Aintree Race Preview, 09/11/19

Aintree
Saturday November 9th

Rain forecast
mid-morning

* indicates Horses on Shortlist
** indicates Selection

Aintree 2.05
Virgin Bet Handicap Chase Class 2 0-150
2m3f200y – Going: Soft (Good to Soft in places) – 10 runners

Cepage*
Only start last season, went close to beating Frodon in Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December, good ground and went 2nd home turn under a push, every chance when in close to 2 out, ridden, in close to last, outpaced as Frodon asserted early on run-in, strong effort under pressure last 150 yards and closed on winner but too much ground to make up, beaten just over a length. Tough task, but has run well fresh the last two years
Bigmartre
Mainly off his game till landing a Class 2 handicap chase at Perth last April, made most, disputed it 10th, led 2 lengths going comfortably home turn, niggled along approaching 2 out, stayed on and led 5 lengths 2 out, pushed along, steadied into and hit last, pushed out, stayed on well to pull further clear, decisive by 16 lengths from Gardefort. Reappearance, made little contribution in Old Roan Chase at Aintree on reappearance, blundered 7th (normally 10th), soon hard ridden and reminder after 8th (normally 11th), hard ridden after last (normally 4 out), weakening passing omitted 2 out, eased right down. Early days but the signs are that his season will mirror last term (ran similarly on 2018/19 seasonal debut, off the bit halfway)
The West’s Awake
Useful if exposed, last win at Punchestown in May. Good run when 2nd in Goodwill Plate Chase at Listowel in September although didn’t impress, mistakes, oing worst of the field starting final circuit, hard ridden approaching 8th, closed on 1st 3, ridden into and mistake 9th, again going worst of them before mistake 11th, stayed on under a ride turning out of back straight, went 2nd approaching 2 out, jumped right there, some 5 lengths down last, driven and stayed on run-in, closed on A Toi Phil run-in but never getting there. All his wins have been on right-handed tracks; wears first-time blinkers here, and trainer Edward O’Grady’s strike rate with such horses since May 2006 – considering the handler uses this option sparingly – is a respectable 5 from 32 (15.6%)
Indian Temple
Best recent effort when beating Lord Bryan at Market Rasen in July, made a lot of the running, hung right and headed approaching 3 out, led narrowly after 2 out under pressure, the better jump last and came away from it 2 lengths in front, driven out, all out, was closed on last 75 yards but always holding on. Was off his game when last seen out at Perth in September but was made too much use of, disputing it, 1st 2 raced 35 to 40 lengths clear bend before 8th, headed when mistake 13th, a length down 14th, main group by now were closing on 1st 2, niggled along approaching 4 out, swallowed up and weakened home turn, gradually dropped away behind Soupy Soups. No wins on softer than good to soft, so need to look at what the overnight weather does. Most likely front-runner in the field
Duke Street
Completed a long-range hattrick (June 2018 to October 2019) which culminated with an easy win in a competitive 0-140 handicap at Cheltenham on October 25th, up with the pace throughout,  led going comfortably 2 out, sent clear home turn, soon hard ridden, hard driven after last in clear lead, stayed on well and never in danger, beat The Big Galloper 5 lengths. The start of that winning run was the last time he ran in a chase, taking a Worcester novice in June 2018, tended to jump flat-backed, moved comfortably, led and mistake 4 out, moved best 3 out, upsides 2 out, niggled along, led and not fluent last, driven out, stayed on well to pull clear of Gustave Mahler run-in. Lacks experience and will need to show his best form for two years to land this
The Russian Doyen
In what was an okay novice chase season, posted best effort when winning at Newbury over 2m on January 16th, mistake 8th, moved upsides leader home turn, pushed along approaching 4 out, led 3 out, ridden, stayed on from 2 out, wandered approaching last, driven out run-in, beat Charming Zen 4 1/2 lengths. Was in the novices’ handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival and ran 4th, briefly disputed lead 7th, ridden into 12th, disputed lead there, narrow advantage at the top of the hill going to 3 out, led approaching home turn but strongly challenged by A Plus Tard, hard ridden when nearly slipped up turning in, headed and readily outpaced, put under strong pressure, still a chance of 2nd last, driven and faded up the hill, was losing ground on the 3rd and being closed on by the 5th last 50 yards. A good run for a long way, bang there starting the turn for home, and a contender on his reappearance
Riders Onthe Storm
Best form over fences, and only win, in five-runner novice at Punchestown in February, keen early, in close to 4th, moved comfortably, headway 7th, chased leader 3 out racing wide, led and reached for 2 out, ridden clear, some 5 lengths up last, driven out, was closed on last 200 yards but always holding on from Impact Factor. Fell 6th in the novices’ handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival (keen, also hit 3rd) and pulled up final start. A £50,000 purchase at the Doncaster Sales in May; joined Nigel Twiston-Davies but for me a mountain to climb here, with no form over further than 2m and his 140-mark looking a stone too high
War Sound*
Only success last year when winning this race on reappearance, held up, travelled much the best after 3 out, still on the bit when in close to 2 out and went 2nd, nudged along, loomed upsides approaching last, shaken up, found something to go 2 lengths up by last, ridden out till eased off last 150 yards, readily with something in hand from King’s Odyssey. No other form, beaten pointless when completing (lost place 11th and well held with 4 to jump behind San Benedeto at Newbury in March for example) and pulled up at Punchestown behind O O Seven on final start. Chance if returning to his best form
Oldgrangewood*
No wins last season but a couple of decent placed efforts, including behind Kildisart over 3m1f at Aintree last April, switched off inside rail and started a move 12th, pushed along after 15th, effort and prominent 4 out, hard driven after 3 out, every chance 2 out with at most a length and a half to find, couldn’t go on nearing last, faded, kept on but no further impression, 3rd beaten 9 lengths. Over 2m4f, arguably his best trip, and off a mark 8 lbs lower than his highest winning rating, seems sure to go well
Copper West
Carried on his good form from the end of last season when winning Prelude Chase at Market Rasen on reappearance, headway final circuit, moved through field after 11th to chase leader coming off home turn, 1st 2 pulled clear, pushed along when mistake 3 out and pecked on landing, ridden, a length down 2 out, hard ridden and stayed on, upsides last, hard driven, led 150 yards out, drawing clear at the line, beat Theligny 1 3/4 lengths. Up only 4 lbs for that, chances again

Shortlist: Cepage, War Sound, Oldgrangewood

Aintree 3:15
Bet And Watch At Virgin Bet Hurdle Class 2
2m4f – Going: Soft – 5 runners

Three high-class hurdlers on show and a fascinating race. Vision Des Flos** might well have won the Champion Stayers’ Hurdle at Punchestown but for a last-hurdle mistake, Unowhatimeanharry the beneficiary, and Roksana, the fortunate winner of the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, was only a head shy of winning the Aintree equivalent of the Punchestown race – although it could be argued that she’d have come off second best anyway, for the winner made a bad mistake at the last and only just got up. Top Notch*, who mixes and matches hurdling with chasing, posted his own piece of high-class form when a good third to Paisley Park in the Long Walk at Ascot, although perhaps that trip stretches him and this 2m4f is more suitable. Of the trio, Vision Des Flos is the least exposed and appeals as the most likely to step up on his form to date this season. The other two, Notwhatiam and Aweeminit, have around 20 lbs of improvement to make to figure.

Selection: VISION DES FLOS – Alternative: Top Notch

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