Aintree Festival Tips: Pete Hamill’s Best Bets for Day 1


RACING fan Pete Hamill (@RiskForRewards) picks out favourite fancies from Day 1 of the Aintree Festival on Thursday.

Manifesto Novices Chase | Thursday 8th April 2021, 13:45 | Racing TV

Background – Winners for this event generally come from the Marsh or Arkle with those Cheltenham events providing 10 of the last 11 winners. This race is for the well-fancied runners with all eleven coming from the top three in the betting and with no winner bigger than 6/1 in the betting.

Statistics – Nicholls 0/12 with 8/12 sent off 11/2 or shorter. Henderson 2/7. Hobbs 2/3. All eleven winners did not win last time out. 6/8 ran at Aintree previously over hurdles. 6/7 aged 6 as opposed to 5 year olds 1/8 (other 7 unplaced). Grade 1 form 4/13.

The obvious starting point is the fashionable high profile Hitman. He has already contested two grade ones this season of which on first attempt running to 160RPR behind Allmankind. This was a fair run with Allmankind now a two-time group 1 winner.

Hitman did not jump particularly well that day and was seen to be outpaced over the shorter 2 mile trip. Next seen over 2m4f at Sandown he was ridden prominently where he jumped well but fell when the race was hotting up. He has the sexy profile for a trainer who has skipped Cheltenham for this.

However his trainer Paul Nicholls is 0/12 in the event with 8/12 sent off 11/2 or shorter. All eleven winners of this event did not win last time out, of which he did win. 5 year olds 1/8 (other 7 unplaced) and he is the only 5 year old. He has plenty of statistics to overcome for a favorite.

Fusil Raffles is also a first season novice over fences but has already had five outings including a last time out second in the Marsh at the Cheltenham Fetsival.

Regards statistics, he has all in his favour:

  • Nicky Henderson – 2 winners from 7 runners.
  • Second in the Marsh – (11/11 did not win last time out).
  • Cheltenham Arkle/Marsh – has provided 10 of the last 11 winners.

He had a busy start to the season winning 3/3 completed starts (the other pulling up) this included beating the Marsh chase winner Chantry House. Since then he had a three-month break prior to Cheltenham. He has a very good chance and should be favourite with the best form in the race and all of the statistics in his favour. Said to need good ground this can only be a positive over this flat track.

The only concern would be if the horse has recovered form his very hard race three weeks ago of which you will not know until the race begins.

Phoneix Way – is the outsider of the field at 25/1 whilst he has plenty to find on form he is thoroughly unexposed. He needs to find around 10lb but his yard have been out of form all season so don’t be surprised to see a big run but having pulled up last time he would be a watching brief.

Protektorat – This horse looked a superstar at the start of the season being one of the fastest jumpers of a fence. Officially rated 1lb below Hitman and 5lb behind Fusil Raffles he does not have much to find to feature. The issue is the last two runs he has been turned over at odds of 1-2 in three runner events. He has had a wind op since his latest disappointment and skipped Cheltenham for this event.

If he could return to the beating of 143 rated Southfield Stone (17 lengths) then he would be a massive player here. He goes in a first time tongue tie here on a flat track and back left handed all of which should suit and if he can get in to a rhythm in front he could get plenty in behind in trouble.

He is another who ticks the statistics boxes and the yard are currently operating at 16-52 31% (last 14 days) with the jockey 18-55 whilst going all out for the jockey title.


I came to this race chasing the fashionable horse in Hitman but between the statistics and the form I am very much in the Fusil Raffles camp. He is 4/4 under Henderson on good ground and whilst they have been watering I would expect it to be on the faster side of good to soft. He has the best form over the trip achieving RPR 161 in coming second in the Marsh and the flat track is sure to suit.

The one concern is that it is impossible to tell how much the run three weeks ago took out of him but he will be my main selection. The other smaller selection will be a bet on Protektorat he looks the sole front runner and if he gets an easy lead after the wind operation and bounces back to form he could be a player but is not one to put maximum trust in.

Red Rum Handicap Chase | Thursday 8th April 2021, 16:40 | Racing TV

Background: A race very similar to the Grand Annual in that it is raced at a frenetic pace over the minimum trip. Like all Aintree races respect previous Aintree form and also flat track form.

