My eyes were first drawn towards Mr Elliott’s block entry for the Aintree marathon on April 6 and the fact that he has 10 from his barn in the top 39 entries. So, the immediate question is, how many different coloured caps do Gigginstown have?
The shape of the race will be determined by Mr Twiston-Davies and Mr Martin with Bristol de Mai (BDM) and Anibale Fly heading the weights. Both are still realistically handicapped on their park course form, with the last named having the huge advantage of course experience when a staying on, never-nearer fourth 12 months ago, but now 5lbs higher.
Despite being feasibly well handicapped, it takes an extraordinary horse to boss his rivals all the way at Aintree. When BDM has been taken on for the lead he has sulked before and although the geography of Aintree is a fair set-up for him (flat track, left-handed) I just wonder if he would pack it in if not getting his own way out in front?
Go Conquer’s best performances have also come in that same style, winning the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot off 142 and most recently a moderate renewal of the SkyBet Chase at Doncaster off 151. You can safely disregard his one run over the big fences, 17th in the 2017 Topham, as he was badly hampered. Up another 6lbs here, he remains unexposed and good ground would serve him well.
Last year’s winner Tiger Roll is a full 9lbs higher here and it is fair to say was coming to the end of his tether last year. But it is not so much the amount he has gone up in the ratings that is significant, but how much in real weight he will carry, just 2lbs more on 11-01 for this pony-sized charge.
This could be a really good renewal of the big race, a view cemented by the rating of Blaklion, a 14/1 shot last year after hosing up in the Becher, but brought down at the first. This time around he is rated 6lbs lower, but more importantly for his size if the top weights stand their ground he is set to carry 10-12. So if the Twister can get him back to form and if the ground isn’t bottomless this former RSA winner could well be the forgotten horse in the entry at 33/1 and I’ve had a nibble where Paddy is paying the first five home.
I am a huge fan of Mall Dini, who is almost sure to get a run in the race being number 46 on the list, and he has all the attributes to run well for the shrewd Pat Kelly yard. His form of course ties in with Missed Approach, second to that rival in the Kim Muir, and slightly better off at the weights here. That is of secondary importance though as it is the fit of this great race that identifies his chance.
Firstly, Mall Dini he has been crying out for a step up to a stamina sapping trip. His best form is on left-handed tracks, he has run well in big fields and is relatively unexposed for a nine-year-old.
Many of you will point to the fact that he is a maiden over fences after 13 starts, but granted a bit more luck in running the son of Milan could easily have landed back-to-back Kim Muir’s. A slight worry is his hold-up style of racing, but that aside I have bagged a big slice of the 25/1 on offer already.
I am happy to ride with him in the world’s greatest race.
By virtue of his position in my ratings, Missed Approach also has to be considered, but another Cheltenham contest could have a huge bearing on the Liverpool feature, the National Hunt Chase.
Last year’s winner Rathvinden hasn’t run since winning that bottomless stamina, amateur riders, event, so I’m not sure what is wrong with the lightly-raced veteran. However, it has to be said he endured a brutally hard race that day and it could very well have left its mark.
The second home, Ms Parfois, went on to win at Aintree before disappointing this season, while the fourth, Impulsive Star, landed the Warwick Classic in cracking style from another contender Callett Mad, trained by Nigel Twiston Davies.
Because the last duo mentioned will most likely be at the bottom of the weights, Twiston-Davies’ charge will be much better off at the weights at Aintree. Had James Bowen held onto him a bit longer, I am tempted to suggest he would have landed that handsome prize.
Still only a seven-year-old, he could well be a player from the foot of the weights. He’s an efficient jumper, what you need at Aintree is to conserve energy, and on good to soft ground likely to see out the extended trip. The youngster is still a work in progress, but the droll NTD knows exactly what it takes to wrap up this massive prize.
Back at the top of the handicap I have to give a mention to Welsh National hero Elegant Escape – with no doubts about his stamina. This giant gelding won the Welsh National off 151 and an 11lbs rise is certainly not insurmountable in light of his run in the Cotswold Chase.
Of course, if he runs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month and has a hard race in it,l that will determine his chance here. But he is a player at this stage on my private ratings.
I backed Alpha Des Obeaux last year and was gutted when he was brought down at the Chair when travelling nicely. Of course there was a long way to go and the handicapper has done him no favours since by rising him 7lbs. But he arrives here in really good nick after a solid, staying-on second to the well-handicapped Invitation Only in the Thyestes Chase and has the physique to carry his burden and could well entice me in again.
Of the remainder, Wetherby hero Lake View Lad looks a National type, but the handicapper has had his say big time since his that Rowland Meyrick win, while the same remark applies to Scottish National first and second Joe Farrell and Ballyoptic. The last named was disappointing in the Welsh National, but could bounce back on the likely much better ground at the Liverpool track and is preferred of the duo.
Dounikos stayed on like a real trojan to take the Grand National Trial on Sunday at Punchestown and is just preferred to cross-country specialist and Paddy Power Chase winner Auvergnat.
The 2018 Thyestes Chase winner Monbeg Notorious had looked like a perfect fit for Aintree, but his form has fallen away recently, (beaten 68 lengths at Punchestown). If Elliot can cajole him back to the form he showed last year he is a player, but maybe the handicapper has got him.
Dounikos despite being hiked up 7lbs though looks made for this adventure and he has a slice of class about him. Many around his mark of 154 don’t.
I am very sweet on his chances at around the 25/1 and Paddy is paying the first five home.
*Prices correct at time of posting