An attractive card at Aintree on the opening day of the Grand National meeting - the 1st four races are Grade 1. The opening 2m4f novice chase looks intriguing as 6 go to post, and they all look capable of significant improvement.
The obvious choice is the Paul Nicholls trained Pic D'Orhy, who won LTO over 2m4f at Kempton beating one of today's rivals Millers Bank. His only disadvantage is the he has mainly run right-handed, and this tight left-handed track could be his undoing. Millers Bank ran well at this meeting as a novice hurdler and he looked much-improved as a chaser LTO and he might yet go even better in this, but he has a fair bit to make up. It's tricky to know how goo Erne River is after a couple of runaway wins, but he looks a bit short in the market to me at 100/30. War Lord is more interesting as he beat some well-fancied horses when 4th in the Arkle; this trip will suit him better than 2-mile. For me, it's PIC D'ORHY but it's a tricky race and there's not much between them.
The 2m1f 4yo hurdle at 2:20pm looks a cracker of a race. Cheltenham winner Brazil is a full-brother to St Leger and Irish Derby winner Capri, so it's no wonder he'd not been gelded! Ordinary on the flat, he's improved rapidly since Christmas and that improvement may not have stopped yet. As such, I think he will prove too strong for Pied Piper who had his limitations exposed in the Triumph Hurdle. On ratings there's not much between them, but the potential for further improvement lies with BRAZIL. The only other likely contender is Petit Tonnerre, but he looks like he wants another half-mile and needs to find about 20lb of improvement.
The Grade 1 Betway Bowl Chase over 3m1f is one the highlights of the meeting; and a top-class field is lined-up including last years winner Clan Des Obeaux. It was one of his best-ever performances last year, but he's not looked the same since in a couple of runs this season, and it's a big ask for the 10yo to return to that sort of form again. The old-boy Bristol De Mai hasn't looked up to winning a race like this for some time. The most obvious winner is the Dan Skelton trained Protektorat, who ran a great race to be 3rd in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month - however, he was a long way behind the winner. Alongside him at the finish in the Gold Cup was Royale Pagaille and, to be fair, I think he could prove the better of this pair as he is capable of slightly better form. However, they could both be beaten by Eldorado Allen who won the Denman Chase at Newbury in February beating both Royale Pagaille and Clan Des Obeaux in the process. He then ran in the Ryanair Chase and had no chance trying to match Allaho over 2m4f, and this trip could be perfect for him. The 8yo Conflated won a slowly-run Grade 1 Chase in February, and he will be staying-on late, but he could find the pace of this race too string. I can't see Kemboy repeating his win of 2019 in this race. Looking at the betting market, the odds of 13/2 about ELDORADO ALLEN (William Hill) are the best value in my opinion.
The 4th Grade 1 of the day is the Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f. Both the market leaders, Epatante and Zanahiyr are trying this trip for the first time, and it's debatable whether the trip will bring out improvement. So, I'm going against this pair and having a small wager on BREWIN'UPASTORM who will be in 1st-time cheekpieces. He ran a poor race in this event last year, but he was much better when a good C&D winner last November, and a repeat of that performance will see him win this. Odds of 13/2 (Paddy Power) look massive.
I will give the last 3 races on the card a miss.
Looking to the Grand National, it looks like there are 3 confirmed non-runners: Anibale Fly, Agusta Gold and Court Maid although we won't know for sure until the final declarations are made tomorrow.
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