeful of another big run back at a track we know he likes.” Bristol De Mai looks unlikely to get his ideal conditions and he has never won round here. Protektorat, who I backed in the Gold Cup last month when third, is the big danger to the selection obviously having won the G.2 Many Clouds Chase over track and trip in December; it was a close call between the pair for me but I just wonder whether his massive effort at Cheltenham will mean he is vulnerable here just twenty-days later to a fresher horse.
I nicked a couple of each-way bob with Zanahiyr at the Festival and I think he can gain a much-deserved big win in the Grade One 2m4f Betway Aintree Hurdle at 3.30. He should be much better suited by this trip than the Nicky Henderson trained mare Epatante who he finished just behind in the Champion Hurdle last month when they were second and third. There is no Honeysuckle here of course who the selection has chased home countless times and I took 15-8 overnight.