Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson had a bit of a strop when the ground turned heavy at Cheltenham on day two last month. As a consequence, they pulled many of their horses out of their particular races.
Whether that was justified or not I guess is irrelevant. They train the horses and the connections are entitled to have their say. They can do as they wish with their own horses, but it was rather disappointing to see.
With that in mind, we have picked out four horses who skipped the Cheltenham Festival who should have a big chance at the Aintree Festival this coming week.
Pic D’orhy (2-1)
Manifesto Novices’ Chase
1.45 Thursday April 7
Former Betfair Hurdle winner who won a Grade 2 novices’ chase over the extended 2m2f at Ascot in December. He was no match for L’Homme Presse when third in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles at Sandown in February but bounced back to form with a victory in a Grade 2 at Kempton in February. A flat track will suit and he will have his conditions.
Mildmay Novices’ Chase
2.55 Friday April 8
It will be interesting to see if L’Homme Presse lines up again after his fantastic Cheltenham win and if he does it could be some battle. Bravemansgame was pulled out of Cheltenham on the day due to the ground but he might not be as lucky again this time as lots of rain is forecast. Cited to be a replica of Denman by Nicholls, he has so far lived up to that tag.
Fakir D’oudairies (6-4)
3.30 Friday April 8
Connections made the right decision in not going for the Ryanair last month as he would have finished well behind Allaho again. He won this race by 11 lengths last year so it is no surprise to see him saved for it again. This trip is perfect for him, he enjoys a flat track and he has been campaigned wisely this term, picking up Grade 1 honours at Ascot in February.
Minella Crooner (11-4)
Sefton Novices’ Hurdle
4.40 Friday April 8
Not to be confused with Minella Cocooner who finished second in the Albert Bartlett, this horse was second to that runner at Leopardstown in February. The winner got a soft lead that day but Gordon Elliott’s horse will relish this test. Elliott’s recent form has to be a concern but if he gets off the cold list, this horse is a deserving favourite.
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