Thursday’s excellent Aintree card hosts four Grade 1s, with short-priced favourites a theme of the day.
Some deserve their skinny odds so it looks like a good day for an accumulator, with the opening two-mile novices’ chase 3/1-the-field and looking as good a race as any to kick one off.
Nicky Henderson’s L’AMI SERGE looked the winner when hitting the front in a hot renewal of the JLT at Cheltenham Festival, before veering off to the left and coming home a tired third.
A more patient ride might have won it, but Aintree’s flatter track should ask less of his stamina than Cheltenham and he looks likely to run another big race.
Henderson has in the past described his homework as ‘Sprinter Sacre like’, and he could pay no greater compliment to his class and potential – which remains very much unfulfilled.
He bumps into Sizing John, whose career has been punctuated by defeats to the mighty Douvan, and he has a good chance at Aintree to notch a second win in Grade 1 company.
He was lucky to get second in the Arkle at Cheltenham as Vaniteux was travelling better before falling, and it might flatter him.
It’s hard to rate his form as he’s not really beaten anything that talented bar, ironically, L’Ami Serge in the Supreme Novices’ in 2014 – a race he came third in – and nothing went right for Nicky Henderson’s then-hurdler that day.
Sizing John also steps up in trip any any uncertainty over his stamina has not been factored into his 3/1 price, while the 4/1 about L’Ami Serge is definitely worth a punt.
In the Grade 1 Aintree Bowl Chase, something of a consolation for Gold Cup hopefuls, CUE CARD should win well provided he stays on his feet.
He was travelling ominously well before falling in the Gold Cup and visually looked to have the measure of the re-opposing Djakadam, who surely had the harder race and might be feeling it.
That comment also applies to Don Poli, who also re-opposes -and even if he can boast a stamina edge over Cue Card, he will struggle to make use of it over this slightly shorter trip and on this flatter track.
He looks to lack the pace required for these Grade 1 staying chases when they’re run on decent ground – and that’s something Cue Card has in abundance.
Colin Tizzard’s star chaser may be a very short price at 5/4, but he’s earned it entirely on merit and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he won this by ten lengths or more.
In the following race there’s no reason to oppose the brilliant Champion Hurdle winner ANNIE POWER, as her chief market rivals are the same three that chased her home at Cheltenham and she might even improve for the run.
We know she stays three miles, so stepping back up to two-and-a-half should be no issue, and I honestly believe even the mighty Faugheen might struggle to give this mare her 7lb allowance, provided she runs her race.
She jumped brilliantly in the Champion Hurdle and firmly banished the ugly memory of her fall in the 2015 Mares’ Hurdle, and arrives relatively fresh after just two races this season – the first of which was a mere schooling exercise against vastly inferior opposition.
The others have chances – slim ones – but this is no time to abandon her.
A treble pays just shy of 15/1 with Betfair, but with Annie Power’s price on the prohibitive side, we recommend placing the lion’s share of the bet on a L’Ami Serge-Cue Card double, paying 19/2.
They all look likely to fill the places should they come up short, so each-way is the way to go.
0.75pt each-way double: L’Ami Serge and Cue Card @10.50 (Betfair Sportsbook)
0.25pt each-way treble: L’Ami Serge, Cue Card and Annie Power @15.75 (Betfair Sportsbook)