After we had such a good Cheltenham, Willie Mullins’ assault on the UK Trainers’ Championship will ratchet up a notch next week in Liverpool.
We’re about stg £150k behind Paul Nicholls heading into Aintree’s three-day Festival that starts on Thursday but with a lot of the Closutton horses having light campaigns so far this season – we’re not done yet.
It’s a tall order and we’ll have to win a lot of good races to narrow the gap but there’s still time left. Even looking ahead to the Scottish National on Saturday week, the Perth Festival and the last day of the UK jumps season at Sandown on Saturday, April 23 there’s a lot of money on offer.
We brought 60 horses to Cheltenham and even though we’ll have nothing like that in Liverpool the stable stars like – Annie Power, Vautour, Douvan, Un De Sceaux, Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag among others could find themselves on the bus to Merseyside.
While Nicholls look to have better win chances in next Saturday’s Grand National there’s still a lot of prize-money for the placed horses with the runner-up alone getting the guts of stg £250k.
We’ll have a better idea where we stand when Aintree is over and it will be a phenomenal achievement if he can pull it off.
I don’t think there were many horses at Cheltenham who were unlucky losers – certainly not for us anyway.
The bigger challenge is whether the winners can follow up after such a short break or whether the different ground, trip or track at Liverpool is going to catch them out.
The big question mark ahead of Annie Power’s Champion Hurdle win was her ability to quicken and win over the shorter 2m trip at Cheltenham.
She proved the doubters wrong and the step up to 2m 4f of the Aintree Hurdle on the opening day should be right up her street.
Footpad was third to Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Triumph Hurdle after coming form a long way back. I’d be hopeful she’d get closer but the winner looks very decent and should improve again on better ground.
I can’t see how anyone will reverse the form with Thistlecrack in the Liverpool Hurdle on Saturday after his stroll at the Cotswolds and you would have to say the same about Douvan (Maghull Novices Chase) and Vautour.
Our handicappers were particularly well treated at Cheltenham so I can’t see how that will improve at Aintree.
There’s a couple of re-matches to whet the appetite like Yorkhill v Yanworth in next Saturday’s Mersey Novices Hurdle while Shaneshill could have another crack at Blaklion in the Mildmay Novices Chase.
We’ll be hoping that a speed test will suit Shaneshill more than Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner over Friday’s shorter trip.
Cue Card could return for the Aintree Bowl on Thursday looking to avenge his Gold Cup fall – but Djakadam and Don Poli will put it up to him if they travel.
One of the beaten horses at Cheltenham who should appreciate more of a speed test is L’Ami Serge in Thursday’s Manifesto Novices Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s runner actually quickened past Black Hercules and Bristol De Mai at Cheltenham but was passed on the climb to the post. An Aintree speed test could help him see out the 2m 4f trip a bit better.