Saturday, April 21, 2012

2012 Aintree Festival tips - The essential guide to Thursday's card

The 2012 Aintree Festival leaps into life on Thursday afternoon and racing fanatics can look forward to three days of pulsating racing on Merseyside.

The Grand National is without doubt the most famous race of the meeting, but fans of the sport will be eagerly anticipating a number of the supporting contests on Thursday and Friday and there is plenty for punters to sink their teeth into.

Thursday’s televised card looks set to be another enthralling affair and with five races for punters to take a look at, there is plenty of money to be made ahead of Saturday’s Grand National.

2.00 – BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle (Grade 1) (3m 110y)

Once again the 2012 Aintree Festival kicks off with the return of the sensational BIG BUCK’S (2/9, Stan James) and it is impossible to oppose Paul Nicholls’ legendary staying hurdler.

There is very little that hasn't already been said about the odds-on favourite and the nine-year-old will be looking to make it a remarkable seventeen races unbeaten over the smaller obstacles.

Another power-packed performance in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham last month saw him win the race for a fourth consecutive time and the best performance of his career was arguably in this race last year.

There looks to be very little that can challenge the star but Alan King’s Smad Place (6/1, Paddy Power) looks to be the one that will chase him home.

Nick Wilby’s selection – Big Buck’s (2/9, Stan James)

2.30 – Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-0 Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) (2m 110y)

This year’s Juvenile Hurdle looks a thoroughly intriguing contest and the first, third, fourth and sixth from this year’s Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham all return to settle their rivalry once and for all.

The winner of that race, Countrywide Flame (5/1, Paddy Power), isn’t sure to relish the shorter trip at Aintree and he might not find things as easy as he did at Cheltenham. Instead, it looks like GRUMETI (7/2, bet365) can reverse the form and win his first Grade One for trainer Alan King.

The selection looks sure to relish two miles around Aintree and though his jumping could be better at times, if he can keep the mistakes down he should be very hard to beat.

It isn’t hard to see why Paul Nicholls’ duo Dodging Bullets (9/2, BetVictor) and Pearl Swan (5/1, Coral) are popular, but Sadler’s Risk (8/1, Ladbrokes) would surely love more of a test after his staying on sixth in the Triumph.

Nick Wilby’s selection – Grumeti (7/2, bet365)

3.05 – Betfred Bowl Chase (Grade One) (3m1f)

This year’s Betfred Bowl Chase looks a difficult puzzle for punters to solve and as the betting would suggest, it looks a very open affair.

RIVERSIDE THEATRE (10/3, Betfred) narrowly heads the market for the Grade One showpiece and Nicky Henderson’s talented chaser will be looking to make it three wins on the bounce this season.

The Ryanair Chase hero battled to an exhilarating success at Cheltenham a month ago and the once fragile eight-year-old seemed to answer his critics once and for all. A masterful ride from Barry Geraghty saw the selection dispel any fears over the potential ‘bounce factor’ and though he was given a very hard race to get his head in front, he has plenty of class about him.

Ryanair Chase third Medermit (11/2, BetVictor) will be looking to reverse the form with the selection and there will be plenty of people that think the longer trip could see him do exactly that, whilst Gold Cup fourth Burton Port (9/2, Ladbrokes) has already shown he likes it around Aintree.

The story of the race would be if Hunt Ball could complete his meteoric rise to the top of the chasing pile after yet another victory in a handicap at last month’s Festival.

Nick Wilby’s selection – Riverside Theatre (10/3, Blue Square)

3.40 - John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase (Class Two) (2m5f 110y)

Twenty six horses go to post for the Fox Hunters and it looks like being another seriously exciting contest. Plenty look to be in with a chance and many will be looking to keep things simple and side with former Topham winner Gwanako (7/2, Coral).

Paul Nicholls’ nine-year-old still retains plenty of ability and he has cruised to victory on his last two starts over fences.

He is sure to be popular, as will Cloudy Lane (13/2, Coral) who was a Grand National favourite in the past. He was a creditable sixth last time out at Cheltenham, but it may pay to side with former World Hurdle and Arkle hero, MY WAY DE SOLZEN (7/1, William Hill).

The selection has a mightily impressive CV and was one of the leading chasers around five years ago. He went off the rails somewhat, but he looked to retain plenty of ability when he rolled back the years to score at Hereford over twelve months ago and trainer Gabe Mahon will hopefully have the veteran at something like his best on Thursday.

Remember, bet £20 on the Fox Hunters' Chase with BetVictor and get a free £20 bet to use on Friday's card.

Nick Wilby’s selection – My Way De Solzen (7/1, William Hill)

4.15 – Red Rum Handicap Chase (Grade Three) (2m)

Another highly competitive affair around the famous Aintree fences and Paul Nicholls’ Edgardo Sol (11/2, Betfred) currently heads the betting for the two-mile Grade Three.

Last seen finishing runner up in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham, he has also been a winner over course and distance when tackling fences last October. With plenty more to come and with Ruby Walsh in the saddle, it isn’t hard to see why he is at the top of the market.

However, KID CASSIDY (15/2, William Hill) can return to winning ways after he finished down the field in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham last month.

The selection has never looked truly fluent over fences, but he looks to have plenty of ability and he has come out on top in three of his five starts this season. A return to an easy track should help him and he won’t find life as tough as he did at Prestbury Park.


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