FABULOUS OPENING DAY AT AINTREE: A seven-race card as Aintree opens its gates for the first time since 2019. Here are the day’s headlines in advance from DAQMAN!
NICHOLLS CLAN NEEDS WINNERS
PAUL’S GOT THE MANIFESTO PIC
FORECAST FOR LITTLE THUNDER
BOWLED OVER BY PROTEKTORAT
NOW IT’S HONEY FOR ZANAHIYR
CAT TO POUNCE IN FOXHUNTERS
RACHAEL IS THE 37.0 EVA DIVA
IRISH DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH
GRAND NATIONAL FOR SURFERS: Backers of Eclair Surf are on the crest of a wave after a week of tension. He is included in Saturday’s Grand National along with Fortescue and Domaine De L’Isle after the defections of Farclas, Court Maid and Caribean Boy. ABC guide in Wednesday’s Daqman Archive.
All to play for. Paul Nicholls, whose season has dropped away over the last three months, needs winners at this meeting to stave off the title-race challenge from Nicky Henderson, Dan Skelton and Willie Mullins. Nicholls has nothing in the Grand National.
Here are the big four with winners and prizemoney won plus their targets today.
127 Paul Nicholls (£2.22m) TODAY TARGETS 1.45 Pic D’Orhy £67k; 2.55 Clan des Obeaux £140k; 3.30 McFabulous, Monmiral £140k; 4.05 Cat Tiger £24k; 4.40 Dolos and Thyme White £56k; 5.15 Iliade Allen £28k.
127 Dan Skelton (£1.92m): 2.20 Too Friendly £61k; 2.55 Protektorat £140k; 4.05 Marracudja £24k; 4.40 King D’Argent £56k; 5.15 Fancy Stuff and Kateira £28k
115 Nicky Henderson (£2.077m): 2.20 Impulsive One £61k; 3.30 Epatante £140k; 4.05 Another Venture £24k
013 Willie Mullins (£1.57m): 2.55 Kemboy £140k; 5.15 Ashroe Diamond £28k
⭕ 1.45 Aintree (Manifesto Novices Chase). STATS: Six-year-olds dominate; five in a row and seven out of eight. FAVOURITES 1-10. RATINGS: 148-151 for last five winners. TRAINERS: Ireland has won this just once since its inception in 2009.
Paul Nicholls has never won it but his title-race rivals have left it to him. Henry de Bromhead has not. And rain also threatens to intervene.
The ratings have Pic D’Orhy (Nicholls) on 154, War Lord on 149 and Gin And Lime ( De Bromhead) on 148.
Pic D’Orhy won at the Pendil at Kempton, giving 7lb to Millers Bank, and was immediately earmarked for this, rather than Cheltenham. Track, ground and distance suit unless there is significant rain.
Pic D’Orhy finished nine lengths in front of Faivoir (non-runner today) at Ascot in December, while War Lord was only about three lengths ahead at Lingfield, though the ground was heavy that day.
The handicapper says that Erne River has improved 17lb for his hat-trick, in which one of his victims was Beakstown (a winner since).
The mare Gin And Lime gets 7lb and is the favoured age of six but she disappointed at Cheltenham in November, left alone to win but not impressing.
Freshened up for this but the runners-up in her sequence of success have failed since, so she must improve.
BETDAQ BETTING EXCHANGE 3.75 Erne River, 4.4 Pic D’Orhy
⭕ 2.20 Aintree (Juvenile Hurdle) STATS: Favourites are 3-9; Nicky Henderson 2-3. Colts and geldings are 8-1 up on fillies. RATINGS 145-155.
This is the first serious Irish assault, with their two at the front of the market the only ones in the race with the level of rating required: 145 Pied Piper (Gordon Elliott), 144 Brazil (Padraig Roche).
Flat-bred, and entered training with John Gosden, Pied Piper has won two out of three for Gordon Elliott but lost out in the Triumph Hurdle to arch-rival Vauban, whom he had beaten on debut (Knight Salute well behind).
Gordon Elliott shrugs off his current form of 1-24 but punters have to include that in their pricing up of the race.
Brazil just a pound off Pied Piper, after winning the Boodles (the old Fred Winter) in good style at Cheltenham.
Petit Tonnerre (‘little thunder’), reckoned an exciting prospect, is in the same (J P McManus) ownership as Brazil, and is not easy to assess after just one run for Jonjo O’Neill.
The unbeaten filly Fautinette moves to Venetia Williams after a hat-trick for Guillaume Macaire, mainly on heavy ground but including defeat of a dual winner since.
Rain is against Impulsive One for Nicky Henderson. Beaten three times by Knight Salute and it’s hard to imagine either of them getting involved.
Betdaq value 3.5 Brazil, 12.5 Petit Tonnerre
⭕ 2.55 Aintree Bowl STATS and FORM: Paul Nicholls (5 wins in this) and Willie Mullins (2) clash with the return of the last two winners, Clan des Obeaux (2021) and Kemboy (2019), who beat Clan des Obeaux nine lengths the year he won it, then followed up in the Punchestown Gold Cup.
