If Thursday’s opening-day was small-but-select fields, there’s no doubting the quality on Friday with four Grade One on Ladies Day at Aintree.
The Top Novices’ Hurdle kicks off ITV’s coverage at 2.20pm and a fresh horse that catches my eye is Mount Mews. Malcolm Jefferson’s runner has been campaigned well this season and missed Cheltenham to have a crack at this contest instead. The gamble could pay off.
River Wylde finished third to Labaik in the Supreme Novices Hurdle and sets the standard while Moon Racer, who was among the leading fancies for the Supreme Novices Hurdle, was pulled up when switched to the Champion Hurdle instead.
He hasn’t stood up to much racing in the past and I’m happy to pass him over for Mount Mews.
The Mildmay Novices Chase 2.50pm sees the re-match between Cheltenham RSA Chase first and second, Might Bite and Whisper.
Might Bite comes with a slight health warning as he’s talented, but very quirky, and had the race in the big at Cheltenham, before he drifted off a straight line to almost allow Whisper to pick his pocket. He’s the odds-on favourite and will be hard to beat.
However, if he acts up again, Whisper looks the most likely to capitalise. Davy Russell’s mount loves this track and is a dual Stayers Hurdle winner here. He can’t make the same number of jumping mistakes again here though and expect to win but is definitely one for the forecast.
The Grade 1 Melling Chase 3.25pm gives Henry de Bromhead’s Sub Lieutenant the chance to get a big-race win on the board. He was doing all his best work at the finish when chasing home Un de Sceaux in the Ryanair Chase and looked like a step up in trip – rather than this step down in distance – would suit him better.
His form is very strong though and was second to Gold Cup winner Sizing John at Thurles before the Festival. Tom George’s God’s Own won this race last year and looks like one who can chase him home.
There’s no hiding place in the 2m 5f Topham Chase at 4.05pm where 30 runners line up but Paddy’s paying 1/5th the odds the first 6 home.
The Irish challenger Mr Diablo isn’t badly treated and was a cosy winner at Leopardstown on his last run while Nicky Henderson’s Gold Present should be suited to the Aintree fences.
However, Jonjo O’Neill’s Eastlake won this contest last year and ran a very good prep race at Cheltenham despite being unplaced behind Rock the World in the Grand Annual. He travelled strongly to two out and just faded on the run-in. It was a copycat performance to 12 months ago before he sprang a 22/1 surprise here.
Granted he’s a fair bit higher in the rating this year, but he definitely has an each-way chance at double-digit odds of repeating last year’s triumph.
The Grade 1 Sefton Hurdle ends ITV’s coverage on the day and The Worlds End heads the market. He’d won three on the bounce before tipping up two out when up with the leaders in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last time. A reproduction of that run should see him gain compensation here.
Colin Tizzard’s West Approach reverts to novice company again after being pulled up in the Stayers’ Hurdle, but he’s had a long, hard, season for me. Constantine Bay, looks a better alternative to step up on his fourth-placed finish to Penhill at the Festival.