2018 Aintree Festival Preview – Blaklion To Show His Claws

Seymour Biz is already looking ahead to the upcoming Liverpool festival. What are his predictions, for the contests taking place over the biggest fences?

This coming weekend we see the biggest betting heat of the year, forget the Derby, Cheltenham and Royal Ascot, this is the meeeting that has the ordinary Jack and Jill reach for their wallets and purses and the bookies rubbing their hands with glee. Aintree has three races over the big obstacles, one on each day of the meeting and although the fences are not as formidable as they were in bygone times they still take some getting used to, that’s why it can pay to follow horses that have experience of the Aintree fences. But the main thing is to pick an animal that has run over these distances in the past, and that is the reason Gold Cup horses don’t do well in the National, the extra eight and a bit furlongs Is literally a step too far. With these criteria in mind l will look at the three races over the National fences and try and find some value from the odds that are available.

On Thursday we have the Randox Health Foxhunters Chase, this is the National for amateur riders, and according to the ante-post lists there is quite a hot favourite, Pierce Michael Power’s Burning Ambition. Now this horse was favourite for the Foxhunters at Cheltenham but his challenge petered out two fences from home and he could finish only eighth, hence I see no value in his price. Grand Vision finished two places in front of him that day yet is more than double his price for this contest, Colin Tizzard’s charge is not without a chance. Practically all the top ten in the betting here were involved in that Cheltenham race and none of them covered themselves in glory with none in the top five, so I will again plump for Paul Nicholls’ Unioniste who finished tenth that day. He lost his place halfway through the race then stayed on well on the run in when it was too late, with better going he can put in a a good run.

On Friday we have the Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase and this is an altogether more open betting feature. Theatre Territory is at the head of the market due his consistency, he has been in the frame in his last five races, however he only has one career win. O O Seven is up there near the top of the market and Nicky Henderson’s charge can boast a better record than the market leader however he had a tough race in the Ultima at Cheltenham last time and this may come along a bit too quickly. Gas Line Boy knows his way around here and may swerve the National to run in this after winning the Grand Sefton over this distance here in December. There are several others to make a case for but one I particularly like is Master Dee, Fergal O’Brien’s charge ran third here in November, then came out in February to win at Kempton and has been kept back since with this race in mind, he should put up a good performance.

And so we come to the Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase on Saturday and as I write Gordon Elliot’s Tiger Roll is being backed off the boards and could well go off favourite especially if Davy Russell is aboard. He had a great victory at Cheltenham when winning the Cross Country, but perhaps this race may come a bit too quickly for him. Minella Rocco and Total Recall both suffered heavy falls at that meeting and these fences could make them trepidatious. The Last Samurai also had a tough race at Cheltenham when third to Tiger Roll and was beaten 66 lengths in last years National, so I discount him. Anabale Fly ran the race of his life in the Gold Cup but I don’t think he can repeat that feat over a longer distance. So that leads me to the long time ante-post favourite Blaklion, fourth in this race last year, he won the Becher Chase over these fences in December and has been kept with this race in mind. He was sent to Haydock in the mud in February and asked to give away loads of weight coming home second to Yala Enki, he jumped cautiously that day and I think connections were just glad to see him get round in the conditions. He is set up for this big contest and write his name into the record books. Those looking for a big priced outsider could look to Gold Present, pulled up last time in the Ultima, he wasn’t given a hard race as this has been his target all along.

Thursday: Randox Health Foxhunters Chase – Unioniste

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Friday: Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase – Master Dee

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Saturday: Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase – Blaklion

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Contact Seymour Biz, with your own thoughts, tips and questions, at the following address: ahroberts99@yahoo.com