Steve picks out his three best bets at Aintree and Sandown on Saturday afternoon.
Aintree and Sandown take centre stage on a packed afternoon of top class action, with Aintree’s card being headlined by the Becher Chase and supported by the Grand Sefton, both over the unique Grand National fences, whilst Sandown plays host to the Grade One Tingle Creek Chase, supported by the Grade One Henry VIII Novices Chase.
It is at Sandown in the Henry VIII Novices Chase where we start with the day’s best bet in the shape of the Paul Nicholls trained IRISH SAINT
). He made a flawless debut at this venue, jumping superbly throughout and slammed Chris Pea Green by ten lengths. Amongst his rivals today, Court Minstrel, also beat that same rival at Cheltenham last time by just under three lengths, although he was value for more. However, the sound jumping of Irish Saint will stand him in good stead here in which jumping will be at a premium.
The other two rivals were involved in the finish of a Grade Two at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting where Dunraven Storm prevailed over Vibrato Valtat, who arguably was set too much to do that day by Sam Twiston-Davies. Noel Fehily takes over today as Twiston-Davies remains loyal to Irish Saint and the two of them have a bit to find to trouble the two main protagonists.
Whilst Court Minstrel finished up rated four pound better over hurdles, he has not looked quite as fluent over fences as Irish Saint, who has always been thought of as a chasing type by Nichols who has taken this prize three times in the last seven years and is taken to improve that record here today.
The other big prize on offer can go the way of BALDER SUCCES
(3/1 Paddy Power
) in the Tingle Creek Chase for trainer Alan King. His horses are certainly running better than a month ago when he finished second to the re-opposing God’s Own, who beat him by five lengths for which he has a seven pound pull here today and he can reverse the form.
A field of ten go to post, more so than in recent years and the larger field will benefit Balder Succes who arguably did too much too soon when also finishing behind God’s Own in the Grade One Novice at the Punchestown Festival. The race that sticks in the memory though is the Kempton victory, where Balder Succes gave seven pound and a length and a quarter beating to the Tom George horse.
In this stronger race and off level weights he can re-establish his superiority over his rival. Vukovar has been well supported in recent days but comes here without the benefit of a run and that could tell late on, whilst Somersby has let himself down badly so far this season with his jumping.
At Aintree, the Grand Sefton Chase can go the way of the Nicky Henderson trained HUNT BALL
(12/1 Paddy Power
). He is back down to a mark that he last won a handicap chase off around Taunton and he jumped these fences well in last season’s Grand National until his stamina gave out. He is a class act and finished a close fourth in last season’s Ryanair Chase, beaten just over seven lengths, he will go in the ground and has had a spin over hurdles which will have brought him on nicely for this. It is an open race and very few can be easily discounted, but Hunt Ball should give us a run for our money at a decent price.
Sandown 1.50 – IRISH SAINT