We’ve teamed up with BetVictor to preview the day’s racing.
Despite the lack of recent rain on Merseyside Clerk of the Course Andrew Tulloch has had his watering can out and the ground at Aintree for today’s opening day of the 2017 Grand National meeting is described as good to soft and good in places on the Mildmay course and good to soft on the National course.
There are only 21 runners in total for the four Grade 1 races which open the meeting but they are all fascinating races in their own right beginning with the Manifesto Novices’ Chase over the best part of two-and-a-half-miles.
Frodon has been on the go since September and has been a credit to champion trainer Paul Nicholls and I think it was a wise move to bypass Cheltenham and come into today’s race relatively fresh after a near six-week lay-off. He must go close but I hope to see the Festival form franked by two horses who finished runner-up to potential stars last month and take Top Notch (1.45) to beat Cloudy Dream.
The selection blundered at the second last behind Yorkhill in the JLT Novices’ Chase but rallied well to go down by just a length to the Mullins hotpot who is considered a Gold Cup horse by many in the yard for next term.
We will all be advised that the selection is not the biggest horse in the world but he jumped like a cat at Cheltenham apart from that isolated mistake and he can fend off the northern raider Cloudy Dream who put in a career best when six lengths runner-up to Altior in the Arkle last time. This step up in trip is no concern but Top Notch (5/4) with BetVictor gets the vote.
It is hard to get away from the chances of Defi Du Seuil (2.20) in the Juvenile Hurdle such was his dominance in the Triumph Hurdle last time.
We won’t get rich backing him at 2/7 with BetVictor but he is one of the best juvenile hurdlers I have seen for a number of years and would be my long term fancy for the Champion Hurdle despite the poor record of five-year-olds in the race.
Seven go to post in the Bowl (2.50), which is, arguably, a sub-standard renewal but is a tricky puzzle to solve.
Cue Card took this race last year having fallen three out in the Gold Cup as he did at the same fence last month. He would pick this lot up if in the same form as last year, and it must be remembered he ran a terrific race to win an Ascot Grade 1 on his penultimate start. My major concern would actually be the form of the Colin Tizzard yard and I fully expect the horse to drift from his overnight quote of 13/8 with BetVictor.
Empire Of Dirt found 2m 5f too short at Cheltenham in the Ryanair Chase and will appreciate today’s return to three miles, but will he handle the tight turns of the Mildmay track? If there is plenty of juice in the ground then Bristol De Mai enters calculations, but I am convinced the race is Cue Card’s to lose.
Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air (3.20) is another short-priced favourite who will be very hard to beat with today’s additional half mile considered a plus. He is 2/5 at BetVictor and I think stablemate My Tent Or Yours can follow him home for a Nicky Henderson one-two.
On The Fringe is 2/1 at BetVictor to retain his Foxhunter crown although he did lose his Cheltenham mantle to Pacha Du Polder last month. I am going to take an each way chance on Distime (4.05) who should appreciate conditions and at 25/1 at BetVictor can run into a place.
Fifteen go to post for the Red Rum Chase and my two against the field are Theinval (another Henderson runner) and Double W’s (4.40) with preference for the latter who is 9/1 with BetVictor.
Connections were mulling over a tilt at the Grade 1 Novice Chase at the minimum trip on Saturday and he was going so well at this trip when not getting home over an additional half mile at the Festival.
For all the latest odds head to BetVictor.com and follow @BetVictorRacing on Twitter.