A weekend edition for MerseySportLive’s horse racing coverage is a high class card at Aintree on a chilly and wet November morn. A little bit different to our usual reporting as there is a more in-depth look at the racecard at the home of the Grand National.
The day begins at 12:20 with a Class 3 Novices Steeple Chase where two Nicky Henderson horses are very much of interest. This race has been shortened four furlongs to make it a two-and-a-half mile race. Follow The Bear gets a worthy mention but CHAMPAGNE MYSTERY gets the nod from me for this one, as the ‘stronger’ of the Trevor Hemmings horses. Nico de Boinville takes up the saddle once more and is hopeful of going one better than his previous three starts under rules.
Next up is the two-and-a-half mile novice hurdle race and it is all about Nigel Twiston-Davies here. Training three of the six runners, including the strong looking MOSSY FEN, the Gloucestershire based team stand a brilliant chance of winning this Class 4 contest. In the hands of Nigel’s son, Sam, this gelding beat David Maxwell’s Dolphin Square last time out and that is a subsequent Class 4 winner also, huge chance.
A valuable handicap chase is on the agenda at 13:30 with £16,000 heading to the winner of the Class 3 Chase. There are two course and distance winners here in Theflyingportrait and Baby King. The latter of which, winning this race last term. However, my pick of the field is the Evan Williams trained THE LAST DAY. Williams and jockey, Adam Wedge, had a winner at Warwick yesterday in the colours of Mr & Mrs William Rucker. This should give hope of a follow up today after a long absence.
The feature race is the middle distance steeple chase. An £80,000 prize pot is up for grabs here in this handicap. Irish raider, The West’s Awake, takes to the field from powerful connections in John Magnier colours, as Phillip Enright takes the reins. Some other strong runners include Colin Tizzard’s The Russian Doyen and Duke Street for Dr Richard Newland. Scottish trained CEPAGE is the pick of the bunch in my opinion after his brilliant second to Frodon last time out in a Grade 3. He is in the capable hands of Charlie Deutsch for Venetia Williams.
The staying hurdlers are next to take on the Merseyside course in a second Class 2 contest of the day. DIOMEDE DES MOTTES has the best of the formbook, some would say. After his fourth to Thyme Hill in the recent Grade 2 at Chepstow, he looks a strong sort.
Skandiburg and Jacks Last Hope for Olly Murphy and Chris Grant, respectively, would have the next best form on paper. This is a Pertemps Network Qualifying race and the expectation is for the winner to target the final at Cheltenham next year.
The penultimate race is the smallest field on the card but certainly does not lack in talent. Three of the five runners have won Grade 2 races in the past and an interesting switch back to hurdles for Henderson’s runner Top Notch. Tizzard’s Vision Des Flos is the highest rated horse here at 153 and is only one mark away from the likes of Faugheen and Laurina. But another Skelton horse is the one to beat, she is ROKSANA. A Grade 1 winner and a classy second over mixed distances last season and definitely gets my vote for the £45,000 prize money.
We end the day with the “bumper”, and the three-year-olds. As de Boinville takes the ride for Tom Lacey and Brian Hughes for Keith Dalgleish, there is no shortage of abilities in the saddles. The latter of those two jockeys is the choice for me in this one. LET ME BE has some excellent pedigree and in-form Hughes will be after his second Aintree win of the season after Forest Bihan’s Grade 2 victory last month.