A trainer to note in this event is Henry De Bromhead with 3 places and a win from 6 runners. He runs the runaway 2019 winner (10 lengths victor) Moon Over Germany with 7lb claimer Jordon Gainford aboard. He is 12lb higher but has been backed this week from an opening 14/1 in to 8/1 so has to be respected even off his higher mark.

I have looked for a horse lower in the weights in Destrier who is a French bred horse (17/20 Irish or French bred) who avoided the Cheltenham festival (5/6 winners). 11/20 novice winners but the last four all novices.

This horse fits all of the statistics being rated 136 (19/20 rated below 143 with 16/20 rated 139 or lower). Therefore only carrying 10-13 (18/20 winners). Priced at 5/1 currently (13/18 priced in single figures) he is the perfect profile for such a race.

This horse is rated 2lb below its last winning market of 138 when winning at Ayr in 2019. Following that victory he ran at Aintree in the Grade 1 novice chase over 2 miles finishing third behind Ornua achieving a 154 RPR on good ground. In his last five performances he has been sent off 14/1 or shorter but not placed in any of these event (5/4 in one of these).

However you would have to trust that knowing how well he ran back at Aintree that this has been the long-term plan. His runs this year were lackluster of which you would think would be to get his mark even lower. If he could return to anywhere near the form of his Aintree run two years ago he would be a very big player in this.

The second favourite Getaway Trump has a highest RPR of 155 but is carrying almost a stone more. Therefore if he could get close to that 154 he would be putting clear distance between himself and the second favourite.

The Skelton yard are in red hot form with the trainer 16-52 (31%) strike rate over the last two weeks and the jockey at 18-55 (33%). The jockey is in the hunt for the title this year and a good ride here could see him going close to notching his tally.

You are having to put faith in the trainer but with the yard trying so hard to get the jockey winners you would think this horse would have been highly tried in the last few weeks off his lowly mark if this hadn’t been the major plan. He will be my first selection.

Sully D’Oc AA is another who fits the stats in that he is a French bred horse (17/20 being Irish or French). This horse also fits the statistics being rated 136 (19/20 rated below 143 with 16/20 rated 139 or lower).

Therefore only carrying 10-13 (18/20 winners). Winning on debut beating a horse easily in Editor Du Gite who is priced shorter than him today but his best piece of form would be the class 2 in which he finished 3 lengths behind 160 rated Clondaw Castle.

He was a horse that I had my eye on and I backed for Cheltenham. He does have the negative of only 1 horse having won of 6 who competed at the festival.

However that may not have been the plan in the Paddy Power Plate. He travelled well for a long way on that occasion but got snatched up turning in and when pushed wasn’t given an easy time. That run was a return from a 4-month layoff when still finishing a credible 8th place. So he could well have blown up and be hoping to come on for this run with this as a target. He will be my other selection in this competitive event.

Best Bets

13:45 Aintree – Fusil Raffles (3/1 Bet365)

13:45 Aintree – Protektorat 9/1 (Bet365)

16:40 Aintree – Destrier 5/1 (Bet365)

16:40 Aintree – Sully Doc Aa 12/1 (Bet365)

About Author

I first got in to betting when going on a work trip to the November meeting Cheltenham 2011. The whole group backed Uncle Junior at 5/1 to win the Cross Country and he got the better of the favourite in a battling finish. The rest was history and I was hooked. We went back for the Festival that season and I have been following horses ever since. National Hunt I generally like to target ante-post looking for horses who have done well at the Festival and have the scope to do well the next year. I often put a bet on 6 months + in advance to get a price. I have been running an ante-post blog to share those selections as I put them on. In the summer I like to be out watching football, horse racing and socialising a lot more in the weather. So I am not as focussed so mainly pick the better meetings such as Royal Ascot . I also keep a keen eye on the graded international meetings in France, Meydan, USA on the flat or the festivals for the national Hunt scene. I like to find value in any bet wether it be a favourite, each way play, match bet etc. Looking outside the obvious often pays well. I enjoy watching football and will have the odd punt but that would be following betting advice rather than my own. I support Toronto FC as that is where half of my family live so I normally see a couple of games a year when visiting.

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