Race Time: 2.30pm Meeting: Aintree Day: Saturday 7th November
Distance: 2m 4f Full Race Name: Betfred Hurdle Class Two
For a two and a half mile hurdle we have a list of unusual contenders here, some of whom will most likely spend the rest of their season over the larger obstacles after this blows away the cobwebs. Top of that list by some margin is the Nicky Henderson Simonsig (15/8), an absolutely top class chaser who has been off the track since winning the Arkle trophy at the Cheltenham festival in March 2013 through injury. Nicky Henderson still thinks the world of this now nine year old who will reach double figures by the time he gets back to Cheltenham, and he does have some top class hurdle form when winning the 2012 Neptune Hurdle at Cheltenham as well as the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle here at Aintree in the same year – but surely we have to assume he is here to get a run of any kind under his belt after so long off the track and will need the run (he certainly won’t be knocked about)? On the other hand, who can realistically beat him if 80% fit – answer none of them, so we have to take the risk however dodgy that may be.
Bobs Worth (12/1) also runs for the same all powerful yard and has Nico De Boinville in the saddle, but he is basically another chaser having a run over hurdles – but why? His last run over hurdles was at the Cheltenham Festival on March 2011 when he took the Albert Bartlett by two and a quarter lengths from stable companion Mossley, but even then he needed three miles and it would be difficult to envisage him winning over two and a half over the smaller obstacles this afternoon.
Somehow (don’t ask us), the John Ferguson trained Purple Bay (7/4) is officially the best horse in the race with a rating of 161, and if the others need the run he could well pop up on the scene close home if at his best that is. The stable are in a purple patch (pun intended), and can do little wrong so far this season, and as the six year old has some good form to his name he has to be included in all sensible calculations. Relatively comfortable wins at Market Rasen and Wincanton were split by a running on seventh in the Galway Hurdle when giving lumps of weight to every horse that finished in front of him, but his last run was probably his best when an eight length second to Faugheen, though we would suggest the winning distance should be taken with a pinch of salt as the winner had any amount in hand. In then long term we are pretty convinced the son of Dubawi is not the best horse here – but there is a possibility that he could have a fitness edge this afternoon.
Next on our complete list is another John Ferguson trained gelding in the shape of Commissioned (6/1), a five year old son of the brilliant Authorized. He will be race fit after running over the summer at Cartmel, Perth, and Market Rasen (twice), with an easy win at the first attempt in a Class Two handicap, but that makes us wonder if he really needs faster conditions than seem likely today and we can just about bypass him for that one reason.
Last but not necessarily least, Rebecca Curtis sends Royal Boy (10/1) here – for his first run since January 2014, a gap of 665 days. If he is fit (the big question which we cannot guess the answer to from here), then he has every chance of success having won the Tolworth Hurdle at Kempton when last seen in public, beating Josses Hill (now rated 158 over fences), which seems decent enough form to go mighty close this afternoon – but only the betting will give us a clue about just how fit he is or could be today!