It seems like we’ve only just left Cheltenham, but day one of the Aintree Grand National Festival is upon us and it’s the perfect starter for Saturday’s main course.
Nick Luck has run his eye over the whole Aintree card below.
ERNE RIVER can strike a blow for the smaller stables at 9/2 in the opening Grade One at Aintree on Thursday (1.45pm). Sparingly campaigned, Nick Kent’s horse has not stopped improving this year and the form of his last two wins – both gained very comfortably – has been tested and franked in strong handicaps. We know he stays this trip really well which will be at a premium with The Widdow Maker and Pic d’Orhy in the line-up.
BRAZIL can win the battle of the Cheltenham juveniles at 2/1 in the Anniversary hurdle (2.20pm). He had clearly been campaigned with his mark in mind for the Boodles, but what he achieved there was nothing short of extraordinary given his horrible trip and constant interference from the ridiculously well treated runner-up. I would have very little between him and Pied Piper and, as such, Brazil gets the nod at the current prices.
ROYALE PAGAILLE – at the time of writing – strikes me as an inexplicably big price (8/1) for the Bowl (2.55pm). He was only a half-length behind the much shorter priced Protektorat in the Gold Cup, despite a mistake four out that should really have stopped him completely. He rallied really pluckily, however, and will be much better served by this flatter track, likely easier ground and a stern pace courtesy of Bristol de Mai, Clan des Obeaux and Kemboy.
GLORY AND FORTUNE might be the answer at 12/1 in the Aintree Hurdle (3.30pm). At two miles, he needs a breakneck gallop to be seen at his best and, with that in mind, he ran a storming race in the Champion Hurdle off a muddling pace. The step up to a fairly conventional two and a half miles might suit quite well, and he really has very little to find with Epatante and Zanahiyr. Furthermore, his big run there was entirely in keeping with his curve of progression this year.
PORLOCK BAY can reward connections’ patience by landing the Aintree Foxhunters’ (4.05pm) at 15/2. He only just gets home over three miles plus, and it was his class and an unbelievable ride that saw him win at Cheltenham last year. Missing that was a smart move this time and he should be spot on and fresh. He’s an excellent, economical jumper and will travel away happily behind the guaranteed scorching pace that will be carved out by Jett.
GLOBAL CITIZEN might have won a wacky edition of the Grand Annual in the mud, but he’s a pretty fair price at 7/1 to follow up in the Red Rum (4.40pm). He’s not really looked back since another wind operation and, although he’s been nudged up the weights, we know he has the raw talent to produce better still if in good heart. He won a furious battle for the early pace that day, but there aren’t too many in here that can take him on for the lead and not pay for it. His stable companion SHAKEM UP’ARRY will also get a little support each way, as an in-form pace pusher who should love it round here.
KATEIRA gets the vote in the mares’ bumper at 5/1. There are plenty of possibilities here, including Law Ella, Lady Excalibur and Naughtinesse, but I liked the pace the winner showed for a mare with her stout pedigree at Huntingdon on her debut.