Paul Jacobs: The 16/1 shot that’s a ‘Top’ fancy at the Aintree Festival

Aintree is looking awesome and there's a value play in Friday's Topham Chase

A repeat of the performance in last year’s Aintree Bowl Chase would see Cue Card win back to back renewals of the Thursday feature at 6/4, but he is a year older and to my eyes the value is in Empire of Dirt’s 5/2 price, as he was simply outpaced in the Ryanair Chase.

His second to Sizing John in the Irish Gold Cup was given a huge boost and he is the logical value alternative to Colin Tizzard’s warrior.

I am hoping that Nicky Henderson allows Thomas Campbell (10/1) to take his chance in the opening two and a half mile Handicap Hurdle on Friday at 1.40pm following his massively eye-catching run in the Martin Pipe, while the relatively lightly raced Thomas Brown is my fancy for the Topham Chase on Friday.

Harry Fry’s charge is nicely weighted off 140, has shown a liking for this venue in the past and the 16/1 in the market is too good to pass up.

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I am just penning this week’s blog after walking the Grand National course at Aintree on Wednesday and I think it is fair to say I have never seen this most famous of tracks in such good condition.

There is a superb covering of grass and the obstacles look awesome as the ground staff put the finishing touches to the big fences.

Make no bones about it this iconic course still takes some jumping and although we tend to focus on Becher’s Brook, The Chair and Valentines Brook (9th) – to my eyes obstacles 11 and 12 are the most awesome fences on the track.

The first of that pair has a 6ft ditch before take-off and the latter a ditch on the landing side, similar to the old Becher’s Brook, but a much more difficult obstacle than that iconic fence.

So despite some old rogues that had jumping question marks next to their name having won this great race in the past, a spring heeled leaper remains the number one asset needed to win this race alongside the ability to see out the lung bursting trip.

I thought the turf was on the dead side when I walked the course, but the weather forecast is mainly dry. I suspect we will see good to soft ground on Saturday if they don’t overwater, but nothing as slow as the soft surface experienced last year.

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For that reason I think that Saphir Du Rheu has been underestimated in the market place and to a degree gone under the radar with punters.

It was only two years ago that he waltzed home in the Mildmay Novice Chase and subsequently quoted in single figures for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, the eight-year-old has endured several niggly problems since then and only in the past six months has he really come to himself.

A superb round of fencing in the Gold Cup, where he stayed on really well up the hill, is further incentive to back him for the big one on Saturday and at 16/1 – a fifth the odds first six – he is a solid each-way play.

If the weather forecast is correct I think it will play against my original selection One For Arthur and turn in the favour of my other bets in the race The Young Master and Wounded Warrior.

The former likes to feel the warmth of the sun on his back and was hugely eye-catching in the Ultima Chase at Cheltenham.

The last named is more of a left of centre wager, but I interviewed Noel Meade last year and he thought this brute of a horse was made for the race. However, we argued about one important point.

Maestro Meade thought he needed plenty of give in the ground, but I suggested, based on past performances, that his charge jumped better on a sound surface. His runs this season have proved my point to an extent and it is worth remembering that his best round of jumping came on good ground in the 2015 RSA Chase when he stayed on strongly up the hill to finish third to Don Poli.

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* All prices correct at time of posting 

What do you think?