Friday, 10 April 2015

Aintree - No place for faint hearts

As we headed across the M62 under cloudless skies it was hard to recall such warmer start to the the National meeting, and despite the watering the ground looked sure to be near enough to good.

After a rather tiring ride over and a somewhat dubious method of entry to the course the first port of call was to seek out some decent grub, and after much pondering plumped for old hog roast in a baguette with lashings of crackling. I was so hungry I didn't even notice the £7.40 slip from my grasp.

It's a shame I didn't have the same appetite for the racing as I was certain I had the opening novice chase sorted, but didn't go in half hard enough.

Conti was hard to oppose on this day
I really wanted to be against the front two in the market and probably should have laid the pair, instead settling on getting against Vibrato Valtat who has had a long old season and wasn't sure to get home.

I will always find it hard to be against Josses Hill, magnificent creature that he is, but he really has been a disappointment this term.

I was also against Three Kingdoms, who was in such superb nick at Newcastle in the depths of winter I couldn't believe he would be in the same form here. He wasn't. In fact he would prove to be the biggest negative on the day as he was soon sweating freely in the paddock.

He was a very solid lay in the place market at less than 4 and I'm only disappointed I didn't go in harder, as he was beaten after jumping the first. The other play was on the very interesting Val De Law, a fine specimen whom the trainer rates rather highly.

He had plenty to find on the books but with the principals likely to underperform he was worth a poke at big odds, while a nibble in the three-to-place market also proved to be a good move.

With a solid if not spectacular start in the ledger it was tempting to smash into the overbacked Hargam in the juvenile. A shrewder member of the press gang suggested a place lay at 1.2 if I thought it was going to get beat, but eventually bottled it and didn't play the race.

They looked a decent bunch, particularly the third Bristol De Mai who is very much a chaser in the making and I'm sure Twister will waste no time in going over the larger obstacles with him.

Silviniaco Conti looked magnificent in the big one and couldn't find anything to oppose it with back on suitable terrain. By this time the withering heat was taking its toll and some shade was sought.

The big hurdle race did not appeal much from a punting perspective although Volnay De Thaix stood out beforehand and was well worth a small poke at big odds. What a marvellous chaser he will make and it was pleasing to see D Bass bid to set out and make all.

However, that soon turned to despair as Fehily put it up to him on Rock On Ruby and the pair started racing much too far from the finish. I'm certain there's a big race in Volnay in the future and he's one I can't wait to see next term.

I gave a bit more back in the Foxhunter as I wanted to be against the jolly even though the money came for it and he looked grand in the prelims. I was against Warne this time as he didn't look fully tuned up here, and it was disappointing he exited at the first as I wanted to know if I was right or not!

I liked the chances of Last Time D'Albain despite the shocking name and he ran okay for the each-way players despite never threatening to win. I suspect the front two have run to a pretty high standard - the runner-up jumped like a bunny.

A rare smile from Hughes - but I was churning inside
With the last race looking impossible I was rallying and wanted to get stuck into the 'Red Rum' as there were plenty I didn't fancy. I liked the form and profile of Darwins Fox so he was high up the list along with Dresden, who really impressed me at Donny.

Bellenos looked really perked up by the blinkers so he was on the list, while Claret Cloak looked fantastic after his break. The short list was growing - Pearls Legend was on there while both Surf And Turf and Baby Mix looked fit after absences.

I threw five in the exactas and not for the first time with the bet this season I hit the bar, getting the second and third at 16/1 but leaving out the double-carpet winner. It would have been a stretch, but was gettable. It was a £700 to a quid payout that got away.

With that simmering away there was no play in the finale. They looked a really good bunch and but I was tempted to throw something at Master Malt, a lovely chasing type who had plenty in hand last time. I decided against such folly and although I was regretting it as he joined issue two out, was kind of glad he lost out close home.

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