THERE’S another superb day of racing this Friday at Aintree. Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) shares his best bets with us.
Aintree 14:15 | Channel 4
The top two mile novice hurdle at the Aintree festival hasn’t attracted the very top names and in my opinion is lacking a little bit in strength and depth. Only four of the 11 won last time out and I don’t see many of these competing in Grade One races in the future. None the less something has to win it and I’ve come up with two to keep onside.
If a star is to emerge from this race it may be Glingerburn. Unbeaten in four novice hurdles, he is coming to Aintree with a big reputation. His first three wins weren’t anything to get the pulse racing, but his last victory represents top novice form.
In Kelso’s big novice hurdle of the year, he gave weight and a convincing beating to two high class juveniles. Intense Tango (Grade 2 winner) and Bristol De Mai (Grade 1 winner and third here yesterday) were brushed aside, and considering he was giving upwards of 9lbs to this pair it gives us the best form in the race in my opinion. But 2/1 is a short price, so I’m looking for a value alternative.
Commissioned was a juvenile hurdler of note last season, and even though he failed to win he put up some notable performances. Second in the Adonis Hurdle on his second start, he then came fourth behind Guitar Pete in Aintree’s main 4-Y-O hurdle.
He returned this season still a novice, and after a facile maiden win and an easy victory in a Kempton novice he came unstuck finishing down the field in a Cheltenham Grade 2. There were excuses that day as the soft ground did not suit him and before that flop he was a model of consistency so I am prepared to forgive him that.
He was put away after that race to wait for better ground and I believe that patience can be rewarded here. I wouldn’t stop anyone backing Glingerburn, but I’m looking for a bigger priced alternative and I will be backing Commissioned each way at 14/1.
Aintree 14:50 | Channel 4
I’m sorry if I’m starting to sound like a knob here, but this is another race that for Grade 1 status has attracted a below average field. Not one of the eight who line up have won a Grade 1 novice chase and unfortunately top novices Vatour, Coneygree and Don Poli aren’t here. However there is one horse that has the scope to join them as a top rank chaser next season.
Saphir Du Rheu came second in the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and he reverts to chasing here. In his three chase starts his form reads UR-1-F. Lets look at the positive in that form, the 1!!
He won an Exeter novice chase by 11 lengths jumping well and winning effortlessly. His other two races he started favourite on both occasions in races involving none other than Gold Cup winner Coneygree. Though he failed to complete in both these starts, I’m still prepared to give him another chance.
He went back to hurdling after his fall and it proved a wise decision winning the Cleeve Hurdle. After that he took in the World Hurdle where he ran a splendid race finishing second.
Given he’s only six years old and the fact that there’s no way Paul Nicholls would be sending Saphir back over fences in this race if he wasn’t convinced his jumping would hold up, that’s good enough for me. In a race of this standard Saphir Du Rheu stands out head and shoulders above the opposition and I’ll be backing him at 15/8.
Aintree 15:25 | Channel 4
Now this is a race that is more than worthy of Grade 1 status. Some real superstars are on show and this is definitely the highlight of Day 2. You can make a solid case for six or seven of these but there is only one that I will be backing.
Champagne Fever has taken part in some of the top National Hunt races over the past three seasons, but his CV doesn’t quite do his talent justice. Victories in the Champion Bumper and the Supreme Novice Hurdle has guaranteed his place in Cheltenham history, but that win, in 2013 was the last time he tasted Grade 1 victory.
Champagne Fever has unfortunately fallen into the category so many horses do, of a horse without a definite trip. He has raced over two miles, two miles four, and three miles.
He was well fancied for the King George at Kempton, but he didn’t stay three miles convincingly and that was the end of that experiment. As well as not staying three miles, he doesn’t appear to have the pace for two miles now.
His last victory over the minimum distance was the Supreme Novice Hurdle in 2013. Sandwiched between these races he has ran over today’s trip, two miles four, and his form reads 1-1-F-1. This indicates to me that he is a two and a half miler through and through.
There aren’t enough races over the season for these horses and the Melling Chase has always been the target for these specialists. Native Upmanship and Voy Por Ustedes were two horses to come in to their own in this race, and I can see Champagne Fever joining that club.
He was forced to miss Cheltenham when he injured himself in his box on the day of the race, and this could end up being an advantage as he arrives here fresh. 7/2 is a good price and could even be backed each way.
Aintree 16:40 | Channel 4
Minella Rocco has raced twice over hurdles and I’ve been fortunate enough to see both. On his debut, at Kempton he beat the frustrating West Wizard convincingly and he looked like a horse to follow.
He then went to Newbury for a novice hurdle where he had to give weight to the talented Royal Vacation. He won this in a canter by seven lengths, and I waited patiently to find out where he would be racing next as I was convinced that he has a huge future. A £260,000 purchase, he has always been highly regarded by the Jonjo O’Neill team and he remains a horse of enormous potential.
Though many of his rivals have achieved more than him on the track so far I believe he will improve further and I can see him running a massive race. I’ll be backing him at 4/1 and I think he could provide AP McCoy with his what could prove to be his last ever Grade 1 victory.
Aintree 14:15 – Commissioned each way (14/1 BetVictor)
Aintree 14:50 – Saphir Du Rheu to win (7/4 BetVictor)
Aintree 15:25 – Champagne Fever to win (7/2 Coral)
Aintree 16:40 – Minella Rocco to win (4/1 Coral)
As you can see above, Graeme is very keen on Champagne Fever. How about backing him at 11/1?