6.10pm Aintree – Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle (for Conditional and Amateur Riders) Class Two – 2m 103yds
The final race of another Grand National Festival is a chance for the jockeys of the future to take centre stage. David Bass and David Mullins have both ridden the winner in recent years before going onto better things. The race has traditionally been some relief for the bookies with just one winner at a single figure price in seven runnings.
We’re opting for one to continue this trend in Allee Bleue at 11/1. Ciaran Gethings rides – he’s been riding well recently and takes over from Richard Johnson who has ridden him the last twice. He had a very easy race 12 days ago – essentially a schooling session at long odds on – but he has two eye catching wins on Soft and Heavy ground. At Taunton he beat Air Horse One an Fountains Windfall, pulling well clear and giving both significant amounts of weight; the former was a handy bumper horse while the latter nearly beat Gala Ball on his next start who has been in excellent form. We expect him to be out near the pace, if not making all, which is often an advantage in these sort of fields. He’s lightly raced and will handle the ground whatever it comes up.
In a competitive race, Thunder Sheik is a fast improver for Nigel Twiston-Davies. He told us in his exclusive column – it’s worth having a read for thoughts on all his runners including Double Ross in the Grand National – that he wouldn’t want the ground to come up too soft, and that unfortunately looks likely to be a case. He’s going for the hatrick here but is up 14 pounds in a much tougher race and while we wish Nigel and Ryan hatch all the luck in the world we won’t be backing him.
The current favourite is Automated – an ex flat horse for Ger Lyons (rated 75), he won his second start over hurdles on Heavy ground before finishing 3rd to Lift The Latch 3 weeks ago. That winner was pitched in to Grade 2 company and sent off favourite, finishing 5th, while the second place won on the flat at Limerick on Thursday, giving a solid look to the form. This is his handicap debut which probably explains the price; he doesn’t have the same experience which is often useful in these big fields and single figure odds is too short for us. He does have Jack Kennedy booked and he’s the unexposed raider on paper but he’ll find this race much tougher.
There are some jockeys in here with very little experience – Harry Teal and Gareth Malone have had just 40 rides between them over jumps under rules – but one jockey will plenty of experience is Katie Walsh. She’s booked to ride My Manekineko who is available at outsider prices – 33/1 in places and comes here following a prep run at Dundalk 50 days ago. He was only a moderate flat horse but looking at Dundalk 2nd he is obviously in good heart; if it doesn’t come up too soft on the day (which is unlikely) he could be a surprise outsider.
A bit more of a speculative one in here could be Dell’ Arca who is undoubtedly well handicapped on the pick of his form and already has one of the conditional finds of the season, David Noonan, booked to take the mount. He has plied his trade both over further and over fences in the past couple of seasons but a strongly run two miles might actually be up his street with his extra stamina coming to the fore late on. From a mark of 135 with his rider taking a further 5lbs off his back he couldrun very well, but it’s hard to know how sound he is after he was pulled up last time out.
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