The opening day of the Aintree festival throws up the usual conundrums of fresh horse versus Cheltenham horses, and even the question of whether Cheltenham form can convert.
We don’t see a lot of mileage in opposing Top Notch or Defi du Seuil in the opening two races, but they aren’t backable either.
Cue Card looks a favourite with questions to answer in the Bowl. He is now 11, and his main danger, Empire of Dirt is a 10 year old who disappointed on quickening ground at Cheltenham. This race looks ripe for an upset, Aso is tempting at a big price, but the youngest runner, Bristol De Mai could lead them a merry dance if getting away in front.
Buveau D’Air did us a favour in the Champion Hurdle. The extra distance here is a question mark and we are tempted by the long odds about Rashaan, but in the end the favourite probably has enough class to win.
The Foxhunters sees On The Fringe go for a hat-trick. He predictably struggled on quick ground at Cheltenham, but likes this course enough to improve past the winner there Pascha de Polder. Both may have trouble catching Balnaslow, who looked to have a big chance at Cheltenham until the petrol gauge ran empty. A flatter track and shorter trip could make him hard to overhaul under the excellent Derek O’Connor.
The Red Rum chase over 2 miles gives a chance at redemption for Dandridge. He was runner up in this race last year having placed at Cheltenham. He placed again there this year and must have a fighting chance here under regular pilot Davy Russell. A guaranteed strong pace will suit him as he has to be played late.
The closing Mares Bumper is best left alone.
Bristol De Mai (1450 Aintree) 6/1, generally available
Balnaslow (1605 Aintree), 9/1 generally available
Dandridge (1640 Aintree), 6/1 generally available
You can get our Aintree Grand National Guide 2017 here.
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