One for the money
Matt Brocklebank provides a runner-by-runner guide to Thursday's Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle and isn't willing to take on the red-hot favourite.
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Diakali - Boasts a steadily progressive profile, winning three times since finishing fourth to Our Conor in last year's Triumph Hurdle and his third to Jezki over today's trip at Fairyhouse in December was clearly a very fine effort. Backed that up with a tenacious fourth under top weight in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham and he could be the way into this race from a betting perspective.
Grandouet - Always held in high esteem by Nicky Henderson and still appeared to be going well before falling in last year's Champion Hurdle. However, he ran no sort of race behind Zarkandar in this event the following month and the switch to the larger obstacles hasn't brought about much luck this term. Primary reason he's running here is to preserve his novice chase status and it's not hard to look elsewhere.
Grumeti - Comes into this as the lowest rated on official figures but has pieces of form which could give him a squeak, a third to My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth not to be underestimated. His last hurdles triumph came in the juvenile event on his card two years ago so his supporters can cling to the hope that a return to Liverpool will see him bounce back to his best.
Irish Saint - One of three improving five-year-olds in the field and he has some decent course form having finished third to L'Unique in the four-year-old contest here 12 months ago. Sole success this term came over two and a half miles at Ascot in January and, following an excellent third in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury when last seen, he could step up again now returned to this trip.
Ptit Zig - Stablemate of Irish Saint and seemingly the pick of Nick Scholfield. Started his campaign with an impressive Grade One success on heavy ground in France and ran well on his next two starts when returned to home soil. Not quick enough to get into contention in the Champion Hurdle last month but ease underfoot and the return to two and a half miles look right up his street.
Rock On Ruby - Champion Hurdle winner in 2012 and second to Hurricane Fly a year later but the decision was made to go chasing after he was slammed by The New One at Kempton in October. Won his first two starts over fences but didn't fully convince and he's now back over timber following a lifeless effort in the Arkle. A well-held third in this event in 2012 following his Cheltenham triumph so it'd take a leap of faith to side with him now.
The New One - The best two-mile hurdler in Britain and arguably would have won last month's Champion Hurdle but for being badly hampered early in proceedings. Put up a fine effort when beaten just half a length as a novice in this race last year and, providing his Festival exertions haven't taken too much out of him, he's a rock-solid favourite.
Whichever way you look at it, the interference suffered by The New One in last month's Champion Hurdle gave the race an unsatisfactory feel. The fact he lost so many lengths yet managed to stay on past Hurricane Fly to take third marks him down as a very special horse and, having only gone down narrowly in this event when still a novice 12 months ago, he's worthy of odd-on favouritism and will be extremely hard to beat. Nigel Twiston Davies' charge may have most to fear from the younger brigade, with County Hurdle fourth Diakali possibly the one to follow him home, although there's no doubt both Irish Saint and Ptit Zig will enjoy stepping back up in trip.