Sometimes you have to do things in shorter form that you would like. Anyone who reads this column regularly has probably grasped that I like words, I like writing and I like details.
Unfortunately, the proximity of Aintree to Cheltenham and the wider difficulty in sourcing entries – and plans – properly, means I’ve been forced to write much later than I’d like, and time constraints mean less words.
A more traditional length piece on the Grand National follows, but, in the mean time, there’s two other days of racing that need to be considered. Also, if people prefer this style of preview, any feedback would be greatly welcomed.
So, without further ado:
Frodon is way, way, way overpriced in the opener – there is little between he and Top Notch on official figures (5lbs) and bearing in mind his relative freshness – it has been 40 days since his last start, but only three weeks since Top Notch had a hard race in the JLT – and that would be enough to put him on the premises, saying nothing of the fact that he has been specifically targeted at this race. In a title battle royale between Messrs Henderson and Nicholls, marginial gains and details are likely to be determinative and, given the paucity of truly high class horses at the latter’s disposal, it has been his race placement that has propelled him to the position that he currently sits. It would appear wise to remember that, and accordingly, it seems set up for him to land the spoils here with Frodon. Cloudy Dream is respected, but, to my mind, he has been priced with one eye on his relative proximity to Altior in the Arkle, and his run in defeat to the (now) 149 rated Forest Bihan (then 140) conceding three pounds, perhaps leaves him a pound or two shy of Frodon at a trip at which he is untried over fences. His hurdling career suggests that he should have the requisite stamina, a victory over the excellent chaser, but middling hurdler Waiting Patiently (he’s rated 27 pounds higher over the larger obstacles) is illustrative of that but, he too had a hard race at the festival, and his fresher rival is preferred.
It seems that there has been some small amount of money for Balnaslow in the Fox Hunters’, and with good reason too. Firstly, the retention of Derek O’Connor in the saddle is a huge bonus – I wouldn’t say that it’s particularly likely that he’s come over to Liverpool for a breath of fresh air, but unlike Jamie Codd or Katie Walsh, he does not have a ride in the Grand National. He wouldn’t be wasting his time on a no-hoper, shall we say.
Secondly, his run at Cheltenham suggested a slightly flatter track may suit, and, horses ridden prominently are often well suited by the National fences, especially since the re-design. So, given Pacha Du Polder‘s relatively poor performance here last year, and the lack of value in On The Fringe, who is twelve now and must soon begin his regression down the mountain, Balnaslow seems like the better choice. There must be a caveat to that point, in so much as that Pacha Du Polder has run over longer trips before, the Cheltenham Foxhunters, for example, and perhaps had had a disjointed preparation last year which left him unable to string together excellent runs in quick succession, but, at the prices, it seems may be better to take a chance elsewhere.
Not unsurprisingly Double W‘s is well thought of in the Red Rum, and a mark of 140 should be an attractive on for him given his performance in defeat at Doncaster in January from 139 – the fourth, Gardefort, has won since and was second in the Grand Annual from a three pound higher mark. A drop back in trip will certainly suit.
At bigger prices, Yorkist, who is a pound better off with Double W’s than he was that day at Doncaster and was only a length and a half behind him, also appeals but possibly needs softer ground to be seen to better effect, as six of his seven career wins have come on soft or heavy ground.
To close out the card, I’ll be siding with Martello Park, in the hope that she gets a slightly more conservative ride than she did in defeat at Sandown when last seen. Her antecedent form with Fayonagh, beaten two and a half lengths, conceding four pounds looks eye catching in light of the latter’s Cheltenham run and it is counterintuitive to me that she should be freely available at 12/1 at present.
Frodon 5/1 (Paddy Power)
Balnaslow 10/1 (Paddy Power, Bet Victor)
Double W’s 7/1 (Hills, Ladbrokes, Bet365, Skybet)
Martello Park 12/1 (Hills, Ladbrokes, Bet365, Skybet)