Over to friend of the blog and Hunter Chase specialist, Darran Pearce…
1st Grand Vision
Just the 22 in this year’s Aintree Foxhunters’ and it has to be said it doesn’t look the strongest renewal of the race. The other key thing to note is the ground which is going to be pretty testing and we may not see too many get round. Hopefully you find the preview helpful and fingers crossed it points you towards the winner
Balnaslow – Derek O’Connor has given this horse some fantastic rides and although he only finished 7th at Cheltenham I thought he was given one of the best rides in the race. Not surprisingly in conditions he was ridden totally differently to last year and he was last for a long way and didn’t start making his move until 4 out. Turning for home he was suddenly in contention although his effort did flatten out, but he was beaten just over 7L which I thought was a hell of an effort in the circumstances. Derek was even better on him when he was 2nd in this last year. He didn’t take to the fences at all and how on earth Derek got him to finish 2nd I will never know. The fact he jumped poorly has to be a concern this time around, but I would have said that if Derek didn’t think he would have a chance of winning then he wouldn’t be running especially as Punchestown isn’t too far away and he won that race last year. The Cheltenham run was only his 2nd race of the season so there is every chance he will come on again for that effort and he is a big player.
Barrakilla – Landed a massive gamble when winning at Bangor on his first start for over 2 years. Fergal has a great record with his hunter chasers, especially those who run after a long break. On that run I thought he would be a big player in this, but he was really disappointing behind Galway Jack at Warwick where he never really travelled and was well beaten in the end. If you can forgive that run then I think he is capable of running a good race.
Bear’s Affair – Ran well in this race last year when finishing a fairly close 7th. This season he won a strong Mens Open at Cottenham in December and was then 3rd to Premier Portrait in the first hunter chase of the season at Taunton. The ground was probably against him that day and given the wet winter we have had I am guessing that is why he hasn’t been seen since. No doubt he can run his race again, but hard to see him winning especially on ground this soft.
Bound For Glory – Was 5th in this in 2015, but that was on the back of his career best effort when winning at Stratford and he certainly isn’t in that sort of form now.
Curraigflemens – A solid hunter chaser/pointer who has won his fair share in points and under rules, but his hunter chase wins have come in much weaker races than this and although he might well get round it would be a shock if he troubled the judge.
Distime – 4 in the Topham in 2016 although he only got as far as the Chair in this last year. Was a well beaten 3rd on his seasonal return at Chaddesley Corbett although did step up on that when a close 2nd to hunter chase winner Battle Dust at the same venue in February. That form still leaves him with plenty enough to find though.
Eddies Miracle – Won his first hunter chase at Down Royal in decent enough style last month, but he has fallen in two of his 4 hunter chase starts and even though the fences aren’t as testing as they once were, that is still a big worry. He has a bit to find on form as well.
Gallery Exhibition – This would create the biggest news story should he win given his jockey Guy Disney is making history by being the first amputee to ride over the Grand National fences. He was 5th in the Topham in 2016 although that was run on soft ground which doesn’t really suit. He was fairly lucky to qualify for this given he plugged on to only just get 3rd at Musselburgh behind Wonderful Charm. Hopefully he runs a big race for his jockey, but he is hard to fancy on this ground after that Musselburgh effort as much as he will probably improve for the run.
Grand Vision – His handicap form this season suggested he had improved from last season and that was backed up by his run at Cheltenham. Last year he was 14th and 47L behind Pacha Du Polder and this year he was 6th and just under 7L behind. It was a hell of an effort and given how well he jumps this does look the ideal race for him. At the age of 12 though the concern is can he back up that huge effort at Cheltenham here? If he can then he will surely go close especially as he does so well in testing conditions.
Greensalt – Ran well in a decent hunter chase at Catterick when 3rd, but that form still a fair way below what is required to win this.
Lilbitluso – A couple of years ago I thought he was a potential Foxhunter horse, but things haven’t really gone to plan since. His jumping under rules hasn’t been great and he has fallen on his only hunter chase run this season at Ludlow. He then only just won a point at Thorpe Lodge and was then beaten at Bangor’s point to point track last time. His jumping round here is really going to be put under pressure and his form isn’t good enough, I just wish connections would take advantage of his lowly handicap rating over hurdles.
Mon Parrain – Been running well enough in points and hunter chases this season without winning and won’t be winning this either.
Never Complain – Unseated at the 7th in this last season, but did go on to win a hunter chase at Fontwell beating Bound For Glory by 22L. To me he was the only horse to handle the ground that day though. He ran with credit on his seasonal debut at Bangor when pulling up behind Barrakilla with the lack of a recent run telling late on. He looked hard work at Leicester last time though when finishing 3rd behind Argot. Should be outclassed here.
