1.45 – THE GASKELLS HANDICAP HURDLE (Grade 3) 3m149y
SIRE DU BERLAIS must have had a fair bit in hand to overcome significant trouble in running and still justify favouritism in the Pertemps Final last month, and the JP McManus owned gelding may be able to follow-up off an 8lbs higher mark today.
3lbs of that rise will be negated by the presence of Jonjo O’Niell Jr, who has been riding out of his skin of late, in the saddle and there is sufficient reason to believe that Sire Du Berlais will have more to come given his unexposed profile over this 3 miles trip.
Gordon Elliott struck with both Three Musketeers and Felix Desky yesterday and the master of Cullentra Stables has a very good chance of taking his 2019 Aintree tally to 3 in this opening Grade 3 contest.
SELECTION: SIRE DU BERLAIS – 4/1
2.25 – THE BETWAY MERSEY NOVICES’ HURDLE (Grade 1) 2m4f
Champ gave the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle form a boost when landing the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle yesterday and BREWIN’UPASTORM, who placed fourth in the Cotswolds last month, could further boost that form today.
Olly Murphy’s promising six-year-old has achieved a good level of form this winter and has undoubtedly improved with each trip to the racecourse. He is already proven both at this trip and on this ground and he should be well suited to this stiffer track with the champion jockey Richard Johnson maintaining his presence in the saddle.
SELECTION: BREWIN’UPASTORM – 11/4
3.00 – THE DOOM BAR MAGHULL NOVICES’ CHASE (Grade 1) 1m7f176y
Clondaw Castle ran a big race after being supplemented for the Arkle last month and should be well suited to the demands of Aintree. While Ornua, who departed that contest mid-race, will bounce out in front and could be dangerous if given too much rope.
The same comment would apply to Gary Moore’s Knocknanuss. While Arkle runner-up Us And Them must also enter calculations after finishing that Cheltenham contest strongly.
However, LALOR had disappointed both in his bumper and novice hurdle campaigns before coming good at this meeting and it would be no surprise if a return to his happy hunting ground brought with it a change of luck.
Kayley Woollacott’s stable star made a hugely impressive chasing debut at Cheltenham in November, however, he clearly didn’t enjoy his trip to Sandown three weeks later and he showed little enthusiasm in the Arkle last month.
That said, he is proven both over this trip and on this ground and still has the potential develop into a top class 2 miles chaser after just 3 outings over fences. His record at this meeting simply has to be respected and it would undoubtedly be a very popular result should he return victorious once more.
SELECTION: LALOR – 7/2
3.40 – THE RYANAIR STAYERS HURDLE (Grade 1) 3m149y
WILLIAM HENRY will attempt to emulate his stablemate Whisper, who landed this Grade 1 prize following success in the hugely competitive Coral Cup at Cheltenham on his previous outing.
The smart son of King’s Theatre did all of his best work in the closing stages last month and shaped as though he will relish this extra distance, therefore he makes plenty of appeal at the generous double figure price of 12/1.
William Henry remains lightly-race for his age and could easily have much more to come with Nico De Boinville in the saddle. Therefore he looks a sound each way prospect with four places up for grabs.
SELECTION: WILLIAM HENRY – 12/1
4.20 – THE BETWAY HANDICAP CHASE (Grade 3) 3m210y
DEBECE has placed fourth and third respectively in good company at this meeting in each of the last two seasons and looks to have every chance of achieving that elusive Aintree Festival success in this open looking Grade 3 contest.
The imposing son of Kayf Tara arrives here on the back of comfortable victories at Newcastle and Catterick respectively and his current rating of 141 could prove lenient given his significant scope for improvement after just 3 starts over fences.
Debece likes to travel prominently, which is always advantageous here, and will arrive fresher than many of his rivals who have already contested much tougher races this season. Both the ground and trip will be to his liking and regular rider Alan John will maintain the partnership tomorrow. Therefore all looks set for a very big run.
SELECTION: DEBECE – 6/1
5.15 – THE RANDOX HEALTH GRAND NATIONAL HANDICAP CHASE (Grade 3) 4m2f74y
VINTAGE CLOUDS, who will represent 2013 winning trainer Sue Smith, doesn’t know how to run a bad race and warmed up for this contest with a fine second placed effort at the Cheltenham Festival last month.
The Trevor Hemmings owned grey has already displayed his liking for extreme trips when finishing third behind the re-opposing Joe Farrell and Ballyoptic in the Scottish Grand National last April. Therefore it would be no surprise to see him plugging when others start to falter.
ROCK THE KASBAH has been trained with this race in mind all season long and will be the mount of champion jockey Richard Johnson, who will be having his first ride in the worlds greatest steeplechase since 2016.
The bold jumping chestnut is yet to fall in 25 career starts (13 over fences) and has won three times and placed second twice from 10 starts over staying trips (fences). While his record after a break of 2 months or more reads 21211P26, therefore it is no surprise that we haven’t seen the son of Shirocco since December.
ULTRAGOLD is a dual Topham Chase winner and it is interesting that connections have elected to run him in ‘the big one’ as opposed to attempting to land the hat-trick.
Colin Tizzard’s charge simply excels over these unique spruce fences and would undoubtedly be a big player if seeing out this marathon trip.
It’s fair to say that he didn’t enjoy his first venture in to cross country company at Cheltenham last month, however, he was pulled-up when his chance was gone and that run will hopefully have put him straight for today.
SELECTIONS: VINTAGE CLOUDS – 14/1, ROCK THE KASBAH – 20/1 & ULTRAGOLD – 66/1
6.20 – THE PINSENT MASONS HANDICAP HURDLE 2m103y
This concluding contest can go the way of FLASHING GLACE, who was successful when last sighted at Ludlow in February and could still be fairly treated off his adjusted mark of 131.
Stan Shepard‘s presence in the saddle will negate 3lbs of his 4lbs rise and the experienced six-year-old‘s determined attitude will undoubtedly stand him in good stead in the competitive handicap heat.
Flashing Glnace placed third in a hugely competitive handicap at Cheltenham in January and Tom Lacey has sent out 3 winners from just 8 runners in the last 14 days. Therefore it would be no surprise to see him go very close on a track that should suit him well.
SELECTION: FLASHING GLANCE – 12/1
1.45 – Sire Du Berlais 4/1 – 2pt win (Generally)
2.25 – Brewin’Upastorm 11/4 – 2pt win (Generally)
3.00 – Lalor 9/2 – 2pt win (Betfred)
3.40 – William Henry 12/1 – 1pt each way (Sky Bet – 4 Places)
4.20 – Debece 6/1 – 2pts each way (Sky Bet – 6 Places)
5.15 – Vintage Clouds 14/1 – 1pt each way (Unibet – 7 Places)
Rock The Kasbah 20/1 – 1pt each way (Betfair, Paddy Power – 6 Places)
Ultragold 66/1 – 1pt each way (Generally – Bookmakers offering 6 places)
6.20 – Flashing Glance 12/1 – 1.5pts each way (Sky Bet, Betfred – 5 Places)