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Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Aintree 2021 - Thursday 8th April

I was going to hold this blog until the morning, but such is the gamble on one of my selections that I'm posting it now (Wednesday 6pm).  

The Aintree Grand National meeting is a strange one for me, as the air is thick with excitement for the big race on Saturday, but the early days of the meeting can sometimes struggle to meet the expectation. I tend to look at the meeting on the Thursday and Friday as just a normal day at the races, and this year with what looks like a much reduced Irish-trained contingent we possibly won't be seeing the quality of racing that we saw at Cheltenham recently.  

I don't have the historical race records for this meeting like I have for the Cheltenham Festival, so any trends and stat produced I have skimmed from other sources; but there are lots of stats sites in the internet. Remember, it's how you interpret the stats and trends that makes them of value.  his past week, I have been re-reading Nic Mordin's "Betting For a Living" and even though it was first published in 1992 it is a great read with lots of solid lessons for the punter. Nic has a relaxed, easy-to-read writing style, and I'm sure that I've styled my own selection procedure from the techniques he's used in his books. There's only one winner of a race, so find the likely losers and eliminate them from your race assessment: that's what stats and trends are best at - finding and eliminating losers.

The day opens with the Manifesto Novices Chase over 2m4f, and the UK-trained novice chasers were exposed as over-rated at the recent Festival, so we have to query the ratings of OR151 for the 5yo Hitman (earned for 2nd to Allmankind on 05Dec), and OR150 for Protektorat (earned for winning a 4-runner race at Cheltenham on 13Nov).  The Cheltenham winner The Shunter is worthy of OR153 and he could be the answer if in similar form.  I marked Fusil Raffles as one for the future when 2nd at Cheltenham to his stablemate Chantry House; but that pair were fortunate to benefit from the fall of Envoi Allen. A rating of OR155 for Fusil Raffles suggests the handicapper has rated the race and not the performance. Eldorado Allen tackles a trip further than 2-miles for the first time and he is improving with every run. If any takes my eye, it's the David Pipe runner Umbrigado who gets the trip and has won his last 3 races, he looks one to include on the forecast's with The Shunter and Eldorado Allen (as he has the best speed rating).

The Juvenile Hurdle over 2m1f is dominated by the Triumph Hurdle 2nd Adagio, and Monmiral who did not race at the Festival. I will be surprised if any of the other 4 runners get close to this pair, and for me Adagio is the one with the potential to improve as he was let-down by his hurdling LTO and if he hurdles better this time then we could see a much better performance. It is not unusual for those that have run well in the Triumph Hurdle to run well and win this race, and Adagio is the one for me.

The Betway Bowl Chase is a Grade 1 race that's been on this card for decades. This year looks like being a disappointing vintage as only 2 of the 9 runners are younger than 9yo, and while we do have a Gold Cup winner in the race, it is 11yo Native River who won that in 2018 (3 years ago). The race fav is Clan Des Obeaux, and this two-time winner of the "King George" at Kempton over 3-mile has raced  6-times beyond 3-miles (twice in this race) and not won: the trip of 3-miles seems to be his limit. Trainer Paul Nicholls has him in 1st-time cheek-pieces to see if they can galvanise him.  If Native River wins this race after a hard slog at Cheltenham, then I will cheer him home and wish him a happy retirement, but sentiment does not win races. The last time dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll ran on a standard chase course, way back in Nov2017, he was rated OR151.  Sure, he's been a better horse than that since - but not much better - and I'd want 20/1 about him for this race. There are 3 other most unlikely winners of this race: Militarian (totally outclassed), Aso who is well-past his best, and Real Steel who will one day get his act together, but when?  That, in my opinion, leaves 3 potential winners: Waiting Patiently, Clondaw Castle and Mister Fisher. 
Some trends for this race: 
28 of the last 30 winners had winning form over 3-miles; 
19 of the last 28 winners had won a race over 3-miles earlier in the season 
10 of the last 13 winners had at least 10 chase races prior to this
Waiting Patiently: hasn't won at 3-miles, and hasn't won this season; but ran a good 2nd in the "King George" on Boxing Day. He won some good novice chases going left-handed as a novice chaser, but all best form since has been on right-handed tracks. This years "King George" form hasn't worked-out well, and when he ran here in 2019 as an 8yo, he ran poorly.
Clondaw Castle: won over 3-miles at Kempton LTO which is a positive, but on 11Dec he was outclassed by Mister Fisher who was giving him 3lb.  He is also prone to minor jumping errors, and lacks tactical speed which is required for Grade 1 racing. He was race-fit for the 11Dec race having won at Newbury on 27Nov, so no excuses there. He doesn't look good enough to win a Grade 1 chase.
Mister Fisher: hasn't won at 3-miles, and has only run in 7 chase races - so the trends say he's no chance! However, he's run his last 5 chases at graded level, winning twice. His dam is a half-sister to Frascati Park who won his only completed race at 3-mile in his brief chase career, so Mister Fisher should stay the trip. He also didn't run between 11Dec and the Ryanair Chase on 18Mar, so he's race-fit for this. At the odds, he's 8/1, he looks a good wager. 

The Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f is another permanent fixture with a great history. This year, not a single horse with a rating over OR160 is entered, which is disappointing [Correction: Silver Streak is rated OR163]. In 2019, there were 3 of the 7 starters rated OR160+, as there was in 2018 and 2017.  As such, this race should not take much winning. Nicky Henderson must think Buveur D'Air still has some zip, but I really don't expect him to win this race, as he couldn't win it in 2019 when much better prepared. To be honest, I can't work out why McFabulous is the fav, and I don't know why he has an OR158 rating, as his limitations were exposed at Fontwell on 28Feb. He was beaten that day by Brewin'upastorm but they meet on level weights this time, and there won't be much between them.  The 2020 Supreme Hurdle winner Abacadabras has not progressed this season and his OR158 rating is based on his novice hurdle form. The 6yo Song For Someone has been a late developer since arriving at Tom Symonds yard in Nov18 as a 3yo, and it took a year for him to grow into his frame, but he's always shown ability. In winning the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham on 12Dec as a 5yo beating seasoned campaigner Silver Streak (who rec 2lb), he showed he was worthy of a place at the top table. Yes, he was put in his place by Goshen LTO, but forget that margin of defeat, he is more than worthy of his OR158 rating.  PaddyPower offer 12/1, 4-places ew and that looks very generous to me. Finally, the Henry De Bromhead trained Jason The Militant: I'm already on him at 7/1 taken as soon as the declarations came out.  "Jason" first showed his ability winning a Grade 2 hurdle on 23Feb2020, beating Beacon Edge (4th in the Stayers Hurdle last month).  After a couple of indifferent races in the autumn, he won a Grade 3 on 27Feb beating good yardstick Petit Mouchoir easily.  That suggested he was capable of a 160+ performance, but will he stay 2m4f? Tough question, and we will likely have to wait until the result of this race to find out.  For me, the only two worth considering for the race are Song For Someone and Jason The Militant, and that's the pair I'm putting in a forecast.

Suggested wagers:
2:50pm Betfair Bowl: MISTER FISHER, £5 eachway & £5 win @ 8/1
A proper Grade 1 chaser, possessing pace and class, comes here race-fit and unexposed

3:25pm Aintree Hurdle: JASON THE MILITANT, £5 win @ 3/1
Improving and unexposed, has Grade 1 potential

Straight Forecasts:
£3 Jason The Militant to beat Song For Someone
£2 Song For Someone to beat Jason The Militant

Total staked = £25.00 

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