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Aintree - Day 1 tips from Otis Brankin Frisby

Aintree 2024 – Day One

 

1:45 Manifesto Novices Chase 2m4f

 

The opening race distils one of the key Aintree storylines in microcosm: the race for the trainers championship. Dan Skelton and his former boss Paul Nicholls are split by just £20,000 heading into Aintree and accordingly have the top two in the market here, Grey Dawning and Ginny’s Destiny, the first and second in the Turners who are difficult to split on all known form. Throw in the little-known quantity of Willie Mullins and you have a three-way contest for both the race and the title. Unbelievably, he can still statistically win the English version from across the Irish Sea, such is his dominance at Cheltenham and on 28th January (amazingly, his 3 graded winners in England before Cheltenham all came on that day). He saddles Il Etait Temps, who steps up in trip after a respectable third in the Arkle. It is difficult to find an angle into the race from a betting perspective. On this ground, Grey Dawning would probably get my vote given his form over 3m. He is a tough sort who may return best from a gruelling race at Cheltenham, but he is short and it is easy to argue that the price differential between him and Ginny’s Destiny, who clattered the second last at Cheltenham, is too big.

 

 

2:20 4yo Juvenile Hurdle 2m1f

 

It would be great to see Sir Gino win this for Nicky Henderson after the time he had at Cheltenham. His run in the trial at Cheltenham was visually very impressive and I would have my money on him turning out to be by far the best of these eventually, though I would have reservations about getting involved at 10/11 given that Seven Barrows is yet to show signs of rude health. With that in mind, it is difficult to find an angle in but I backed NURBURGRING at Cheltenham and am going to take another chance on him here. Like many, I feel that he was given a poor ride in the Triumph, where he was never kept in touch and left with a lot to do at the finish. It seemed an odd tactic given that he looked a strong stayer at the trip. The plan may have been to stay on past beaten horses (which he did to an extent) but had JJ Slevin realised the race was being run in snatches he would have edged him closer earlier on. Out of shot coming down the straight, he finished full of running to snatch fourth and with Danny Mullins now on board he gets the vote over the filly Kargese, who must have had a hard race that day.

 

Bet: Nurburgring @ 9/1 0.5pt EW

 

 

2:55 Aintree Bowl 3m1f

 

This is a puzzling renewal comprised of horses who dug deep at Cheltenham, others who have failed to inspire this season, and last year’s winner, Shishkin, who didn’t get the opportunity to run at Cheltenham after scoping badly before the Gold Cup. Providing his gutsy second in the Gold Cup hasn’t left its mark (a big if), GERRI COLOMBE looks like the horse to beat. Though he evidently had a hard race, he was fresh off a three-month break and the evidence suggests that he thrives on racing. I expect him to win and 7/4 is a fair price but it will be interesting to see how Sir Gino fares in the juvenile for Nicky Henderson – if he shows some sort of return to form Shishkin has to enter the reckoning. Antics at Ascot aside, his runs in the King George (until stumbling) and the Denman Chase were both performances comfortably in the 170s and prove that he retains all his ability. They are the only pieces of form this season up there with Gerri Colombe’s Gold Cup run and he comes here fresh. A two-time winner at Aintree, he won this well last year, but with yard doubts and his occasional tendency to act up, you would want to wait at least until after Sir Gino runs to get involved, even if the price plummets. The ideal scenario would be that Sir Gino runs well without winning, leaving him at a backable price, though I wouldn’t be getting involved at much shorter than 15/8.

 

Bravemansgame wears first-time cheekpieces, but he and Ahoy Senor have been very disappointing this season and neither of them will like what will be deep ground on the Mildmay Course. Corbetts Cross is promising but I think he was flattered in the National Hunt Chase and, back down in trip and out of novice company, looks a poor price. With doubts threaded through the field, heavy ground may turn this race upside down and with firms paying three places, THUNDER ROCK could hit the frame at a massive price. He has a fair bit to find but boasts a solid record over fences and posted his best-ever RPR at Musselburgh last time out, after which Olly Murphy said they would target this race. He has since confirmed that they will drop him in to run well and the yard is operating at an impressive 33% at the moment.

