Despite the Grand National being just days away, where the likes of Definitly Red and More Of That are among the leading candidates, there are still a host of high quality races to look forward to in the meantime, with the action getting underway at Aintree on Thursday with four Grade One races, followed by another four on Friday. While meetings from Kempton, Taunton and Chelmsford also provide plenty of opportunities to beat the bookmakers, it is Aintree that dominates proceedings.
Manifesto Novices’ Chase – Aintree – 13:45
The opening race of the day sees Nicky Henderson’s Top Notch dominate the betting odds among the bookies. The six-year-old finished fifth in the 2016 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and has proven himself as of the best chasing prospects around, having won four out of his six runs over fences. With only Yorkhill finishing ahead of him in the JLT Novices’ Hurdle a few weeks ago, it is little wonder that he is offered the shortest odds. Elsewhere, Cloudy Dream runs for Malcolm Jefferson, having steadily improved before finishing second in the Arkle Novices’ Chase. Flying Angel is another horse coming into the race in form since winning on his chasing debut at Perth. Having won the Kingmaker Chase at Warwick, before being brought down by the fall of Baily Cloud when in contention for the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, the 11-year-old is a potential outside bet. Politologue will be the frontrunner for Paul Nicholls, while Frodon also runs for the Irishman having won six times since switching to fences this season.
Top Notch – Win @ 5/4 Black Type, Bet365
Frodon – Each Way @ 13/2 Ladbrokes
Betway Bowl Chase – Aintree – 14:50
With almost £85,000 going to the winner of the second Grade One race of the day at Aintree, last year’s winner Cue Card heads a list of ten entries for the Betway Bowl, with trainers Colin Tizzard, Gordon Elliott and Paul Nicholls once again set to go head-to-head. Despite falling at the third-last fence for the second successive year in the Cheltenham Gold Cup just a matter of weeks ago, the popular chaser is odds on to bounce back in style in Liverpool, repeating his performance of 12 months ago. Elsewhere, Silviniaco Conti won this race in both 2014 and 2015, however having not ran since January, it remains to be seen as to how the 11-year-old will fair. Gigginstown House Stud are also well represented, with former National favourite Empire Of Dirt the second favourite with many bookmakers. Finally, the Nick Williams trained Tea For Two is a potential outsider, despite having come unstuck in the Gold Cup.
Cue Card – Win @ 2/1 Black Type, SkyBet, Ladbrokes, BetVictor, Boylesports