But Kemboy is just 1-11 since, 45 lengths behind Clan des Obeaux in the rematch for Punchestown gold (2021).
Both are 10 now and look vulnerable to the young upstarts: Protektorat, Conflated, Eldorado Allen and Royal Pagaille.
Protektorat, winner of the Manifesto at this meeting last year, scored again on today’s course in December, before his third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Royal Pagaille (will welcome the rain) was well behind that day after splitting Eldorado Allen and Clan des Obeaux in the Denman at Newbury in February.
The quirky Conflated, winner of the Irish Gold Cup, dropped back to the Ryanair trip at Cheltenham and found the early pace too hot, but was a decent second until coming down two out.
FORTUNE COOKIES 3.85 Protektorat, 9.2 Royal Pagaille
⭕ 3.30 Aintree Hurdle STATS: Nicky Henderson (4), Nigel Twiston-Davies (2): FAVOURITES: Three odds-on winners in seven years.
RATINGS: Zanahiyr is top off 159, though has never won a Grade 1 and is the bridesmaid of the English and Irish Champion Hurdles.
Being second in those to Honeysuckle both times sets him apart here, though he’s won only once as a senior, a five-horse race at Down Royal in the autumn.
The 2020 Cheltenham champion, Epatante, split Honeysuckle and Zanahiyr at Cheltenham, and here she is again getting the mares’ 7lb allowance, trying to win this at aged eight as Annie Power did in 2016.
Brewin’upastorm should make a race of it with McFabulous, whom he beat in the National Spirit at Fontwell after that one made a costly error.
McFabulous swerved Cheltenham last year but was only eighth in this. He swerved Cheltenham again this year and now tries cheekpieces. I prefer stablemate Monmiral, who won the Juvenile Hurdle at this meeting last year.
Betdaq value 3.25 Zanahiyr, 9.6 Monmiral
⭕ 4.05 Aintree (Foxhunters/Grand National fences) STATS: A poor race for favourites (2-10), and 9% of winners are of double-figure age.
We haven’t seen an eight-year-old take this since 1994 but there were notable winners of that age in the good old bad old days: Merryman 11 (1959), Credit Call (1972, 1975 and 1976), Grittar (1981). Both Merryman and Grittar would win the Grand National.
If any trainer gets excited about young jumpers it’s Paul Nicholls and he could do with one for the future here, and owner-trainer David Maxwell describes big Cat Tiger as ‘easy to ride’ and ‘jumps brilliantly’.
The partnership, third in this race last year, leading two out but tiring from the elbow, won at Ascot in January.
Latenightpass, last year’s runner-up behind Cousin Pascal (struggled at Cheltenham), has a chance to go one better,
And those following stable changes will note that Mighty Stowaway has left Gordon Elliott for Lawney Hill. The trip will suit Pont Aven, while Porlock Bay has been brought to peak for this.
Betdaq value 9.8 Cat Tiger, 21.0 Pont Aven
⭕ 4.40 Aintree (Red Rum Chase) STATS; Only one winner in the decade has carried more than 11st 1lb and only one favourite has won; 90% of winners are of single-figure age.
Henry De Bromhead has three runners but the one I’ve been waiting for is Zarkareva (Rachael Blackmore), who likes a soundish surface. Please :no more rain!
I was on him for the Galway Races Handicap at Ballybrit last summer, when he was third in a huge field. Still only six.
If it does rain, the Grand Annual third, Frero Banbou, can catch likely front-runner Before Midnight and turn over Sandown form with Dolos, when the pair finished well clear of Gunsight Ridge.
Betdaq value 6.8 Frero Banbou, 37.0 Zarkareva
⭕ 5.15 Aintree (Hurdle Mares’ NH Flat race) Five unbeaten, four that have won twice, yet we know so little about them.
🤔 LAYS LOGIC Only one favourite has won in the decade, and five-year-olds dominate (6-8), though Milton Harris has eight NHF winners to measure Rosy Redrum by.
However, Fergal O’Brien has had 16 bumper winners and Willie Mullins 35, so Ashroe Diamond would be my pick as Willie’s pick. BETDAQ 5.9.
1.45 Aintree (win 12, win 10)
BET 4.25pts win ERNE RIVER
BET 3.5pts win PIC D’ORHY
2.20 Aintree (win 22, win 10)
BET 2pts win PETIT TONNERRE
BET 4pts win BRAZIL
BET 10pts win PROTEKTORAT
BET (win 20) 2.5pts win ROYAL PAGAILLE
3.30 Aintree (win 20, nap)
BET 8pts win ZANAHIYR
4.05 Aintree (win 50, win 10 place)
BULL’S-EYE BET 5.5pts win CAT TIGER
BULL’S-EYE BET 2pts win and 2pts place PONT AVEN
4.40 Aintree (win-50 and place 10, win 10)
BULL’S-EYE BET 1.5pts win and 2pts place ZARKAREVA
BET 2pts win FRERO BANBOU
5.15 Aintree (win 10)
BET 2pts win ASHROE DIAMOND
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