 

Bet: Gerri Colombe @ 2/1 1pt Win

Bet: Thunder Rock @ 33/1 0.5pt EW (3 places)

 

 

3:30 Aintree Hurdle 2m4f

 

There is always one key question when it comes to analysing cards at Aintree: what mark has Cheltenham left on the horses who ran there? Often trainers can think that they have a horse ready to go again but it is usually only after the race that we really know whether a horse has ‘gone to the well’. Though by no means gospel, it does generally pay to keep an eye on fresh horses and this is the first race in which the market is built around those that have been kept for this meeting. On paper it looks to be between Bob Olinger and IMPAIRE ET PASSE and at the prices I would prefer the latter stepping back up to 2½m. He was a length second to Teahupoo in the Hattons Grace on his seasonal reappearance and first go outside novice company, which looks good form now. He took a keen hold that day and put in a much more polished performance when getting close to State Man in the Matheson at Christmas. He was behind Bob Olinger in the Irish Champion Hurdle, which accounts for his price, but that race was a tactical affair where he was made to lead, which he didn’t like at all. This is the trip he was so impressive over in the Ballymore and back up from 2m, anything around the 2/1 mark is a very fair price for him to turn the tables.

 

Bet: Impaire Et Passe @ 5/4 1pt Win

 

 

4:05 Foxhunters 2m5f

 

Like at Cheltenham, the Foxhunters is a very exciting race over the National fences but not one I usually get involved in from a betting perspective.  

 

 

4:40 Red Rum Handicap Chase 2m

 

The market is built around the first, third and sixth from the Grand Annual. Unexpected Party impressed to beat a deep field that day and is likely to be on the premises again for the Skeltons. He was campaigned over 2½m for the best part of two seasons despite showing signs he would be better at 2m, and duly obliged when dropped down in trip. An 8lb rise may not be enough to stop him but I have a feeling the winner won’t come from the Grand Annual. With a strong pace forecast on this ground, the race might turn into a slog and play into the hands of horses who have performed over further. HELTENHAM drops down to 2m over fences for the first time in his career in much the same manner as his stablemate Unexpected Party did a month ago. His win at Newbury was more comfortable than the margin suggests and I just can’t bear to see him win without being on here.

 

My second selection in the race is SANS BRUIT. A few shrewd judges have put him up and after watching back his run at Chepstow, it is hard to disagree. It was just his third run for Paul Nicholls after coming over from France and he travelled notably well on the soft ground giving 9lb to the marginal winner. He takes a little bit of settling so the strong pace should suit and it may well be that he is ahead of the handicapper. He has shortened markedly in price so just a win-only play. Homme Public completes my shortlist. I have been keen on him for a while, though the ground has perhaps gone against him. He has had a fine season with three wins from four as a novice at this trip, yet only finds himself 7lb higher than his opening win at Wetherby. He may have been handed the race by JPR One but he beat Petit Tonnerre at Cheltenham who then went on to run two good races off a similar mark, 9 lengths fourth in a Grade 1 and then 9 lengths behind Libberty Hunter conceding weight. He was then a very good second in a novice handicap at Ascot, giving 10lb to the winner Persian Time who has since won at Kempton and is now rated 146. Homme Public jumped markedly left that day, too. The ground may not be ideal but that is factored into the price and, if it turns out better than expected, I might back him.

 

Bet: Sans Bruit @ 5/1 1pt Win

Bet: Heltenham @ 8/1 0.5pt EW (5 places)

 

 

5:15 Nickel Coin Mares Bumper 2m1f

 

It is difficult to be confident about anything in a mares bumper like this so it is perhaps best to listen to the heart, though unfortunately it doesn’t warm to Dan Skelton’s runner of the same namesake. Noel Williams is a local trainer who is especially good with his mares and I would love it if METKAYINA won this. It is not just a sentimental bet, though. She was sent off favourite under Derek O’Connor on her rules debut, where she was far too keen, before going on to win a bumper assertively at Ludlow in November. Something must have caught the eye that day as she was then bought from Sam Curling by Noel Fehily for £100,000. He had the fourth on the same day, who has since won two bumpers of her own, and his new recruit looks overpriced at 18/1 in some places.

 

Bet: Metkayina @ 14/1 0.5pt EW (5 places)

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