On The Fringe – To be fair to the great horse he ran much better than I thought he would at Cheltenham and wasn’t far away until Nina eased off on the run in once it became obvious he wasn’t going to get near the places. He made a bad mistake at the Chair last year, but he had long enough to recover and he just went backwards after that. I couldn’t understand why Pricewise tipped him up at Cheltenham given he had no chance of winning and although this is not a strong renewal I struggle to see how he is 4th in the betting for this. Fingers crossed he comes back safe and sound though.
Rouge Et Blanc – Was given a cracking front running ride to win at Lingfield in February and ran well to finish 2nd last time at Leicester. He should give his jockey a good spin round, but that form leaves him with a bit to find for me and he has never shown a great deal over these fences including when 12th to On The Fringe in 2015.
Sir Jack Yates – Built on a promising hunter chase debut for new connections at Hereford when winning at both Market Rasen and Kelso. Market Rasen saw him beat Cheltenham 3rd Cousin Pete, although it wasn’t a total surprise the form was reversed that day because Sir Jack Yates was always going to be a suspect stayer, whereas Cousin Pete relished the extra test of stamina. This race looks like it will suit him much better and he is certainly one to consider.
Unioniste – Won 3 hunter chases this year after being beaten by Premier Portrait at Taunton. He has bolted up in all 3 and finished alone at Wincanton last time, the problem is though all 3 were weak races so the form adds up to very little. He ran OK at Cheltenham when finishing 10th, but he found himself out paced that day and that has to be a concern here over this shorter trip. I can see him running on late in the day, but I am not sure it will be enough to end up in the places.
Vincitore – No hoper
Warden Hill – Landed a massive gamble at Doncaster when an unfit Pacha Du Polder finished in 3rd. That race he turned out to be the only horse who was fit and able to stay the trip and it wasn’t a great surprise that he struggled to so much at Cheltenham. Might fair a little better here, but certainly hard to see him being good enough to hit the frame.
Wells de Lune – I was surprised to see him run at Cheltenham as he looked an unlikely stayer and so it proved and after leading for about half of the race he ended up pulling up before 4 out. He had been off for over a year before setting a hell of a pace in testing ground at Bangor when finishing 2nd to Barrakilla. He then won a really bad hunter chase very easily at Ffos Las prior to Cheltenham. This trip certainly more suitable and I can see him making a bold bid from the front for last year’s winning trainer.
Winged Crusader – Odd glimmer of hope in hunter chases this season but struggled the last twice and has no chance here.
Wonderful Charm – Never got involved at Cheltenham which wasn’t the biggest surprise as he would have hated the ground. The ground certainly won’t be as testing here although it is still likely to be soft enough. The other concern for me is that he needs further than this trip and I think they will go too fast for him and he will struggle to stay in touch. He found 3m4f round Stratford too sharp last year and he looks a poor 2nd favourite to me.
Summary – I was look at the stats for this race that the very good Paul Jones has done on the ATR website and two things really caught my eye. First one is that horses younger than 9 have a dreadful record in the race as all but two of the last 34 winners have been at least 9 years old. Added to that only 3 horses younger than 8 have finished in the first 3 in the last 19 years. The reason I have put that is because I had shortlisted both 7yos running in the race, Sir Jack Yeats and Wells De Lune. I think Sir Jack Yeats and Wells De Lune will be better over this trip, but those stats put me right off tipping any of them up.
The other stat the caught my eye was the face that shocks in this race are very rare and 21 of the last 24 winners have come from the first 4 in the betting. This proves that the best horses generally win this race and I think this will happen this time around. This is a really weak renewal of the race and I think the horses towards the top of the betting certainly have a class edge. The main bet is going to be Grand Vision who looks the ideal candidate for this race. He ran a huge race at Cheltenham and as long as that hasn’t left a mark then he can go even better here. He is a superb jumper, who races prominently, thrives on testing ground, is in great form and has what is probably his ideal trip. I think he looks a cracking e/w bet as bookies are sure to offer 4 places on the race.
Balnaslow is the other main one I like. I am slightly concerned about the way he handled the fences last year, but he still finished a very good 2nd. He has some of the best form in the race and has the best jockey. It is easy to see why he heads the betting and I certainly want him onside.
The other one I am going to have a small e/w play on is Barrakilla. I liked his performance at Bangor and I have great respect for his trainer especially when it comes to hunter chases. Clearly something was amiss at Warwick as he was never really travelling that day and Fergal would not be running him in this if he didn’t think he wasn’t capable of running a big race.
1st Grand Vision
There are two months left of the hunter chase season with more than half of the races still to come including the 3 hunter chase meetings at Cheltenham, Fontwell and Stratford. My hunter chase service is in profit for the season and I put up Duhallow Tornado, Salubrious as well as the first two home at Ludlow on Monday in the last 3 races. As a special deal for Aintree I will off the service at just £20 for the rest of the season. All you have to do is send the money via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will keep the deal open until Saturday night.